It is that time of year again, March 1st, when scores of thru-hikers quit their jobs to hike the Appalachian Trail, the PCT, and the CDT. While quitting your job to hike feels like you’re taking a huge risk, you’ll probably find it easier to get rehired after your hike than you think.
As a former hiring manager with a big staff, I was always impressed by job applicants who’d taken time off to pursue a long hike because it told me something about their character beyond their job history or qualifications. That they probably had:
- An ability to overcome obstacles while working on a long term goal
- Good self confidence and knowledge of core values
- The ability to focus on tasks that were difficult to achieve
- Flexibility in dealing with unfamiliar situations
- Enjoy of sense of community with the people around them
- An aversion to highly structured tasks or environments
In my industry, where employees were constantly faced with many new situations and challenges, and had to work together constantly in dynamically forming teams, finding people with these characteristics was a huge boon. So whenever I saw that someone had put a thru-hike or even an attempted thru-hike on their resume, they would definitely rise through the clutter and get my full attention.
So if you’re worried about quitting your job in order to do a hike of any significant length, my advice is not to stress out about it too much. Put the fact that you attempted a long hike front and center on your resume and brush up on background statistics and anecdotes to take with you when you start to re-interview.
Hiring managers will want to hear your story and what the trail did for you (see those bullets above). If you can spell it out and explain how these personal qualities will benefit you in the job you’re applying for, it can really make a big difference in the likelihood you get hired.
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