The Six P’s & Your IDC

Guest blog for PADI Course Director Camille Lemmens

http://www.pa-divingidc.com

When I was young, my dad used to bang on about the six P’s: Preparation and Planning Prevents a P*** Poor Performance. The meaning is simple to understand, if you want to get a good result from something then you need to put the work in beforehand. Looking back, I guess when I was young I never listened to dad much which must have been pretty frustrating for him. In my school years, my time was generally spent staring out of the window and getting in to trouble as opposed to preparing for classes. This lack of preparation on my part resulted in various fates like having to do P.E. in my underwear and turning up for a very important exam in the afternoon when it was clearly advertised as being in the morning. It should come as no surprise that I left school without much in the way of impressive pieces of paper, it turned out that dad had a point.

As adults, the majority of us now know that if we want to get the most out of an experience then we need to put effort in to it, your Instructor Development course (IDC) is a great example of this. For many, one of the biggest considerations when deciding whether or not to become a scuba instructor is the initial cost. Making the financial commitment is a big deal but doing so does not guarantee success. It should be taken for granted that anyone who goes in to the Instructor Exam (IE) should do so with a view to pass but to what extent? Would you be happy to scrape through or would you want to ace it? Forget about the IE for a minute and consider the IDC as a standalone educational experience designed to prepare you for the big scary world as a scuba instructor, how much do you want to get out of it? Just enough to get by or enough to really empower you to be the best and most employable instructor you can be?

For most people there is a period of time between deciding that they want to become an instructor and the date their IDC starts. If you truly want to get the most out of the program and want to succeed as a scuba professional then this is a valuable period that should not be wasted. Whether you are a seasoned diver of many years or relatively new there are things that you can do in preparation for your IDC that will help build strong foundations for your course director to work with. And just to be clear, building up your alcohol tolerance before starting your gap year off does not constitute preparation! Here are some ideas for areas to focus on:

Prerequisites

As much as dive crew members like to joke around and act the fool (something that comes a lot more naturally to some than others) there are strict standards throughout the instructor training process which have to be met. These start with prerequisites, in other words, what you need to have achieved prior to starting your IDC. Before starting instructor training there are some things that you have to have squared away. Depending on where you go to do your course you may well be able to fill in any missing gaps prior to the start date, if that’s the case then make sure your course director is aware of what you need before you arrive. Prior to starting the IDC (assuming you have to do the entire course – AI as well as OWSI) you’ll need the following:

• To be a divemaster (DM). If your DM cert is not from PADI then you’ll need to complete the rescue exercise from the PADI DM course. If you completed any course from entry level up to pro with a different agency (not PADI) then you need to make sure you bring your certification cards along with you.

• To be at least 18 years old.

• To have been a certified diver for at least six months.

• To have logged at least 60 dives (100 upon completion) and documented experience in night, deep and underwater navigation.

• To have a medical approval signed by a physician within the last 12 months stating you are fit to dive.

• To have completed EFR training within the last 24 months.

Before you can get signed off as an OWSI, you will need to be an Emergency First Response Instructor (EFRI). This is quite often built in to the IDC but does not have to be. As far as prerequisites go, if you do not have them already, including the EFRI, then make sure you are clear of their costs as they will no doubt be on top of the standard fee for the IDC.

Get Your Skills up to Scratch

In the IDC, you should be using your time learning how to teach, not learning how to do. I have seen many instructor candidates that turn up still having trouble with basics like hovering etc. If your demonstration of hovering looks scrappy then how does that help instill confidence in your students? Think about it from a 360 approach, if you turned up to your IDC and you noticed your course director couldn’t put his gear together very well then what would go through your mind? IDC candidates will always have development areas but time spent during the IDC learning how to hover properly as opposed to developing something like student control techniques is a waste of your time and money.

Its worth getting as much pool time as you can to work on your own skills as well as running through skill sets from the DM course. You can try listing skills that you did in your OW, AOW, Rescue & DM courses and then run through them. You may want to try to find recordings of other people demonstrating their skills on the internet, these help you visualize what it is you are trying to achieve. If you find an area you are not so strong in then that’s where you need to invest your efforts to practice.

Time spent assisting instructors teaching courses is exceptionally worthwhile. There are so many advantages in this, for example:

• You get to build familiarity with the syllabus.

