The Career Wilderness: Survival of the Fittest

Few situations are quite as uncomfortable as being part of the food chain. 

Most of us are accustomed to the relative safety of our environment.  So, when we are removed from our usual environment into one where we are just another creature battling the elements, we are reminded that the world can be a dangerous place and “survival of the fittest” is truly in operation.

One of my favorite places on earth is the Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.  The park is teeming with wildlife, including grizzlies and wolves, and the environment is stunningly beautiful, but rugged.  Because of its beauty, one might be lulled into a false sense of security.  But, walking through the vast mountains and valleys entails a certain amount of risk.  Dangers from wildlife should be obvious, but the environment offers a host of risks as well–weather exposure, rock slides, sheer cliffs, and even getting lost.  The key to survival in such a place is awareness and preparedness.

Before setting off on an adventure, one should be aware of the risks and prepare for their eventuality. 

While it is probably more fun to just follow impulse and gallivant into the nearest mountain meadow for a picnic, it is probably not a very good idea.  Instead, you should probably make a note of the various dangers.

  •  The weather could change so you should wear (or bring) layers.  You might also want to bring some rudimentary survival gear in your backpack.
  • Certain animals might find you interesting or threatening.  Thus, you should probably follow the advice of wildlife officials by carrying bear spray and traveling in a group.  You should also be careful about what type nourishment you carry.  You don’t want to smell like a walking smorgasbord.
  • You might get turned around and lose your way so you probably should hire an experienced guide and stay on marked trails.  A trail map or GPS unit might be advantageous as well.
  • You will be walking so you should wear quality hiking boots with a good grip. If the area is wet and cold, you might want to invest in waterproof boots and quality socks that wick moisture.

So, what does this have to do with careers?

Well, entering the wilderness is a lot like entering the work force for the first time.  The successful job seeker will be aware of the risks and will have planned for their eventuality.  While it is tempting to just concentrate on academics and the social calendar, it is probably not a very good idea.  Instead, you should make a note of the various challenges ahead.

This economy is providing challenges for many people worldwide.  You need to plan for this by carefully researching industries to uncover growth.   Where there is growth, there are usually more opportunities.

For each open position, there are a large number of applicants.  With an employment rate of over 9 %, many Americans are out of work and seeking new jobs.  Some of these job seekers have more experience than a recent college graduate.  Yet, not all companies desire a lot of experience.  So, research companies and their education/experience requirements.  Look for leadership programs that hire and train new graduates straight out of college.

Geographic Restrictions
Because of the soft housing market, some experienced candidates are tied to their homes.  They are unable to move because they cannot sell.  There are simply few buyers.  As a college student, you have an advantage as you are probably not tied to a certain location and your moving expenses are probably negligible.

Your toughest competition will be others who are prepared and mobile.  So, you need to be prepared.  Thus, you should visit your career services office pronto.  They can help you develop and polish an elevator pitch (your commercial about what makes you unique).  They can help you craft resumes and cover letters.  They can show you how to research companies and industries.  They can help you with your interview skills.  In short, these career professionals can help you with your career “wilderness” awareness and preparedness.

It is tempting to put off thinking about the future.  

It’s just nice being comfortable in familiar surroundings and having fun.  So, if you haven’t even considered the future yet, let’s conduct a brief mental exercise.  As a first step, just take a few moments to ponder the challenges facing you after college.  Make a list.  Revisit the list in a few days and begin to consider ways in which you can prepare.  Write them down too.  Finally, promise yourself that you will take steps toward preparing for the rest of your life and make an appointment with your college career coach.


As Assistant Director of Recruiting within the Wake Forest Schools of Business Corporate Relations team, Lisa’s passion is connecting employers with student talent and creating a positive experience for both. She manages all aspects of recruiting, retention, and systems for the graduate business school.  Her strengths include relationship management, networking, social media engagement, information aggregation, process facilitation and communication. Lisa has been employed at Wake Forest since the fall of 2002.  She has over 20 years of work experience in various roles.  Prior to arriving at Wake Forest, she was an entrepreneur, venturing into web-based international sales and marketing of salvage automotive parts and accessories.  Before that, she was a trust officer in the Employee Benefit Trust area of Wachovia Bank.  Lisa is also a veteran of the United States Air Force. Lisa earned a B.S. in Business Administration from Rollins College and will complete her Masters in Liberal Arts from Wake Forest in 2011.  Visit Lisa’s blog, follow her on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.

Related posts:

  1. A Career Navigation System
  2. Developing a Vogue Career – Part II
  3. Career Lessons from College Homecoming

One Response to “The Career Wilderness: Survival of the Fittest”

  1. avatar Krystine says:

    Hi, thank you for this article. I would really like to become a health practitioner and receive additional training in wilderness medicine. Working in the outdoors and being close to nature, while having a huge amount of respect for it, seems like the ideal working environment for me.

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