'I got a job at a Best Company!'

Employees reveal how they got their gigs and what it's like to work at a Best Company.

Jerry Hapgood

best co 2014 how jerry hapgood rei
  • Company: REI
  • Best Companies rank: 69
  • Role: Sales specialist, action sports
  • Age: 55

As an action sports junkie—think biking, mountain climbing, skiing—you'd expect Jerry Hapgood to be fearless, but even he admits that the risk he took in 2007 at age 50 was a little terrifying. He quit his job as the director of a YMCA in New Hampshire. With a newly empty nest, he and his wife decided to move—without jobs—to Reno, NV. "We loved its proximity to everything outdoors," he says.

But those outdoor hobbies don't come cheap. In the midst of his hunt for work, Hapgood came across a Craigslist posting for a job in the bike and ski shop of the Reno REI—a rare full-time retail position. Hapgood landed an interview, during which he emphasized the outdoor experience he had gained during his 25 years at YMCA. He'd been an adventure director and led cycling, climbing, skiing, and snowshoeing trips. Hapgood harped on that knowledge since his retail resume was thin: he'd worked only briefly at a ski shop in the 1980s.

"This is not a direction I thought I would've gone, but this particular retail environment is unique," he says. As a sales specialist in the action sports division, Hapgood spends his days talking with customers about their big bike rides, powder ski days, and backcountry trips. "For me it's a rewarding experience, to have these conversations and give [customers] advice about products and relate some of my knowledge having been a user of all these things."

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated January 16 2014 06:21 AM ET
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