Think about It: OIWC asks, what does it take to conquer the summit of your career?

If advancing a career came down to swinging an ice ax to wipe out the glass ceiling, this industry of peakbaggers and semi-pro athletes would be laden with CEOs and overflowing with VIPs. The OIWC is making "Advancing Your Career" its theme for 2010 and offers tips to professionals looking to get ahead.

If advancing a career came down to swinging an ice ax to wipe out the glass ceiling, this industry of peakbaggers and semi-pro athletes would be laden with CEOs and overflowing with VIPs. The reality is there are only a few career pinnacles in the outdoor — or any — industry, and the competition to get there is fierce.

“A full 87 percent of the membership of the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition’s (OIWC) have a college education,” said Amy Luther, the non-profit’s director of membership and education programs. Luther said that might help explain why career advancement and professional development ranked as top priorities for respondents of the OIWC’s career satisfaction survey, released in 2009.

In response to members’ requests and priorities, OIWC chose “Advancing Your Career” as its theme for 2010. “Whether you’re an executive, a mid-level manager or in an entry-level position, you’re always considering how to advance,” Luther said.

She added that OIWC hopes a yearlong focus on career development skills through seminars and regional events will translate to a leg-up for its membership, many of whom have already developed self-confidence and capability through their experience as guides-, athletes- and adventurers-turned-professionals in the industry.

While paddling technique and expertise on the trail might help accomplish personal goals, they don’t always translate to skill sets that will land you atop the Everest of your career path. Grunt-and-muscle determination counts for something, but the OIWC has identified nine career-related skill sets to address in an effort to help women achieve their professional goals:

  1. business planning and financing

  2. verbal and written communication

  3. decision making

  4. interview preparation

  5. financial basics

  6. marketing

  7. becoming a leader

  8. collaborative leadership

  9. listening

The 2010 agenda begins March 25 with a panel discussion on “Advancing Your Career” in Burlington, Vt.

Perusing the list of skills, Colleen Clark, one of the panelists in the upcoming event, identified listening skills as the most important one in her rise from the retail floor where her career began. Clark has been the senior director of people (“basically human resources,” she said) at Eastern Mountain Sports for more than 22 years, and credits her listening skills as giving her an edge when it comes to her success.

“When you’re a good listener, you start to hear where there is potential to collaborate and you see places to start finding solutions,” she said. “There are a lot of times when the idea being presented doesn’t fit everyone’s needs, but good listening helps us collaborate and get to something even better.”

For Carolyn Cooke, another event panelist, her go-to skill isn’t as clear-cut, noting “they’re all really important.” President and co-founder of the women’s apparel company Isis, she started her outdoor industry career in retail and as a guide.

“You’ll learn different things in large or small companies,” she said, “but the people who are successful are the ones who tackle whatever project that’s in front of them and use the opportunity to master skills that may not be part of their current job description.”

Cooke suggested that by exposing yourself to skills one at a time and whenever the opportunity arises will help you make progress toward your goals and maybe even help you define them. “Trusting that you’ve got the basics mastered gives you the confidence to move on to new challenges,” she said.

The first step toward mastering the basics? Exposure, mentorship and education: the goals of OIWC’s panels, seminars and networking nights. With the same amount of training you might devote to self-arrests or navigating singletrack, you can hone your career-advancement skill set and begin the long climb to the pinnacle of your career.

Start the journey at the OIWC event in Burlington on March 25, or check out for additional career-development resources.

Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition is a membership community of professionals in the outdoor industries united to provide power, influence and opportunity for women in outdoor-related businesses and to generate champions to inspire other women. For more information, visit

This monthly column, a partnership between OIWC and SNEWS®, aims to address the issues that concern women in the industry most — anything that is controversial, topical or newsworthy relating to women and the outdoors. The goal is to help, educate, inspire and grow. We welcome your ideas, gripes, thoughts and comments. Bring it on. E-mail us at

Kristy Holland is the editor in chief of Women’s Adventure magazine, the only sports, travel, fitness and lifestyle magazine published specifically for active women. The magazine’s spring issue hit newsstands in mid-March and is also available online at