• You get to see real life issues that students have and then how the instructor helps overcome them.

• You may well get time with students helping them practice.

• Your comfort level with the skills increases.

• You start getting used to being on the instructor side of the course as opposed to the student side.

In your IDC you will have to do a rescue scenario – Unresponsive dive at the surface. You will have done this already in your rescue course as well as your DM but now you need to learn how to do it to demonstration standard. If you can, it will help you immensely if you can assist other instructors in delivering a rescue course. The skills in this course can be pretty complex and managing them effectively requires quite a bit of thought from the instructor. Instructors always appreciate extra bodies on rescue courses to be victims, role play actors, equipment handlers etc so your involvement should be gratefully accepted.

Further to the above, there are other skills that may well feature in your IDC which are not so obvious like compass skills, knots and lift bag use. Re-visit your AOW course and make sure you are absolutely comfortable in how to take a bearing with a compass, navigate a reciprocal and a square. You do not even need to be in water to practice these. Also from the AOW course, take time to get up to speed with your three knots – the bowline, sheet bend & round turn and two half hitches.

When people make a mess of deploying lift bags & SMB’s things go south fast. It is hard to try to maintain a professional image while looking like a kitten tangled up in a ball of string being carried fins first to the surface by a lift bag you inflated, your “students” in front of you try to keep a straight face as they watch your demonstration wondering what is going to happen next. End every dive by deploying your SMB, even when not required so that when you get in to your IDC it is second nature.

Beyond all that, just get out there and dive. The more experience you can get, the better. It really does not matter if it is in your local quagmire or out on a stunning reef, try to get as much experience as a diver as you can.

Know Your Theory

Unsurprisingly (I hope), to be an instructor you need to have a good understanding of dive theory. As well as the theory exams you are going to have to sit, you will be expected to give knowledge development presentations on various subjects. Beyond all this, you need to be thinking of life after the IDC, when you are out there in a classroom full of open water students and someone asks you a question, trust me, you do feel like a bit of a tit when you don’t have the answer.

Go through your knowledge developments, quizzes and exams from your OW, AOW, Rescue, EFR & DM theory as well as at least nitrox & deep from your specialties. Try to avoid just remembering the answers and really make sure you understand the content of the subject. This helps you answer questions when they are presented in different contexts to how you have found them so far. You can find some really useful pieces on the internet but be careful, it turns out that some online content is not entirely accurate!

In your DM crew pack you should have had some reference materials which will help. The Encyclopedia of Recreation Diving is an amazing resource. Its big and has lots of words but is well worth the read. In addition to this you should have a copy of the instructor manual. Take time to get comfortable with how to navigate your way through it and understand where you need to look to find a general standard versus a standard for a particular course.

As I have already mentioned, I didn’t do very well at school so did not really have a strong educational background to help me through the theory work. I personally found the Diving Knowledge Workbook a world of use.

Equipment

To be an instructor you will need your own gear. It is fairly common for instructors to use a little shop gear here and there but the expectation when hiring a PADI professional is that they have good working, well maintained equipment of their own. Make sure you know what regulator fittings they have where you are going, so if you have DIN regs you may well need to buy a DIN-Yoke converter. Also consider the changes in global units of measurement, if you are used to one but the place you are going to do your IDC uses the other then you will need to be aware of the conversions, things to consider are feet vs meters, pounds vs kg’s, Fahrenheit vs Celcius, Bar v PSI.

It is best to have fairly standard gear to use when instructing. For example, there is nothing in the standards that prevents you from having a backplate/wing configuration as opposed to a BCD but it is most likely your students will be learning in a standard jacket style BCD so think about how relevant your demonstration will be when you use kit that is different to what your students have.

When you get in to the IDC, it is worth looking at everyone else’s gear to ensure you understand its use if different from yours. If you are used to a standard pressure gauge but some candidates have their pressure displayed digitally on their computer then ask for a run through as to how it works, its best to find this kind of stuff out early on as opposed to when you are giving a demonstration on how to teach an out of air exercise.

My recommendation is to get your kit as soon as you can so you can build familiarity with it in the run up to your IDC. Requirements for the IE are:

• Fins, mask & snorkel

• Buoyancy control device with low pressure inflator.

