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Virgin diver needs to go from no experience - employed ASAP

Discussion in 'Going Pro' started by @Therealmattpinkarts, Aug 3, 2016.

  1. muzzon

    muzzon Angel Fish

    The truest thing I've read on Scubaboard.
  2. Nays

    Nays Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: The West USA
    Read the biographies of the uber-successful. In almost every case they had a dream. Although everyone told them they were being foolish, they sacked up, seized their chance, and stepped out blind into the unknown. It’s called courage.

    Matt, if I was thirty years younger, I’d be begging you to take me with you. Instead I’m now just an undistinguished old man with a nice house, an expensive car, and nothing but pointless boring stories to tell. Going to college may have been the biggest mistake of my life.

    I can’t give you any advice because I never had the guts to do what you want to do. Sure I had dreams too, but for every dream I also had excuses. So, I encourage you to take that first step toward the life you are imagining. Don’t hesitate because the clock of your life is running down, and time is a witch. There’s no do-overs. I realized that too late.

    You may end up homeless and stranded in some third world prison. Or you may end up owning a worldwide fleet of liveaboard dive boats. But the worst would be never knowing what could have been. I think about that a lot.

    Good luck. Let us know how it turns out.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2016
  3. Brentgino

    Brentgino Garibaldi

    # of Dives: None - Not Certified
    Location: Pensacola , FL
    Ive also been looking into doing what your doing ive seen gopro utilla and rainbow reef. Also theres one in bali australia and one down in the keys called halls diving. Im getting mixed responses to people ive talked to as well. Have you decided your route yet?
  4. DevonDiver

    DevonDiver N/A

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Subic Bay, Philippines
    That's not really a vast amount of money in which to build a new career from scratch. But it really depends on your financial discipline and entrepreneurship...

    My first question is why? If you have minimal experience in scuba diving, and zero experience in the diving industry, why would you risk investing your sum career-change finances on diving?

    As a craftsman would tell you... measure twice, cut once. Do a lot of research before spending money.

    You can do a 'zero-to-hero' course from OW to Instructor in a couple of months. That'd give you the 'right' cards.

    Then you'd be in the job chase with 00,000's of other minimally qualified instructors desperate for work. Many of those would be gap-year college kids, retirees or others with a reliable second income... who'd be capable of working for peanuts because they either have no life responsibilities, or don't need to depend on their diving-based income.

    Why hire a divemaster when you can have an OWSI for the same money?
    Why hire an OWSI when you can have an MSDT for the same money?
    Why hire an MSDT when you can have an MSDT with 20 specialties for the same money?
    Why hire an MSDT with 20 specialties when you can have an IDC Staff Instructor for the same money?

    The same is true of experience. Why hire a newbie instructor, when there is a long line of instructors out there who have 000's of dives and certifications.... and are willing to work for a subsistence wage?

    The diving agencies sell you on the idea of a 'career', but it never materializes. There's always one more professional rating you need to get before that lucrative living wage becomes a reality. And one more... and one more...

    Very rare. When they are offered, they are usually long-term. Dive centers need a return on investment for all that expensive training.

    I know a guy here in the Philippines who's considering setting up a program like that... but there'd be an expectation that applicants can bring a lot of skills to the deal - marketing, website development etc etc

    'Helping out around the dive center' doesn't pay back on any intern investment by the employer... but if you can save them $000's on paying web designers, engineers, construction etc... then you have a value to offer.

    Living somewhere like the Philippines, that'd go a long way. It all depends if you can be disciplined to living a very simple lifestyle.

    I live here on a basic budget of $500-800 per month. No cars, no air-con, no netflix, no new iPhones, no imported goods, no meals in resorts, no boozy blow-outs... My biggest expense is always diving kit and gas... but I'm a tech instructor.

