Former Student Advice: Finding Commercial Diving Work
Mikey McManus qualified as a commercial diver from The Underwater Centre, Fort William in November 2015. He got his first job just 3 days after completing his course. He tells us about finding commercial diving work, and provides advice and tips on getting started in your new career.
Tell us about your work as a commercial diver so far
“I went straight from the training school into work doing civils work and various other types including inspections, salvage & recovery, moorings, pier replacement and general boat work. I’ve worked constantly since leaving; networking with people and getting to know the industry. I’ve moved around a lot within Scotland, working on various projects from pier replacement in the Outer Hebrides to the new Aircraft Carrier at Rosyth Naval Base. Sometimes it IS about who you know but it’s also about who YOU are and whether you are a suitable team mate. You might be the best diver in the world, but if you don’t have the social skills to adapt to those around you, it gets noticed and like many industries, divers talk and the drums bang loud and far.”
How did you get your first commercial diving job?
“I live in Oban, on the West Coast of Scotland and there are a few local dive firms here, as well as larger marine service companies, but I picked the closest and sent an email with my CV attached. I also went around to their office to introduce myself and to make sure that my CV had reached the correct destination. Once there it was easy to put a face to a name and at least have a little conversation with guys who already work there, see if I knew anyone, or just ask about work currently on going and how these guys went about getting work.”
“I sent my CV far and wide and searched the web for every inshore diving company I could. I made sure my CV was up to date and relevant to the jobs that I applied for. Even if there was no job available it is always handy in case a last minute call is required and if your CV fits, you’ll get the call. You need to be diverse and the diving industry is very variant at the moment, so be prepared to do work OUT WITH diving – it’s not all about being under the water. I spent 3 months as a first mate on a marine science research vessel when the diving work dried up, but the experience was so valuable; I have learned more about networking and meeting people and as a result have experience in piloting a boat alongside cetaceans and marine mammals, how to approach, navigate near them, identify them, and gather information via hydrophone to collate and pass on to various scientific outlets around the world. I’ve met so many people that are all able to offer work as a result of that trip, and of course the opportunity was a very enjoyable experience that will stay with me and definitely open doors in the future.”
What advice do you have for students starting their first commercial diving work?
“Northwest Marine gave me a start; they had a lad on holiday, so there was a gap on the fish farm and moorings team. They also had a lad doing his dive course, who is on their books rather than self-employed, so they were two men down and gave me the opportunity to slot in and see how it was all going to pan out. It’s always difficult to slot in to an already established team, so you have to be mindful of how you approach that. Ask questions and never be afraid to get involved; the team will need the extra pair of hands and they need to know that you are ready to step up and apply the skills learned, but also learn how they do things on the job. Make sure you know who is who and where everything is and if you don’t know… ask a question. In my experience the only stupid question is one that you don’t ask. This company, like many, all started out as small companies and grew to become something bigger, so they know what it’s like and all show a little compassion for the new guy trying to get a foot on the ladder; if you are an asset and help them, they will reward you with work and a wage – the rest is up to you.”
Any final bits of career advice?
“I would simply say, keep at it and keep looking. It’s not easy and you won’t fall in to work, you need to keep track of it but be persistent and follow up on everything. In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.”