Red Flags or Misplaced Expectations?

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Dan G

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I am seeking input and experience from other professionals. After about 25 years of diving and retirement from my full time job being possible within the next five years, I decided to try to go pro with a LDS in the hopes of a second career as I approached retirement. I became a DM last year as a first step and just recently completed the Assistant Instructor course. I am unsure if some of my experiences are red flags about going pro, are red flags about this particular shop, or just the realities of the dive industry of which I am seeking to become a member. Here are a few examples of experiences that have me scratching my head:
  • My Assistant Instructor certification was not showing up in my online agency profile despite completing the course in early July. I contacted the training director yesterday and it was explained to me that there was a form I needed to sign before the cert could be processed. Not a huge deal, but this also happened after I completed the Dive Guide course. Weeks had gone by before I finally inquired after the Dive Guide course and was told there were some forms that still needed signing. In neither case did the shop contact me to let me know. I had the same instructor for both courses and he had bragged about be such a stickler for getting paper work right that he insisted on doing it himself rather than passing it off to the training director as every other instructor at the shop did. I must admit I am a bit ticked off that this has happened twice and in both instances I had to follow up to find out what was going on.
  • After I was certified as DM, the shop asked me when I was available to take AI since my full time job is quite busy. I emailed my schedule and subsequently committed to a week in January for the AI course. I happened to be in the shop about a week prior to the first day of the course so I could practice some skills and through a conversation with a shop employee who was also planning to take AI, there was no such course scheduled. “Sorry,” the training director told me, “we couldn’t make that course schedule work due to scheduling conflicts. Sorry for not contacting you.”
    • I emailed the director a few more times to update my availability since I was told they wanted to schedule the course around my full time job. They then scheduled the next AI course during a time that made it impossible for attend due to work conflicts.
    • A few months later I inquired whether or not there were any upcoming AI courses. Fortunately the next one fell during a time that worked for me and I completed that course on July 1.
  • Part way through the course I was chatting with an instructor who I had taken DM courses with and he was working for the shop as an AI. He loved it and said that he would recommend me to the two training directors at an upcoming staff meeting. I also followed up with an email explaining that I was eager to work as an AI as well while I prepare for ITC.
    • I received zero reply and the only contact I have had with the shop since July 2, was in response to my question about the delay in my AI cert being processed.

Are these legitimate red flags telling me that this just is not going to work out for me? Or, do I have misplaced expectations for how things should go? I really do not want to put any more money towards going pro if it is obvious that I do not have a future as a pro. There are two other shops within 20 minutes or so of where I live, but I am unsure if I will pursue anything with them. I do not think they run ITCs and the opportunities seem limited there. I would need to inquire more.

Thanks for any constructive feedback and insight.
Yep, the shop is in some different kind of orbit than yours, and look at it however you want- but I 'd go with the gut feeling. And for me that would be a no go. You could have a future as an AI and hey, you could be stellar - but I really don't think it'll be with that dive center.
Unfortunately many dive shops are owned and run be people that got into it because they love diving but are not really good business people. Also why many go in business then out of business, I know of seven local shops that have opened, closed and changed hands a few times over the last ten or so years. Red flags yes so I would talk to the other shops. Going pro as a career is a though one especially if you are not working in a dive destination. I'm getting closer to retirement from my main job that supports my diving habit which includes 16+ years as an active DM. Being a DM has never paid the bills and at the end of this month will be my last class. Looking forward to just diving for fun and not dealing with students or the shops.
I did most of my DM course with a local shop, took 2 years of being messed around before I gave up.
Lots of promises to sign me off things on the checklist, but owner of the shop rarely turned up at any dives and other instructors from his shop said it was up to owner. Got tired of being free labor to schlep gear.
Then there's the insurance costs and liability that goes along with being a pro.
Ultimately, I'd rather just go diving for fun.

I got certified as chamber operator instead. Far more satisfying and lucrative.
I really do not want to put any more money towards going pro if it is obvious that I do not have a future as a pro. There are two other shops within 20 minutes or so of where I live, but I am unsure if I will pursue anything with them. I do not think they run ITCs and the opportunities seem limited there. I would need to inquire more.
Large parts of the 'going pro' stuff is a boarderline scam to get money out out people like you. People that are motivated and believe what they're being told by instructor trainers and course directors. The ITs/CDs are the only ones that actually make money by selling these instructor classes.
If you wanna become an instructor to maybe work for a dive shop abroad for a couple of years for fun and are OK with breaking even or pay a little on top (for insurance, cost of living) than by all means do it.

This is how it goes in 95% of the cases: People start out motivated, spend money on the instructor ticket thinking it's an investment... give more money to the CD/IT for specialty or advanced instructor tickets. Then they work for some time until they realise that it isn't as much fun when you actually do it as a job and that you're either losing money (when you actually factor in all your cost) or break even. Than they quite (often because they're broke) and their spot is quickly taken by the next sucker. It's a great system for instructor trainers and course directors as long as they can find motivated people who will them give them money and giving them cheap labour. It's also great for PADI/SSI as the pros have to pay a membership fees to them for nothing in return, while essentially functioning as a free sales force.

I've never meet a PADI or SSI IT or CD that wasn't BSing the DM and Instructor candidates... and I worked for several shop who did exactly what I described.

Her is a good trick you can try. Tell the shop you would love to become an instructor but you want work off the cost for training instead of paying cash and ask what your hourly rate would be.
What you have run into is the PT Barnum dive pro training model. Unless they are paying you now for any work you do as a dm or ai, you are being used.
How much of your liability insurance are they paying for? If you don't have it, you can't work as a dm in the US at least.
Are they covering your travel, gear, lodging, and other expenses when you help with classes?
If not, hope they are at least paying for the KY jelly or Vaseline for what they are doing to you.
Unless you go independent, you are not going to make money teaching or working for the vast majority of shops. In fact, you'll likely go in the hole a few thousand dollars every year.
You'll be as close to indentured servitude as you can get.
An ITC or IDC, is nothing more than cramming a bunch of stuff down your throat to pass a test. Period.
Unless you've spent 6 months to a year learning to teach by actually teaching like NAUI and SEI/PDIC typically does, so that when it comes time for your instructor exam you actually have actual teaching experience with a mentor, you will be what is known as a zero to hero. Any shop will likely look at you like you know nothing. And you'll be compensated accordingly.
And you'll still not make money.
Why it is sometimes better to get your AI/Instructor certs from a full time "instructor college", a shop that specialized in doing those courses.
Sounds more of a shop or training personne issue, have you looked somewhere else?

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