Chapter 2 - Adaptability Proves Indispensable

Our community recently started telling us about their experiences in outdoor jobs. We’re excited to begin sharing the stories of these wonderfully free people and the unique jobs that kept them outside and in their element. 
We hope you enjoy taking a glimpse into their lives, in their own words. Their experiences are worth celebrating and we can learn from them too! 
When you think about what it takes to flourish in a career, what attribute comes to mind first? 
For Rebecca, it was her ability to adapt to all the changes she’s navigated. As she went from one job to the next she focused on becoming a well-rounded individual. Each position grew her skillset and fortitude. It consistently worked to her advantage when on the hunt for work! In the end, all her skills, education, and growth added up to a job she loves as a chemist. 
Rebecca - Hydrographic Survey Technician, Seismic Survey Navigator, Chemist 
Outdoor Jobs - Woman in Work GearAs a child I wanted to be a doctor, a fireman, and the first female professional baseball player...all at the same time! Then the dream of being a trainer at SeaWorld took over. After a research assignment in 6th grade, I realized what I wanted was to be a Marine Biologist. 
Getting into a 4-year college was kind of ingrained in me, but when I got there I struggled with quite a few classes. I ended up taking a semester off to do some research work and get my head straight. I worked on a small fishing boat with a local fisherman and a PhD candidate doing fishing by-catch research along the North Carolina coast. It was an amazing experience and it helped push me to finish my degree.
BUT, once I graduated it was really hard to find a job. There was always a “more qualified candidate” and even my research experience didn’t seem to be enough. It was so disheartening to have put so much work into a dream only to have it fall flat. 
For the next two years, I worked with my mom in real estate. But eventually, I decided to go back to school at a technical college for Marine Technology. I learned a little about a lot of different maritime jobs before absolutely falling in love with navigation, hydrographic survey, and cartography. 
At a job fair, I received 2 offers before I even had my diploma in hand! The hydrographic surveyor position won out since it was closer to home. What I didn’t know was that the other company would come back into the picture a few years down the road…
In my 4th year as a surveyor, I had back surgery and changed roles.
In my 5th year with the company, I was terminated from my position during a cut-back. 
But that other offer I’d passed on? Turns out I knew quite a few people who were working with that offshore survey company. They hired me 6 months later and I spent the next 5 years traveling the world, working offshore in a fantastic role I absolutely loved!
Unfortunately, my back started causing me trouble again. I had to come to terms with the realization the physical stress would be too much to keep working offshore. The elective severance they offered included a re-training fund I used to pursue a second degree in Chemistry. Thankfully, since I already had a minor in the subject, it only took 3 semesters to complete it. 
And THAT is the long, twisty path to my current position as a chemist!
Whenever I get a chance to talk to young people about figuring out their futures, I always end up harping on the importance of hands-on experience and adaptability. If you can volunteer somewhere in your field of interest, even if it’s just an hour a day or on weekends, it will be beneficial. If you can get an internship in a position related to your career goals, it will yield a gold mine of experience. A well-rounded individual is often more employable than someone with a single skill set. 
How do I know?
A lot of the companies I worked for were more interested in the technical capabilities I possessed than my good standing in school. The ability to think for myself, troubleshoot a situation, and think outside the box were my most valuable assets. My current employer hired me over another candidate who had previous lab experience.  
Because of my ability to adapt. 
Yes, I did have top grades in my Chemistry classes and labs. But they were most impressed with how I was able to go from… 
  • working in the marine environment to… 
  • returning to school after 20 years to…
  • finishing a degree to…
  • pursuing a job in a completely new field. 
Life can be a hard road, but you can’t be afraid to take a chance. You’ve got to be ready to dive in and learn as much as you can. Learn how to communicate and work as a team. Know what you want to do and accomplish. And, most importantly, believe in yourself and never give up!