• Regulator with alternate air source and SPG

• Wetsuit

• Timing device, depth gauge & compass

• Knife or cutting tool

• Blank slate

• Two surface signaling devices – one audible like a whistle and one visual like an SMB

• Weight Belt

• Pocket mask

Get Fit

This is not a deal breaker but it does help during your IDC and then getting a job if you are kinda in shape. Your IDC is tiring, you will be working lots of hours and will likely end the days physically and mentally exhausted. If you spend some time before your IDC developing your fitness then it will help you manage those long days.

Beyond the IDC, getting a job may be a little easier if you are in shape for two main reasons. Firstly, from a safety and practical point of view, if you find yourself in a position where you have to assist someone by pulling them in to the boat but you generally struggle to get yourself in the boat in normal conditions then you are not off to a good start. Depending on where you work you may have to get involved with physically demanding roles like changing over the tanks on the boats. Hauling 80 empty tanks off a boat and replacing them with 80 full ones in the midday heat is hard work.

Secondly, image is important for a dive centre. Some potential employers may not want to offer a job to someone who they feel does not have the right image. This could mean someone who smokes, has heavy tattoos or piercings or who is noticeably physically unfit. Rightly or wrongly, most dive centres like to promote an image of being healthy and active, their staff are instrumental in maintaining this image.

Start Thinking About the World of Work

Getting your instructor certificate is a big deal but in truth, it’s just the beginning. What you are going to find is that there is quite a bit of competition out there for jobs for freshly certified instructors. You need to start thinking about how to stand out from the crowd in order to get started. You may have something lined up already but if not I strongly advise that you start thinking about how you are going to make it happen, check out my posts on the “Being an Instructor” tab on my blog page for some ideas.

During my IDC I recall other certified instructors who were around at the time telling me that they had a great time during their IE. I personally had such a sense of impending doom that it seemed impossible that the IE could be anything like fun. When I got there, I was surprised to find that there were no nasty PADI dragons waiting to tear me apart and after passing the written exams I actually did enjoy the whole experience just like others had told me I would. This time, I had prepared, very thoroughly indeed and it was this preparation that enabled the experience to be fun. No one wants to have to write that Facebook status telling the world that they failed and there is no reason why they should have to as long as they put the required effort in. In summary, my advice to you is get the basics nailed, prepare well, learn lots in the IDC and then have fun blitzing the IE. Good luck!

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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

Being an Instructor – Getting the First Gig

So you passed the exam and got your instructor ticket? Welcome to the party! From here on in life will be all about cocktails on the beach and getting paid to float around in the ocean…. or something like that. So all you need to do now is find somewhere to work and that’s got to be the easy part right? Wrong! Getting your first job as a scuba instructor is hard. As a rookie instructor, it’s going to require more than being in the right place at the right time, with a big smile and a passion for diving. You need to stack the odds in your favour. In order to help you I have put together the following guide.

Are You Experienced?

The age old catch 22, you need experience to get the job but how do you get one without the other? There are attributes that employers will look favourably upon in lieu of teaching experience. For a dive operation to be successful it needs to have dedicated, solid, reliable people working within it, there aren’t many jobs out there for people who just want to hang out and look cool.

When you move from one industry to another, even though the two fields of employment may be completely different, there will be some skills applicable to both. Common transferable skills are:

IT/web skills – It’s the digital age, having a strong online presence is critical for a modern business and dive outfits are no exception. Dive centres always appreciate having staff who, when out of the water, can help improve their online presence. Web design or optimisation skills will definitely boost your chances of getting work

Mechanic – What happens to the dive centre when the compressor breaks or boat engine dies? Calling in technicians to fix broken machinery, even cars, takes time and money, having someone on the team who can help with basic mechanics is a huge asset. Also showing you are mechanically minded will mean that you are more likely to catch on to things like regulator and BCD repairs.

Sales – A dive centre is a business, it needs to make money and it does that by selling its product to its customers. As an instructor working closely with the student (customer) you are in a perfect position to advise them on further diving, training or equipment. Dive centre owners and managers like to employ people with sales and marketing backgrounds as they are likely to be more able to recognise revenue generating opportunities.

Customer service – Having experience in managing customer expectations and generally keeping people happy is an asset. Many dive businesses rely on repeat business from their customers and they all should be concerned with online reviews that their customers leave. For these reasons they need to employ people who are able to ensure the customer leaves happy even when things don’t necessarily go as smoothly as you would like.