    The biggest failure I see with guys coming to work/live in SE Asia are:
    1. Living an unsustainable lifestyle economically
    2. Inability to adjust to the local culture (stress-out, burn-out and/or make enemies)
    3. Hedonism - Getting caught up in a boozy and/or girl-chasing lifestyle
    4. Falling in love with the wrong 'type' of girl, getting screwed over or losing the plot.

    Reality checks:

    1. The dive instructor job market is enormously saturated. It's 100% an employers market.
    2. There's always job competition that'd be willing to work for peanuts, or free.
    3. Many instructors working abroad have a second income, are retired/on pension or are only doing it for a few years.
    4. Work in the dive industry gets routine very quickly; it can be demoralizing and it's hard labor.
    5. There's virtually no paid work for divemasters outside the USA.
    6. Language skills are the most important hiring criteria in many tourism locations.
    7. You need work permits to work in most countries. Work permits can be expensive.
    8. Zero-to-Hero instructors working overseas are the scuba industries' equivalent of immigrant Mexican lawn technicians.​

    One option you may not have considered is to find a dive center that requires investment capital. Invest as a partner, make a deal for your diving tuition. Sometimes this can enable you to get a better type of visa/permit in other countries also. Those that sustain a career in the diving industry usually do so as employers, not employees.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2016
    wnissen, electricb, VsubT and 2 others like this.
  5. DevonDiver

    DevonDiver N/A

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Subic Bay, Philippines
    For what it's worth, here's my story at the 12 year point as a dive instructor...and some of the lessons I learned.

    I was a typical infrequent 'holiday diver' for many years. I started with BSAC and then PADI OW/AOW during college. I didn't get more serious about diving until years later, when a divorce gave me a lot more life freedom to pursue my interests and spend my money. At the time, I was an officer in the military and got free dive training with military BSAC clubs. I took advantage of that free training and eventually became a BSAC instructor and technical diver..

    On leaving the military, I did a bunch of courses using my 'resettlement' (transition) grant. After completing an IT project management qualification, I had some money left over. So I went to Thailand and blew on doing my PADI IDC, IE, MSDT internship and a whole bunch of specialty instructor courses (most of them, really). I really just saw this as a 'free holiday' at the time.

    After my military career I got bored real quick. The economy was down in the dumps and I couldn't source any work that really inspired me. A close friend suggested I could take a 1-year career break and go back to Thailand to make use of my instructor qualification. Great idea.

    I sold all my clutter on eBay....raising about $15,000.

    I got a string of jobs in Thailand. Some I left because the standards were just too low. Some were upgrades. Within 8 months I was managing a dive center and had upgraded my qualifications to become a tech instructor. Tech wasn't a big thing then, so I mostly just taught in exchange for free tech liveaboard/expedition bunks. Because I had a short-term mentality, I was enjoying myself... spending slightly more than I earned. I took vacations to backpack around Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. I went out partying quite frequently. I ate in 'tourist', not local, restaurants. I had to pay for helium...

    The work was incessantly hard. I'd start work at 6am and it was normal to go home at 10pm. I was lucky to get a day off every 2-3 weeks. You work over Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving... all the holidays. I was typically doing 4-5 dives per day, seven days a week. That sort of diving schedule fatigues you deep down to the bones.

    It's physical work. It's mentally demanding work. It can be very stressful, as you have a constant duty-of-care for others.

    You have to stay healthy, or you can't work. You have to go diving on the bad days, as well as the good days.... when you're tired, cold, sick or stressed. You've always got to keep a big smile on your face, be positive and be patient... no matter what's happening in your life.

    One lesson that I learned quickly in Thailand is that teaching diving to the bare minimum standards just isn't satisfying. It can be soul-destroying. There's no pride in your work... and that can eat away at you. That's why I walked out of jobs; because some dive centers will really pressure you to work to a low standard for the sake of cost-cutting and increased turn-over revenue. Quitting from those types of employers... and there's a LOT of them around... wasn't just about professional ethics; it was about sustaining a passion for providing diving education.

    If you sell-out, you will burn-out.

