Ed Note: Readers you are in for a treat as Tom Cervenak, Visitor Services and Marketing Manager for Virginia State Parks, weaves the story of how he came to work for parks and what his career has been like. This series will run nine chapters, with many of them split into two parts.
Chapter 8: APark Ranger Career is a 10!
10) Find a school that matches your goals. Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio even has a Park Ranger Certification Program now.
9) Get experience, whether it is as a volunteer or seasonal position.
8) Don’t be afraid to get dirty, it’s educational and fun!
7) Don’t be afraid to leave home to find the job of your dreams, besides Mom and Dad likely won’t mind. The pay may not be great, but depending on the job, several park systems provide some free or low cost housing for seasonal and permanent workers.
6) Make sure early in life you’re happy with nature and people. Remember you are going to do it 40+ hours a week for the rest of your employment life, so you better like it.
5) Never burn any bridges as you sometimes go full circle in careers and in life.
4) Show up each day with passion. Understand people come to parks for many reasons and through your actions you can literally change their lives for the better.
3) Have a sense of humor. Things happen that are out of your control and you can get frustrated, or you can pause, laugh about it, fix the problem and move on.
2) Stop and smell the roses, or in this case, as a Park Ranger, take the time to look around at how lucky you are each and every day. Your riches may not be in your bank account, but what a great job with so many special benefits. I wish I had a $1 for every time someone said, “I wish I had your job,” and you know, they were right.
1) Hopefully you have the support and influence of great grandparents, parents, sisters, friends, girlfriend (in my case) and college roommates that never give up on you and are there to pick you up when you’re down and let you live in their house until you have your own!