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What is the best way to start a career at REI?

Hi Team,

I am getting close to the financial position that will enable me to take a leap from my current career in engineering. I've felt unfulfilled for awhile and have been preparing to follow my passion for outdoor recreation. I think REI is a great way to start out in this new world with every intention of making it my career.

I have a lot of experience outdoors, especially backpacking, but not in retail. What is the best way to set myself up for long-term success at REI and beyond? What career paths are available? Where could I risk pigeonholing myself? I want to build real experience, establish myself as a solid team member, contribute to the mission, and do it for the long-haul.

Thanks in advance,

Fresh Legs, AT SOBO 2019

3 Replies

@AppBlanchianTrail Thanks for reaching out!

This is a really fun question for us to answer, but before we do, can you let us know where you see yourself at REI? What interests you? Are you looking for a career in retail? This will help us narrow down our advice, thanks!


At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@AppBlanchianTrail Thanks for your patience as we put some thought into this answer!

At REI there are many ways you can find a fulfilling career helping people get outside! It can be challenging to provide specifics around which career path would be best for you, as there are many different options. If you are interested in beginning your career in retail (what I did!) then your best bet is to visit a store and speak with employees and a manager about your options. We are always on the lookout for folks who love the outdoors and are good at sharing that passion with others. Depending on your location and market there are lots of career options: retail management, Outdoor Programs and Outreach, outdoor instructors, shop technicians, full time sales, etc. 

If you're looking for a career at headquarters, that's where it helps to know where your interest and expertise lie. Do you have a background in marketing? Merchandising? I.T.? As was my case, having a solid base of experience in the retail stores (almost 14 years) allowed me to make the transition to our headquarters team because I had a clear goal based on a solid understanding of what role I wanted to play in the organization.

It sounds like you're pretty open minded about the contribution you'd like to make, which can also be advantageous! We recommend talking with a manager or employee the next time you're in one of our stores. They'd be happy to talk to you about careers with REI and perhaps ask you some questions to help guide your thinking.

Hopefully this helps!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@REI-JohnJ thank you so much for your response! It's been a wild month that's kept me from responding, but your help has not been wasted. I called Mark Reich at the Atlanta REI like you suggested, and we had a great conversation. I submitted an application and am under consideration for employment. Depending on several factors, I could end up joining the REI as early as November.

The background of opportunities that you offered was really helpful. Ultimately, I'm anxious to get my foot in the door at the retail level and continue to explore opportunities as they become available, but my passion is to be outside. Leading REI Adventure trips would be a dream, but I know that program is just now ramping up in the context of COVID. My background is in engineering, so the idea of contributing to gear design teams sounds awesome. My experience in retail otherwise is limited.

You put it well. I'm pretty open-minded and not really nervous about building knowledge as I go. I love the culture of the co-op, and I'm sure my problem will end up being some decisions about which of several great paths I should pursue.

Thank you again for your response. Getting in contact with a manager was the best progress I've made so far. Hoping to join the team soon 🙂