Ability to work with children – Not everybody (myself included) can work well with kids. Nowadays there are so many programs for younger divers, being able to accommodate them means more business for the dive centre.

Leadership – As a dive professional you will need leadership skills, people need to feel confidence in doing what you ask of them. Beyond this, larger dive centres like to employ people that they feel can work up to managerial roles. If you can demonstrate that you have been successful in people management then this will help you.

First Things First….

Before you go looking for a job, there are some things that you absolutely need to get squared away, these include:

  • Your own skills. If you have trouble with basic concepts like buoyancy, navigation or deploying an SMB then it will be noticed. Be the best you can be – if you know you have weaknesses in fundamental skills that you are supposed to teach to other people then practice the hell out of them and improve yourself.
  • Starting out your dive career with no money, or even worse, in debt is a bad plan. Your income for the first year probably won’t be very much so plan on saving enough to pay for your instructor training as well as having a bit of a cushion to keep you afloat.
  • Having your own gear is not something that will put you head and shoulders above the competition, it is a basic requirement. This includes ancillaries like an SMB, computer, compass etc. Tough, practical, hard wearing gear is best and if you know where you want to go to work it is worth looking at how easy it is to get your brand of gear serviced and maintained in that area.
  • When the brown stuff hits the fan things get very expensive very quickly, trust me, you need insurance. As a professional (depending on where you work), it may make sense to think about liability insurance as well.
  • Make sure your instructor certification is valid and that you have paid up all your membership fees.

Building a CV/Resume

Like any job, you are going to need to get a CV or resume together. I am deliberately not going to offer a template because your CV should be personal. You can research ideas but I would suggest keeping it short and sweet. Dive centres get sent sackloads of emails from people wanting work, yours needs to stand out and should not include pointless blurb.

It should include:

  • Your contact details
  • Web presence details e.g. Flikr, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blog addresses and forum user IDs
  • Personal profile
  • Education history
  • Previous employment history
  • Dive training, certifications and experience
  • Languages & other relevant skills

It should not include:

  • Paragraphs about your love of scuba, this should go without saying
  • Statements like “I don’t care where I work, I just want to get a dive job”

Make it yours, keep it neat and if you feel the need to add graphics of any description then be sure they maintain a professional image.

Making contact

My advice is not to wait until an opening is advertised. When a dive centre advertises that they have a position available, they get absolutely bombarded with emails from people with all kinds of experience. Watch the wording of an advert “would suit a new instructor” often translates in to “come and work for free.” Of course there is no harm in responding to adds if you see one you want. Leading agencies have jobs boards and there are other places you can look for example facebook sites, dive job websites and sections on forums like scubaboard. Keeping an eye on these sites can help you build an overall picture of the employment market. It shows you what region is hiring at a particular time and can also point out places to avoid like somewhere that constantly has to repost the same job advert over and over again because they can’t hold on to their staff.

The best way to get started is to go in to the dive centre in person, meet the boss and talk to them about getting a job. Unfortunately though, this is not always possible. If you want to work in your home country then this may not be an issue as you may even know the staff already. If you want to leave your home country and work overseas then this becomes a lot more difficult depending on your available time and money.

The alternative is to email the company. When sending an email I would suggest a template is a good idea but a blanket email is not so. The email itself can have your cover letter in the body text and attached should be your CV, a clear photo of you out of the water and some references if you have them. Avoid anything that makes your email too large as that’s a good way to get deleted immediately and be sure to run a spell check on everything!

However you make contact with the dive centre you want to work in, it really helps to create a good impression if you tailor your approach to them. For example:

Approach 1

Dear Dive Centre

I am coming to Thailand and really want a dive job, do you have any openings in June?

Approach 2

Dear Mr Smith

I note with interest that your dive centre is an eco-operator. As a diver with a passion for environmental sustainability I would like to enquire about forthcoming employment opportunities within your organisation.

Approach 1 is of course the easiest and can be sent out blindly to hundreds of dive centres at a time by putting their email addresses in the BCC field. Even though you can reach more people in less time, it is likely any reputable organisation will trash the email.

Approach 2 shows that you have an interest in the dive centre, it appeals to their ego a little and shows them that your personal interests are in line with the company goals. Little things like this help you appear to be interested in working for that specific company as opposed to just getting any old job that you don’t really care about.

