Being a Scuba Instructor – What Does Your Future Boss Want From You?

Go to a popular dive destination at the start of the season and throw a rock in the air, chances are that it will land on an out of work scuba instructor looking for a gig. They desperately traipse from dive centre to dive centre, knuckles bleeding from knocking on doors repeatedly. The army of jobless, starving instructors roam the streets, hungry for scuba work, like a scene from a zombie movie. Well, that is of course, my own over-dramatic spin on things. But the truth is that pretty much anywhere in the world you can dive, the competition for paid positions is fierce. Exactly what is it that makes a dive shop owner or manager pick someone out of the crowd and give them a job? Let’s hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.

The responses to my questions below come from successful, long standing dive industry professionals who are either dive centre owners or in managerial positions. These are the people who decide who to employ and the intention of the questions is to understand what it is that would make them offer somebody a job. Even though the responses are from people in different parts of the world, I find it interesting to note that there are some common themes that run through each.

No matter where it is you are looking for work, this information will help you understand what it is you should be aspiring to be. Many thanks to Lydia, David, Donna & Gary for giving your time and valuable responses.

From Lydia Jakubek – Director of Pro Dive Mexico

1)      Can you describe your perfect dive centre employee?

Enthusiastic, pro-active person with high quality customer service, always willing to help and address clients’ needs, patient, with high level of empathy. Safety goes first in our company, so we look for people with a high sense of responsibility under as well as out of the water. Passion for diving and environmental protection is a must for all our staff members – we give high emphasis to environmental education of our clients and protection of reefs and marine life. Sales motivation is also important as sales are crucial part of daily tasks of our people.

From other attributes I would mention flexibility, problem solving skills, ability to cope with new situations and team spirit.

2)      A good team is made up of people, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. What characteristics would you want from individuals within your dream team?

See above – it is really difficult (but not impossible) to find an ideal employee with all the mentioned attributes, so we try to mix people with different personalities and strengths to create perfect teams in our dive centers.

3)    What do you think makes someone a bad dive professional?

In my personal opinion, it is lack of passion in diving (you can’t do well something you don’t enjoy) and lack of empathy.

4)      What helps make a CV stand out for you?

Professionalism with which the CV is prepared – providing detailed and structured information about person’s education and experience (both in diving as well as non-diving) and main skills, including language skills. It is a CV where I can see that the person really put some thoughts into preparing the CV and considered what our company, having dive centers in 5* all-inclusive hotel resorts, might be looking for in an instructor.

5)  If a diver you know personally told you they planned to become an instructor, what advice would you give them?

I would ask them what is their motivation behind this decision? Being a dive instructor is an amazing and rewarding job (I believe that people do not forget the person who introduced them to diving for the first time). But it is a demanding job and there are days which can be really tough. So instructors need to love diving and love sharing their love and passion for diving with other people.

6) Think of the last person you employed, what made you give them the job over their competition?

Language skills. Our clients come from all around the world and being able to communicate and teach in several languages gives a person very significant advantage over his/her peers.

From David Joyce – Owner of Evolution Diving Resort, Philippines

1)      Can you describe your perfect dive centre employee?

A dive centre employee has to be a perfect blend of enthusiasm and authority.  I joke to staff that we are in the business of making dreams come true but in essence it’s true.  People save up and come a long way with the goal to learn to dive and we need to deliver that to them with confidence, safety and fun at the forefront.  A jaded Instructor or bored DM is no good to anyone.  We infect our customers daily with our own joy for what we do.  We embody the lifestyle and our actions and interest in diving is a fruitful sales technique in itself.

2)      A good team is made up of people, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. What characteristics would you want from individuals within your dream team?

Being a team player is critical but you still need leadership skills on a daily basis, and certainly in a crisis.  With so many variables at play on a daily basis from weather to diver levels, from water conditions to boats available, we need to pull together to find the best options for the largest number of our clients each day.  Again confidence and authority are required to make on the spot decisions based on the above factors and many more.  You don’t want to ignore the advice around you and send divers out into a storm and you don’t want to be a shrinking violet assigning divers to the House Reef for every dive.   Dive pros need to make the divers around them feel safe and at ease.  If you have never dived a particular site before a true pro should know how to wing and bluff it.  Get the necessary intelligence you can from other dive staff and make your customers think it’s your 1,000th time on that site.

Modern dive staff need to bring extra tools to the trade – namely additional languages, real world work experience, social media presence, sales ability and more.  Like it or not it’s a fact in diving that it is not a 9 to 5 job.  If you want the lifestyle you need to be willing to work long hours.  However the typical 12 to 14 hour day often includes 3 or 4 magical dives and a few beers with interesting customers so not something to complain about.

3)      What do you think makes someone a bad dive professional?

