Alexandra Dimitriou-Engeler is a PADI Dive Center owner in Agia Napa, Cyprus. She became a diver in 1992 and received her bachelor’s degree in Oceanography at Plymouth University in 2003. Her love of the ocean has always been her driving force, and this has led to the natural progression of becoming a diving instructor in 2005. She is currently a PADI staff instructor and owner of Scuba Monkey Ltd and is writing a series of guest blogs for PADI Europe, Middle East and Africa. Her latest article focuses on what dive center owners look for when hiring scuba staff…
Scuba diving Instructors and Divemasters are considered to have the “Dream Job”. This year marks my 10th anniversary as a diving instructor. I have worked for countless dive operations before becoming a dive center owner, so I know both sides of how the staffing cookie crumbles….so let me share a few insider tips and tricks to a successful application.
So…..you are now a PADI Professional – but how do you get the job?
How many people were on your IDC? How many successful instructors did your examiner see this year? How many in the last 5 years? Ask the same question about becoming a PADI Divemaster. Just how many PADI professionals are there in the world anyhow?
I think you will find that the answer is “a lot” – close to 150,000 professionals in fact, and they are all competing for that “dream job”. What makes you so special? What makes you stand out above the rest? What are dive center owners looking for?
Dive Center Needs
Diving is ever-evolving, as it now competes with countless other “extreme” sports in the leisure tourism market. Diving has responded by diversifying its menu, offering new practices like sidemount, technical and countless other distinctive specialties. Dive centers also compete with each other in each region in the hope that they too will stand out above the rest. Targeting niche markets is a great way to increase turnover, diversifying again and again as the market changes from year to year.
“Staff are the most vital element of any dive operation.”
Without staff we are dead in the water. Without you we cannot function. It is very well to stock your shelves with the best gear, state-of-the-art tech and offer every specialty under the sun – but if you do not have the support of the right staff then you are going to have problems.
When I look for dive center staff I look for six things:
When did you become an instructor/divemaster? What can you teach?
This is a tricky one. Which is the better choice – the seasoned instructor or the newly qualified OWSI? Both have their benefits. Both have their drawbacks.
On one hand, a seasoned instructor who can teach 10 specialties is an awesome asset for the dive center, but how set in their ways are they? Can they teach each program and course with equal enthusiasm? Can they gel themselves into the team to become part of a well-oiled machine when the season kicks into full swing? In my experience the main advantage of hiring an instructor with experience is that they know how to get the methods of each PADI component in to an actual time schedule that is workable for the dive center.
The newly certified instructor on the other hand, who is fresh off their IDC and has not yet worked in a dive center, is yours to mold. They have no experience, but sometimes this is a benefit as they have yet to pick up any bad habits. They are still in “learning mode” and absorb every molecule of information. The main advantage of hiring a “newbie” is that they are the most up to date instructor on the market. Latest IDC = Latest standards. Thanks to the IE they have very recently had these standards drilled in to them, repeatedly…
Cyprus is a holiday destination with visitors from all walks of life. Learning and listening is much more comfortable for a guest if it is in their mother tongue, or at least one they understand. For this reason my main motivating factor when looking for staff is to fill this need. The more languages that you can teach in, the better. I worked for one dive center who paid their instructors an extra 50 dollars a week for every additional language that they spoke outside of English. That was pretty cool.
The diving lifestyle is a dynamic one, full of energy and passion. I need my team to be full of it. Full of infectious enthusiasm that will keep our guests coming back again and again, year after year. Smiling is a uniform in my book, and there is no such thing as a bad day. I need to feel this energy. It needs to be oozing out of you. I love my job, and I want like-minded people around me. A good dive team bounces off each other, and we become a family, fast. You can have all the training in the world, but it is of no use to me or my dive center if you cannot smile.
#5 Local Knowledge
It is common sense that it takes a little time to learn a new dive site, and new staff require an orientation just like the rest of us. It is valuable to hire someone who is at least familiar with the sites where we take our customers as time is, after all, money. It is not essential however. A good divemaster or instructor should have a good sense of direction, a good memory of dive routes and therefore would be able to pick things up quickly – but prior knowledge is definitely a bonus.
#6 What can you do that I cannot?
As a team we each have our strengths and weaknesses. Together we are stronger. I will often hire someone who can teach specialties that I cannot, or have some other additional skill that will help the dive center as a whole. We never stop learning, and each addition to the team will bring something to the table, and we will learn from each other.
How do I evaluate prospective team members?
Step 1: Facebook
Today, privacy is a luxury that has to be guarded vigilantly. The first thing I do when I receive an application is to cut and paste the applicants name straight into the Facebook search bar. You would be surprised how few people know how to use their privacy settings effectively. Public posts of drunken behavior, inappropriate material and not-politically-correct attitudes are not going to impress a prospective employer…..so pay close attention to this when looking for your dream diving position. What I do love to see on Facebook is an applicant’s enthusiasm for diving. Lots of smiles in dive gear repetitively posted shows a history of passion. That’s a good thing.
Step 2: CV
Your CV is your first contact with your potential employer. First impressions count. I like applications that also include a cover letter telling me a little bit about themselves before getting down to the sterile format of the conventional CV. Include a photograph too – after all, if you get the job you will become part of a family, and I like to see you as soon as possible. Ensure that your CV is in a format that is easy on the eye and above all, keep it brief and relevant. I do not want to have to search for information or read over 1000 words on why you like pickles. You also do not have to include every last job that you have ever had – your diving experience and training is what I am interested in, so that is what you should focus on. Include a reference if possible, and don’t forget the (correct!) contact details.
Step 3: Skype interview
If I like the look of your CV I will want to meet you. Face to face is ideal, but this is rarely possible, so Skype is a good alternative. I want to see the energy. I want to see the smiles. I do not want to see you in your underwear, in a bedroom that looks like scientists could find the missing link to human kind somewhere among your piles of dirty laundry. Impressions are very important, so be clean, on time and make sure your internet connection is not having any problems. You can be the happiest, most experienced candidate in the pile – but if I struggle to hear a whole sentence without the beeps and squeaks of a bad connection it will be hard for me to judge your character.
So what now?
I think above all the right job for you as an instructor or divemaster is out there, you just have to find it. There is a dive center who is waiting for what you can bring to their mix. I think the best bit of advice I can give you above all is to be upfront with everything. Don’t oversell yourself and be honest. Don’t pad out your CV. Get as much experience as you can and be as flexible as possible. Let your personality show in your application – diving is high in people skills and even higher in passion, it is not a normal job and we hate the mundane…so don’t be afraid to shine.
Don’t be afraid of rejection either. Apply, apply, and apply!
“If a dive center does not accept you it does not mean that you are unsuccessful, it means that your journey to achieving your dream job is simply not over.”
They were just looking for something else and it is not an attack on your personality so don’t take it personally or let it get you down! Diversify your skills, take an instructor specialty course that is less common, or learn a new language. Get your PADI Course Director or student to write you a current testimonial – everything helps.
Who knows, I may even hire you at Scuba Monkey!
Looking for your dream scuba job? Check out the PADI Pros’ Site today for the latest dive industry vacancies – find them in the Classifieds Employment Board section.