    I also learned to think carefully about investing in diving qualifications. Many of the instructor ratings I'd gotten were never used. Nowadays I look at my professional development with a strict 'return-on-investment' mentality. Obviously, I still do training for my own enjoyment - but I don't invest in instructor qualifications unless I know they'll make me money. The dive industry is always trying to sell you more courses... and the sales pitches get stronger the higher you go.

    I also don't invest in qualifications that I am unlikely to gain real expertise in... the diving I'd be able to do very frequently over significant time. Some agencies hand out instructor ratings like toffee (if your credit card works). But having a rating... and attracting students through reputation... are very different things. This is especially true in higher-level diving.

    The other thing I learned is that you have to sustain a love for diving. Working in diving as a full-time job makes diving a routine. Routines become boring. For that reason, you must never neglect the need to dive for yourself regularly. You must develop your own diving and set yourself new challenges and goals all the time. That could be stuff like technical diving, photography, videography...or just frequent diving trips to new areas. Always keep diving as your hobby, not just your work.

    After a year in Thailand, my money was running low and I planned to return home. But then I got offered employment over in Sipidan/Mabul, in Malaysian Borneo. That offer came about entirely due to professional networking.

    I cannot over-emphasize how important professional networking is in the diving industry. It's a very competitive job market, so personal connections are what opens up your opportunities. The same dive center later advertised an instructor position and received over 8000 applications. I couldn't turn down that job, as Sipidan was really a bucket-list location for me.

    That time was very testing. Money was always an issue... there were times when I had less than $50 to my name.... and that can be extremely stressful.... especially when living in a foreign country with no support network. The diving was mind-blowing, but being a single guy on a remote tropical island soon got very tiresome. It's easy to underestimate how lonely you can get in that 'dream lifestyle'.

    Working in remote locations is the preserve of the instructor-couple. Unless you're a real loner.

    Even in tourist locations that offer frequent interface with the opposite sex... people come and go very quickly. You meet people you like, but they're only around for a week, or a month, and then gone. Once the novelty wears off, and for most it will quite quickly, 'series romances' can become crushing emotionally.

    At the end of the season, I decided to hop over to the Philippines and do some travelling/diving for a month or two before returning home. Within three weeks I'd been offered a dive center management position. I took the job. The pay was peanuts. The dive center partner-owners fell into dispute. Within six months I wasn't even being paid at all... and was even paying the local boat/DM staff out of my own pocket. I had to quit that job and I was near-penniless by that point.

    I returned home. I bought my flight ticket using the funds gained from selling the few appliances and bits of furniture I'd bought for my rented house. I had to leave behind my Filipina girlfriend and sustain a long-distance Skype relationship, having no idea when we'd be back together again. Back in the UK, I had to live with my parents for a few months. That sucks when you're in your mid-30s and have enjoyed a successful career before. I'd count that period as one of the hardest times in my life.

    Luckily, I soon got a well-paid contractor job in Afghanistan, which resolved my immediate financial crisis.

    Once that sand-box contract ended, I returned to the Philippines to meet my girlfriend. I didn't really have a plan for the long-term. Within few months of being back in the Philippines I decided to 'go it alone' and try working as an independent tech instructor. I taught myself how to make a website. I spent a bunch of money on equipment. I started writing a scuba blog. I worked my ass off, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.

    Eight years later I'm still just making it work. I don't earn a fortune, but it's a living income if I maintain a humble 'no-frills' lifestyle. I eat well, I can afford a few beers after diving. A treat is a trip to the cinema, not the latest tech gadget. I can't afford a car. I don't own many possessions (other than dive gear), but I kinda adapted to appreciate life that way. If you can't enjoy (only) the simple pleasures in life, then don't work in the diving industry.

    But... I do love my life... and I love my work. I love teaching technical, sidemount and wreck diving.. especially here in Subic Bay, where we have some awesome wrecks. I love the passionate and motivated divers that come to me for training. I treasure the real friendships I make with those divers. I love pouring my heart and soul into making great divers....and I take pride in my work.