The same things that make any employee bad.  Tardiness is not tolerated.  Keeping your students waiting or not showing up shows them you are disorganised, inconsiderate and possibly hungover – why should they put their trust in you and put their life in your hands?  They shouldn’t.  Deportment on land and in sea – again just because we work on the beach doesn’t mean you have to smell like old fish.  And if your dive equipment looks like you it also doesn’t give your students confidence.  A true dive Instructor needs to manage the social side of the job with the professional side.  Yes we socialise and entertain our customers, no we don’t come in bleary eyed and still half cut and expect that to be OK.  A bad Pro is also impatient, especially with students or divers who they see as below them.  A bad Pro cuts corners and doesn’t stick to standards, something that is all too prevalent in the dive industry.

 

4)      What helps make a CV stand out for you?

It is very simple – present it as if you were going for a ‘real’ job offering 100k per year.  Make sure formatting and spelling are perfect.  Get to the point and keep it concise.   Most employers will glance at a CV and decide whether to dig deeper in a nano second. Most CVs fail this test.  Telling me your passion for diving will not get you the job.  Don’t tell me you’re fluent in English when I can’t understand the rest of your CV.  Highlight your non diving achievements and link them to what you can offer, whether it’s experience with computers, a former life as an electrician or an ability to write well.  If you are a newly minted Instructor highlight your willingness to learn and adapt. If you are a salty old sea dog, highlight your willingness to learn and adapt.

5)      If a diver you know personally told you they planned to become an instructor, what advice would you give them?

Only do the IDC if you are 100% sure you plan to work and teach.  Some people see it as a natural stepping stone in dive training.  Wrong.  Being an Instructor doesn’t teach you how to be a better diver or deepen your dive knowledge, you can do that in others ways such as tech training.  It simply gives you the keys to a lifestyle.  It’s up to you to unlock the door.

6)      Think of the last person you employed, what made you give them the job over their competition?

The last instructor we hired was a person with real world management experience and maturity.  She switched to becoming an Instructor because she had enough of the rate race and was looking for something more personally fulfilling even if less lucrative.  People like this appreciate the lifestyle the most and are great to work with and their decision to switch out of the rate race and into the dive world is exactly the dream we sell and embody on a daily basis.

From Donna Dornbos – Owner of JND Scuba Center/Dixie Divers of Palm Bay, FL

1)      Can you describe your perfect dive centre employee?

Someone who wants to work, reliable, trustworthy, who is going to be a good role model, someone who has work ethic, is polite and does not use fowl language, a good listener, who does not become weary of doing the right thing, creative, can multitask, able to make wise decisions, asks a lot of questions (this is the way I know they care), always looking for efficient ways of doing things, people person, can sell, sell sell, does not get tired of diving, wants to keep learning, patience, articulates well, handles stress well, enthusiastic all the time

2)      A good team is made up of people, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. What characteristics would you want from individuals within your dream team?

A sense of humor, trustworthy, mature, reliable.

3)      What do you think makes someone a bad dive professional?

Not professional (in words and actions), not dressing appropriately, gossips, is not safe, does the opposite of what they say, tries to act cool.

4)      What helps make a CV stand out for you?

 

5)      If a diver you know personally told you they planned to become an instructor, what advice would you give them?  

Make sure you are not doing it for the money.  You must love to dive, love to teach, be patient and it is a lot of responsibility.  Do not stop learning….about gear, about techniques….

Always be humble….your students can always teach you something.  There is not just one way of doing things.

6)      Think of the last person you employed, what made you give them the job over their competition?

Let’s face it, we don’t have a lot of people standing in line to be employed by JND Scuba in Palm Bay!!  I can only think of one person whom we have as an instructor that I work well with.  I have had maybe only one or two instructors who have been reliable in all of our 16 years in owning the business.

 

From Gary Hawkes, Business Development, Cairns Dive Centre, Australia

1)      Can you describe your perfect dive centre employee?

Engaging, professional, passionate about diving and environment, understand you can never know it all, holds a good work life balance, shows up insured, with excellent quality dive equipment

2)      A good team is made up of people, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. What characteristics would you want from individuals within your dream team?

Attention to detail, know the balance between actively teaching and over teaching, always learning for personal development, Useful skill set from pre diving experience, Able to apply risk assessment as second nature, Customer satisfaction experience and safety main priorities, Confident to stand behind unpopular decisions such as: calling of a dive due to conditions, saying no due to medical issues or lack of experience

3)      What do you think makes someone a bad dive professional?

Tardiness, know it all ego, unprofessional paperwork, not questioning decisions they are uncomfortable with, all about them not the dive crew as a team

4)      What helps make a CV stand out for you?

Relevant information, bold contact details, short personal introduction ( 2 lines is fine) professional photo, references supplied, availability

5)      If a diver you know personally told you they planned to become an instructor, what advice would you give them?

Get experience as a dive master first, plus get the extra skill sets that will make you stand out eg: compressor maintenance, service technician, gas blender, tender licence, coxwain. Also your equipment should be complete, professional and at a high standard, Choose agency based on area you wish to work, get insurance

6)      Think of the last person you employed, what made you give them the job over their competition?

Attitude, experience, good references

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