Although the above example is based on a written approach, you can do the same in person. If you are able to walk into a dive centre to talk about job opportunities then at least take 10 minutes first to look them up on the internet. Try to find their identity, what do they do, what sets them apart from other dive centres? If you get talking to the manager about what it is you really like about his/her centre then he/she will be more likely to remember you over anyone else that has called by recently.

Special Skills

There are skills that may not be a particular requirement for a job but can help you get work over others if you have them, these include:

  • Photography skills. Having an underwater camera and knowing how to use it is advantageous. A good photographer with a camera enables the dive centre to offer so much more to its guests. In addition to this, it is good for the centres own marketing to have someone on the team creating and posting good quality pictures.
  • Tech skills. Being a tech diver shows an extended knowledge of dive theory and practice. Just having a basic tech course will really help you stand out.
  • Every language that you can speak opens up a new customer group for the dive centre you are working for. The importance of language skills varies depending on where in the world you want to work as does the languages you speak. In some parts of the world, being able to speak a few popular languages is the most important asset a dive instructor can have.
  • Having a background in sports can help in general as that shows you are more suited to an active lifestyle. Most dive centres prefer nonsmokers so if you do smoke then maybe now is a good time to think about stopping. If you are good enough to offer classes in anything else like swimming or yoga then it is always worth approaching the dive centre with your pitch.
  • Social media. Dive centres have to utilise social media in order to promote their business so it helps if they have staff who understand how to use it effectively. Having your own online presence is a good idea, this could include blogs, facebook, twitter, Instagram, tripadvisor and scubadviser, as well as being active on forums like scubaboard. Think about what you post and what is posted about you for example a cover photo of you lying in a pool of your own vomit after your DM snorkel test does not create a very good image of a reliable dive professional. Keep it clean and avoid posting offensive beliefs or strong comments on subjects like politics or religion.

Getting Out What You Put In

There are so many opportunities out there it is impossible to imagine. You don’t even need to limit yourself to working for other people, there is nothing to stop you setting up as an independent instructor. When chasing a dive job, you need to be wary, some could offer the best job for you in the world, others could end up being an expensive disaster. Never rush in to anything and always do your homework. Research the location, company, hours, work etc etc etc. Don’t just go out there and desperately grab the first place you are offered because it is critical for your success that you find the right place. Ask yourself genuinely what do you want and then try to find it. Getting your first job is tough but there are thousands upon thousands of dive professionals out there working who all managed it, myself included.

Good luck & safe diving.

Being a Scuba Instructor – Where to Get Trained

 

These are exciting times. For whatever reason, you have decided to change your life and become a scuba instructor. When I was in the same situation, I remember yo-yoing from feelings of elation to outright panic, so many things to think about and so many unknown possibilities. You have pictured what it would be like to get paid to do something you love and now you are going to make the dream a reality. You’re probably aware by now that you are going to need a lot of money, and that’s just one thing that will be affected by where you go to get your training. There is a world full of options but where is best for you? The facility you decide to get your training with will have a big influence on your future as an instructor, and the importance of making the right decision is not to be undermined. This guide will hopefully help you narrow down your options.

Which Agency?

To work as a legitimate dive instructor you need to be certified by an agency. There are many out there and as ever there are pros & cons with each. Despite being one of the most expensive, I chose PADI. My rationale was simply that PADI is the biggest agency; more dive centres means more job openings. Here’s a few agencies in no particular order: PADI, BSAC, CMAS, SSI, NAUI, IANTD, ANDI, GUE, PDIC & SDI.

Differences between agencies can include:

  • Costs including initial outlay and ongoing membership fees
  • Global presence & volume
  • Quality of educational materials
  • Level of flexibility you are permitted to use in your teaching
  • Instructor support
  • Brand recognition

 

Getting Ready

Before starting an instructor course you will need to be an experienced diver. Experience is often measured by number of logged dives, level of training and how long you have been certified. These factors make up some of the prerequisites to enrolling on a course. Prerequisites will vary from agency to agency, some requiring more experience than others.

Experience can be built in different ways. For example, one hypothetical candidate may have completed their entry level course and over a period of a few years acquired a number dives and certifications sufficient for them to apply for an instructor course. Another candidate might go through what is sometimes referred to as a “zero to hero” program – in which they sign up with little to no diving experience and quickly move through all the required diver levels.

