One of my favorite roles at Swell (and there are a lot — honest!) is leading the summer internship program. For one, it’s essentially like being a camp leader, and two, it helps me make good on a promise I made to myself when I first began my lame attempts at establishing a career. That being: To be way cooler and much more understanding than any of my bosses had been to me.
I’ve had lots of jobs. LOTS! Starting at age 10 as a newspaper girl, and eventually becoming a babysitter, beverage cart girl at a premier San Diego golf resort (the tips actually sucked), a sales assistant at Nordstrom (on and off for 15 years), a newspaper journalist, a TV station news intern, a PR manager for a local skateboard manufacturer, a marketing assistant and writer for the world’s largest action sports publisher (fun, too much fun, but the pay was beyond shitty–as was the management), an action sports web editor (this was during the dot com bomb era when the pay was astronomical, until they sent the police to tell everyone the company had closed), a research analyst for a commercial real estate information provider (a solid company, and surprisingly one of the best working experiences by far), and of course as the online merchandiser / content manager for Swell.
I actually came to Swell in January 2000. I had just been laid off from the ridiculously high paying gig for the action sports dot comer (okay, you broke me down, it was Bluetorch) and several of my friends had been picked up by this new company that was going to be a leading surf/skate/snow retailer as well as a premier editorial and content provider. My friend Allison recommended me for the copywriter position. Here, I was expected to write witty, sarcastic product descriptions. At the time, there were only about 80 new products every two months or so. Since then, we’ve grown to more than 10,000 products per year. (And boy are my fingers tired!) My responsibilities have grown too, and I’ve done everything from led the merchandising efforts to managing the blog to writing all email copy, and anything else that needs some catchy words. Including hiring and training all summer interns.
There’s just something so fun and refreshing about working with those who are so eager (read: not jaded) to get a job in action sports. And I’ll admit, the action sports industry is incredibly fun and cool and special. But honestly, it can (and will) break your heart. It’s 100% a labor of love–for the sports, the lifestyle, the legends, the athletes, and the dreams (even the broken ones).
The amount of companies that have come and gone are too numerous to mention. No one is safe from lay offs, and no company can ensure that its founder won’t pick up and start shop elsewhere. And scariest of all, once you turn 35 you are essentially marked for death.
And still, I can’t imagine working in any other industry. It’s the industry my family has always worked in, it’s given me amazing opportunities to party around the world, it’s where I met my husband, and it’s where I hope my 2-year-old son will eventually follow. And I have to assume since you’re reading this post, it’s where you would kill to work as well. So I hope my following advice and suggestions will give you greater insight into the real deal, and possibly, if you’re lucky, land you job in the greatest industry the work force has ever known.
Without a doubt, the easiest way to get hired with one of the larger companies (Quik, Billabong, Rip Curl, O’Neill, Volcom, Lost, etc.) is to have been a successful professional rider. This is essentially your golden ticket into a coveted sales or marketing position. College degree, and in some cases high school degree, not required. The fact that your name, image and rankings have been well documented is more valuable than an MBA from Harvard. You’re cool, everyone knows it, and everyone wants to be a part of it. Even local rippers in the amateur rankings have a solid chance of grabbing the golden ring. If you’ve had a handful of photos in a few magazines, you speak reasonably well, and you look reasonably attractive, chances are getting a job won’t be too difficult. (By the way, all this only pertains to guys. Sorry, but pro girls rarely venture into the corporate side of action sports once their careers are over. They’re much too smart for this nonsense.)Thank you for visiting the Swell blog. Visit us on www.facebook.com/swell for more exclusive fan offers, giveaways and more.