“I am worried about the fact that my daughter has decided to be just a diving instructor and throw away all her education”…the words fly out of the mother’s mouth, the emphasis on the “just” before she can even think about the whole meaning of them. I smile gently, she blinks and mumbles a couple of excuses “I am sorry, I didn’t mean that it’s not a good job, of course, look at what you are and have done…” the rest of the sentence dies on her lips as I assure her that I totally understand her point of view.
A diving instructor job is considered a job for a young person, it might be a summer job or even a short-term job, but it’s never approached as a career that someone could do for a lifetime. In general, it’s a temporary job, time filler, an adventure. People who engage in this profession are later in life expected to leave it to engage in a more “real job.”
In many parts of the world being a diving instructor is a side job to a more lucrative profession and something to do on the weekends, maybe in the summer.
It is normally a low paid job leaving not much else for the person to use and plan. Why would it be any different? After all, diving instructors are paid to do what they love the most, scuba dive, to live in tropical, warm places, encounter happy people, explore amazing marine life and they are paid to boot!
Can’t possibly compare to the life of a person who has to get up and commute to work, live in an office, Monday through Friday, enduring adverse weather in the winter, and a life away from the ocean.
Some even use the profession as a diving instructor to receive free diving and some discounted gear.
Ultimately being a diving instructor, it’s not what would be considered a normal way of living.
In general, in society, we function according to rules and norms. To be normal is to understand our role and to conform our behavior within a certain group or level. When we move away from that kind of conformity, we become outsiders.
Those who stick to the world of scuba diving become that kind of people. On one side they might be admired for their choice, they might even be praised for their courage, but they are never completely understood. They are considered the exception to the rule, the adventurer kind, nonconformists.
The fact is that being a scuba diving instructor is not only an amazing job, but it’s a real job. In all fairness, it’s not an easy job, when done professionally. It requires physical stamina, mental attention, and focus, customer service attitude, technical capabilities that can vary from driving boats to repairing the gear used in the different environments, topped off with a constant source of energy and a never-dying smile. It is a job that requires keeping up to date with the information delivered, requires a fairly high investment in tools, gear, and knowledge.
People who are interested can grow in this industry and make this a lifelong career. The number of long-term, full-time scuba diving professionals is not a small one. Unfortunately, there seems to be a disconnection between those who have achieved a certain level and the ones who are just starting of which many will leave along the way.
It all goes back to perception about sports and how it has evolved in the last few decades. I am not talking about the evolution from sport designed only for tough men to sport designed for anybody, that has been a wonderful winning point for this industry.
I am talking about the lack of value that professionals are given and that in return give to the entire industry. Of course, this is a generalized statement.
If we think about our work as diving professionals, even as divers, we need to realize that we are moonwalkers, space travelers and that we explore an environment as hostile to us as the outer atmosphere. We can’t function underwater for an extended period of time without the aid of our gear; we would be as hopeless as if we were ejected into space without a spacesuit.
Whenever we meet someone who is an airplane pilot, never mind an astronaut we think of them as extremely knowledgeable and accomplished, we value their work, and we are certain that their service will be delivered at the highest of standards.
Admittedly when we meet a scuba diving instructor or instructor trainer, we do not manifest the same level of appreciation and understanding of their work and value. We decide on their value based on observation of their work and performance. Our respect is a consequence of the personal delivery of each professional, not a consequence of perceived value. Many may think this is how people should be judged on their performance, but the problem is that there is no credit given to a diving professional, they are all believed of being of a certain mediocre level unless proven differently.
We have diluted our own brand. In today’s society, people will pay more money for one day at an amusement park than they would for a day of training or diving.
Becoming a diving professional should be a badge of honor, finding a job as one should be as demanding as hiring an airplane pilot. Instead, we cut corners, hire on the cheapest side, provide minimal training, ask for maximum performance, drain the professionals for the few years we expect them to last, and toss them aside when the next easy batch becomes available. It is not uncommon for professionals to offer their services in exchange for diving, it is one of the requests I receive the most. I will work so I can dive for free. My answer is no, please don’t. You will work for compensation; you will perform at work and become accountable for your actions or lack of. If you are not being compensated for the services, I need you to provide, you won’t have an understanding of what the value of your services should be, and your delivery will lack it as well.
The expectations on the job should match with the treatment on the job, tools should be provided for service to be rendered at the highest level of quality, this job should not be a rebound while waiting for something better to come along, it should be the job that requires work and dedication. We are not just diving instructors, we are diving professionals, and we should dedicate our best.
The road is not easy, nor fast. The road has to be real because this is a real job and can become a wonderful opportunity for growth as individuals and as a professional. Here are a few pointers I share with those who are trying to find their way through the industry and are at times undecided about which road to take. To be successful, we need:
That translates into time. We won’t be the best we can be by putting in one year, or two, sometimes not even three. We need to keep seeking knowledge, continue to grow, take courses, accumulate experiences, practice, and learn. We all know and remember the twenty-eight medals won by Michael Phelps; we admire his results. What we can’t see and sometimes realize is the number of years he spent swimming and practicing, waking up early, training, and watching his diet to become the most decorated Olympian of all time.
If we are going into space, we need to learn about it. There will always be someone we can learn something from, even when they seem to have less experience than we do. Maybe they know something more about a subject we are not as comfortable with. We should never sit thinking that our time to learn is complete.
Without those, we won’t be able to fly our spaceship. We need to practice them and to strive always to improve them. This brings us back of course to dedication and practice. The more comfortable we are with our skills and performance, the better we will work, and the easier it will feel.
We have heard so many times before that the day we have a job we love to do, we will never work another day in our lives. What they fail to remind us that no matter what, each job will have a dark side, but it will become irrelevant if we let our passion drive us through. We need to fuel our passion with more passion. We need to find what fuels our interest and our curiosity and cultivate it. The desire to grow will allow us to remain fresh and alert in our field.
Society will come at us and remind us that it’s time to give up the young age and to go and seek a “real job.” There will be constant reminders about the need to conform and to fit within the normal parameters.
To counteract that we need an open mind. Defined as the willingness to listen and to accept different ideas, I refer to it as more the willingness to listen to our own ideas, heart, and desire.
It might not be easy; it might not always be direct but to follow our hearts will always be the most realistic action we will do for ourselves.
By Cristina Zenato