    My concerns are for the future. I am in a serious 'live together' relationship and the next steps would be marriage, kids etc. Whilst I am content to live a simple, humble life for myself... I know that there will be a massively increased financial responsibility and demand if I have kids. I'm scratching my head to work out how... or if... that will be possible to attain. My thinking is that if I get married here, I can also get permanent residency. That changes certain dynamics... and would more easily allow me to start additional 'bricks and mortar' businesses... because I think alternative income streams are vital.

    One thing I've learned is that having only one income stream... diving tuition.... is fraught with risk. If you get ill, you cannot work. If tourism dips, you don't get enough work to put food on the table. If there's a typhoon, you have to cancel courses for a few weeks. And so on... It's a precarious job financially. Always seek additional income streams to spread your risk.

    Over 12 years, the vast majority of those full-time instructors I knew from the start have left diving. Some burned out. Some got life responsibilities that a diving salary didn't cover. The only ones still involved in diving are now either dive shop managers or Course Directors. And me.. doing my independent tech diving stuff...
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2016
    MalteseDiver, SWiggs, Griffo and 21 others like this.
  6. muzzon

    muzzon Angel Fish

    Thanks for the write up very interesting...it makes my think about my intentions to move abroad for a life change and the difficulties/highlights of doing so, though I wouldn't be doing it in the dive industry.

    When I graduated college I bought a one way ticket to SE Asia with the intention of travelling around for a year. I think I had about $8000 to my name ($3000 of which was leftovers from a student loan) so I knew I'd have to supplement my income. I used to get free meals and MAYBE free bed by handing out "2 for 1" drink tickets at a bar or helping bar tend.

    When I got to Koh Tao and got my certification, I asked if I could help out at the shop for a while in exchange for food and accommodation. I did it mainly because I fell in love with the island and I needed to save the money. It was great at first, I met a ton of people every day and was getting free diving, but I quickly became sick of the same dives, the same routine and having to keep a smile on my face all day; much as you described. Because I was a new diver, I spent most of the work time sweeping floors, washing the boat and carrying gear. It was very hard long hours and I was constantly conflicted because on one hand, I was prolonging my stay in Asia, on the other I wasn't travelling free and really enjoying myself.

    I completely relate to your feeling of loneliness. When you are travelling around meeting people, you understand that they come and go and you are just caught up in the excitement of the next place or maybe you travel with someone you met for a little while. When you are stuck in on place, it is really hard. I was working at the shop for about 2.5 months. After the first month, my closest friend there left. I balled my eyes out in my room because I felt so alone. Girls come and go too. You meet one one night at the bar, then you want to hangout the next day, but you have to go to work. When you get off at 9PM, you realize they've moved on to the next place. It was demoralizing and made me fairly depressed.

    Looking back on it, I wouldn't say I regret it, but I definitely would not do it again. It broke away from my main goal of exploring and enjoying myself between college and a "real" job.
    wnissen likes this.
  7. kelemvor

    kelemvor Big Fleshy Monster ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Largo, FL USA
    That's quite a story! I have a new respect for you, and perhaps instructors in general.
    Diving Dubai likes this.
  8. Miguel Moreno

    Miguel Moreno Garibaldi

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Portugal
    WOW. It is never to late. I am 46 and I just quit my job as a Legal Director to start this adventure. The difference? I have more management skills, and more Money. I can Dive for two years and then open a Dive Center. Why not do the same?
  9. oly5050user

    oly5050user Dive Travel Professional

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Westchester NY
    Boat certificate will not work. Need USCG captains license.
  10. Fyffer

    Fyffer Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Vancouver bc
    Diving is not cheap even if just for fun. As a instructor u have single setup. Side mount ans even back mount doubles. I’d u are trying to save money and make money scuba as a hobby or career is a bad choice. It amazing best thing I ever did but it not for everyone. Good luck in your new adventure. I suggest learning to dive in cold water like Seattle so everything else is easier in the future.

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