Nicholas Cunningham

 Nicholas Cunningham

Major:  Management
Year of Graduation:  2005
Current Job Title:  Senior Mountaineering Guide, Alaska Mountain Guides

(Nic has climbed the world's seven summits, starting with Mt. Kilimanjaro while on his study abroad trip to South Africa.)

Please give a brief description of your current position and where you're working.
I work for Alaska Mountain Guides and Climbing School Inc. out of Haines, Alaska as a Senior Guide. While guiding, I teach people of all ages how to safely travel through the wilderness and mountains at various locations around the world.  We guide and teach on all seven continents year round and I personally have been able to work on three continents and guide in various countries.

What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
After graduation I moved to Alaska to pursue the opportunities involved with guiding. Since that time I have been able to climb and work throughout the world and gain an enormous set of mountaineering and leadership skills.

What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
Relocation will likely be inevitable so plan on moving around a bit.  Also, personal experience counts as everything in this business. If you have the time, go out and acquire pertinent certifications and outdoor experiences as all of this will increase your ability to get hired.  Most importantly, use your connections.  If you know someone who already works for a particular company or in a particular field, contact that person as that is typically a great "in."

What skills are important in your field?
In the world of guiding, experience is the biggest asset of all as that allows you to understand the bigger picture and have a readiness for all situations.  To gain that experience one must show excellent leadership, interpersonal and social skills as well as the obvious physical requirements. 

What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
The Outdoor Leadership Center was a great asset. However, the biggest asset of all was the opportunity to travel abroad; study abroad gave me the ability to see past graduation, think beyond getting a "typical" job, and following an outdoor path.  By studying abroad I was able to see the world and realize that there was a great opportunity in life to go see more of it!

What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?
For me it is getting to be part of the guests' breakthroughs.  When you see someone doubt their ability to make the "summit" whether it be Mt. Everest or a 30-foot rock climb, it is an amazing feeling to be part of their success when the wall is broken down both physically and mentally. 
 
Finally, I just want people to know that within the guiding world there is much more than the actual guiding positions.  For example, the company I work for has a large office staff who sell our trips, deal with guest information and transfers, work with cruise line agents, work with warehouse managers, line up sea kayakers and zip line guides etc.... We get everyone from school teachers looking for a cool summer job to hard core mountaineers looking to build a career.  For someone looking to do something fun for a summer, this is as great as opportunity as it is for someone looking to build a career based on the outdoors.