The latter of the two attracts criticism from people who argue that the time frame and acquired experience is too small. The advantage of the zero to hero program is that if you have made up your mind that this is absolutely something you want to do right now then you can.

Location

To start off with, options can be sliced crudely in half, home or away. By home, I mean somewhere in your home country, possibly near the area you dive. Away would be defined as heading overseas. There is no one right or wrong answer for the general community but certain options will be best suited to certain divers.

Reasons to stay at home:

  • If you plan to teach scuba courses in your home country then it is a good idea to get trained to do so in that environment.
  • Having contacts will help you to get work and the instructor training process is a good time to meet people.
  • There may be someone in your area who is known to be a good instructor, firsthand knowledge of the quality of a facility is far superior to web based research.
  • With everything you have to do on your instructor course, you may prefer to keep external influencers like climate, food, accommodation, money etc the same.

Reasons to go overseas:

  • Same as above, it makes sense to get your training in the environment you want to work in.
  • Overseas training may be cheaper.
  • You may find training possibilities overseas which do not even exist in your home country.
  • Diving often appeals to the adventurous, if that’s you then an overseas trip will add to the excitement.
  • It is typical for resort based courses to offer deals with free boat dives in for non-training days.

If heading overseas to do your training, the next question is where? Try to define what it is you actually want. If you want to go to work overseas then it really does make sense to do your training as close to the area you want to live in as possible. To help you find where you want to go, research things like working conditions, seasons, legalities, nightlife, cost of living, crime rates, languages and travel arrangements.

Common places for people to go in no particular order are: Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Red Sea, Mexico, The Caribbean and the United States to name just a few. Consider your timing, it would make sense to complete your training and be ready to go just before the season starts when people are hiring.

Cost

Money is always going to affect your decision but finding the cheapest deal should not be the aim of the game. That said, price is not a true indicator of quality – don’t think that just because one course is more expensive than another that it is any better. If your decision making process is based entirely on money then you will likely miss out on better training possibilities.

I have noticed that some dive centres can be quite selective as to what they include when publishing the cost of their instructor courses. When asking for a quote, be sure to get the figure that the whole endeavor will set you back. You need to have your prerequisites in order first then you’ll have to look at the cost of the training course, the exam, membership application fee as well as equipment and materials you will need.

If you are looking at going overseas to do your training then you need to think about external costs like accommodation, food, transport visas etc. Spending a month in a country with a high cost of living will put much more of a strain on your finances. It is no secret that wages for a recreational scuba instructor are low and it may take a while before you get regular work so make sure you get as much money together in advance as you can.

Which Facility, Course Director or Instructor Trainer?

You may find that the area you want to go to get trained in has a few facilities that you can get your instructor ticket with. My biased opinion is that the quality of a course is directly in line with the quality of the person delivering it. No two courses will be exactly the same and even though you could pass an instructor exam having completed training through different dive centres, there is nothing to say the overall preparedness would be equal.

There are plenty of ways you can research instructor trainers online by looking at Trip Advisor, Scubaboard, Scubadviser, company websites and social media like Facebook, Twitter and blog pages. When you get a shortlist, try contacting the potential trainers and evaluate their responses. Read between the lines on what is ego babble and what is actually genuine.

You need to look for more than a program that just teaches you how to pass the exam, it’s a big scary world out there and as a fresh instructor you need as much help as you can get. Look for what is offered beyond the core requirements.

Some instructor training facilities have strong relations with dive centres throughout the region in which they are based, this can make getting your first post-certification gig a lot easier. You could even get lucky and end up working for the company you do your instructor training with.

Some facilities are able to offer work based training in between divemaster and instructor which can be a fantastic opportunity. It is easy enough to find a centre that offers unlimited free diving while you are with them which has to be attractive to some candidates.

Finally….

I am a scuba instructor that has been working full time for the last eight years, I love it. It is not for everybody, the work is hard and money is always tight at best. If you find the right set up for you then you will have a great time working in the industry, if you get unlucky then you’ll likely burn out in no time. There is never a need to rush in to anything, take your time, do your research and where possible, try to learn from other people’s mistakes.

Good luck & dive safe!