/ Professionalism in the outdoor industry

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peas65 - on 24 Feb 2013

If you work in the outdoor industry, how do you deal with appearing professional?

I have been thinking about this recently since a course i did. For me professionalism is ensuring good practice, being a good instructor, relating well to my clients and ensuring that their requirements and what we do fit together well.

I didnt really consider appearance too much, however the course discussed how professionalism in the guides scheme is covered and how much of an impact your appearance, clothing equipment etc can have an impact on your work. Which i can understand as the first thing a customer sees is your appearance or website.

Since then i have been thinking about this when i work and wondered what other people do to maintain a high level of professional appearance?
Perhaps especially on a limited budget?!?
annieman - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65: As the saying goes "you never get a second chance to make a first impression"

For me the first impression counts. I don't think that you need to spend a lot on kit.

Being clean, shaved, tidy, ready and organised with a smile costs very little.
peas65 - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to annieman:

Yes i think that these are really key points, i know that much of this is common sense. It just seems a little strange that the higher level awards cover this ground yet ML, SPA, BCU etc etc don't even consider it despite the much larger numbers that pass through their awards.

Yet to work successfully in any industry you must maintain a high level of professionalism.
Edradour - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65:

I wouldn't be impressed if an instructor didn't have pretty cutting edge gear that was clean, well maintained and organised.

An outdoors instructor does this professionally rather than as a hobby. As such I would expect his appearance, equipment and ability to reflect that i.e. to be a level above that of a hobbyist.

I suspect it is only covered in the later awards is because that's where it matters. ML / SPA etc are pretty limited and many people do them for personal reasons rather than to make a living from it. If you consider MIA the first 'professional' qualification then that's where being professional starts to count.
butteredfrog - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65:

Be relaxed and confident, clear and consise in instruction, be efficient, let your personality show, make friends, (don't be frightened to have a laugh and a joke with your clients).

Appearence is somewhat secondary to the above IMO

Who would you feel more at ease with; the confident relaxed efficient friendly instructor with the well used but servicable kit? Or the shiny aloof bloke who looks like he has just stepped out of Cotswolds?
ice.solo - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65:

you have to look like a guide/instructor/trainer - not another customer/client/trainee.

its vital to be separate -not in any elitist way - but to distinguish your different roles, as things work more efficiently when they are defined. clinets are there to acheive specific things, guides/instructors are there to impart it, and theres dozens of things that make that relationship function and appearence is a big one.

website too matters immensely. how you transfer information and the scope of your experience is an ongoing thing. nothing worse than not living up to your projected image.

idont tthink it has too mean expensive, slick gear - but it needs to project confidence and a sort of relaxed authority as the one directing the show.
personally i dont go for instructors that are a barrage of matching colours and big logos as it suggests its all about the superficial stuff to me, but others can feel secure with it.
me, i like to see well selected gear, a little beyond the box of standard stuff, tried and tested.

as an instructor, i think clients/trainees like to see dynamism and attention being paid to detail. they are suspicious if things appear to be all glitz and branding.
i dont think most people will care if your appearence isnt shiny and expensive - so long as its clean, got character and you carry it off comfortably. ratty gear is no good, but well loved and used gear suggests experience and a 'beyond the gear' attitude.
shaving i dont worry about - its cold, i live in a tent and dont see mirrors for a week at a time - but a general cohesion to my get-up i strive for.
Snoweider - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65:

Always try to look like I take care of my gear, but a lot of it is fairly old and well loved. Because I also work as a wildlife guide some days I have to make sure I'm wear lots of neutrals and greens... To be honest the wildlife doesn't really care what colour I turn up in but the clients seem to expect a female version of Simon King.
peas65 - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to Edradour:

I would argue that there are many people making a living out of ML etc, by suggesting it is not a professional award surely we are downplaying the skills of these people.
Maybe part of this issue is the people who do not see ML as a professional award and see it as some kind of hobby. I think you still require the same professionalism at ML level that you need at later award stages as many people get their first experience of the outdoors with lower award holders and therefore it represents the whole industry.
ian Ll-J - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to Edradour:
> ML / SPA etc are pretty limited and many people do them for personal reasons rather than to make a living from it. If you consider MIA the first 'professional' qualification then that's where being professional starts to count.

Really? Do you work in the Outdoors?
Edradour - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to ian Ll-J:
> (In reply to Edradour)
> [...]
>
> Really? Do you work in the Outdoors?

I have done. I have my Summer and Winter ML awards and SPA. However, I don't consider myself an outdoor instructor as I have never used it as my main source of income.

And to Peas: I didn't say that people don't earn a living on the back of ML type awards I said that many people do them for other reasons; personal development, to take friends etc.

I think it would be hard to argue that having an ML award makes you a professional outdoors instructor. Most professionals would acquire them en route to the higher awards MIA / MIC etc.

ian Ll-J - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to Edradour:
> I think it would be hard to argue that having an ML award makes you a professional outdoors instructor. Most professionals would acquire them en route to the higher awards MIA / MIC etc.

Again I have to disagree....

girlymonkey - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65:
I don't wear flashy kit when instructing, I simply can't afford it. I have functional kit which I endeavour to make sure is clean. When I say functional, my boots wear out after about a year, but I can't buy a new pair every year so every other year I spend the summer with wet feet, but the clients don't notice so that's fine.
When I work at centres though, I wear scummier kit. The work is usually rougher on my kit, and the kids don't notice. I have specific gash waterproofs that I wear particularly for crag sessions with one centre as it is the muddiest place I have ever worked. I don't care if I don't look so professional there, I'm not going to trash good kit working at a ridiculous venue!
I put most effort into wearing nice clean kit when I do walking tours with tourist groups. It's a whole other level of expectation and it's not so harsh on the kit.
So I guess it's horses for courses
girlymonkey - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to Edradour:
> (In reply to ian Ll-J)
> [...]
>

>
> I think it would be hard to argue that having an ML award makes you a professional outdoors instructor. Most professionals would acquire them en route to the higher awards MIA / MIC etc.

Nonsense! I work full time as a freelancer, I get more than enough work to keep me busy year round, and I don't have MIA or MIC. I might head towards MIA, I won't ever go for MIC though. Plenty of instructors I know have no intention of going for either. If we make a living from working with these tickets, surely we are professionals!
Edradour - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to ian Ll-J:
> (In reply to Edradour)
> [...]
>
> Again I have to disagree....

Care to elaborate?
Edradour - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to girlymonkey:
> (In reply to Edradour)
> [...]
>
> [...]
>
> Nonsense! I work full time as a freelancer, I get more than enough work to keep me busy year round, and I don't have MIA or MIC. I might head towards MIA,

This was my point!

peas65 - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65:

Arguably, many instructors who are working full time in the outdoors intend to work towards or are working towards higher level qualifications but i dont think this means that in the mean time before you attain these awards you are no a professional as some awards take years to gain.

I think that some people complete awards for personal reasons but not many, instead a lot of people will do their training as a way to gain more personal skill.

If they go for assessment there would generally be an aim to work/volunteer in the industry at some point in their lives.
peas65 - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to girlymonkey:

I agree this is what i try to do aswell, get the ripped gear out for ghyll scrambling ad save the shiny waterproofs for rough mountain days.
Snoweider - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65:

There seems to be here on this thread, as in others (eg the winter ML thread) two definitions of the words "professional" and "instructor".

One is based upon remit, and membership of AMI, the other is based on the public's experience of receiving knowledge and guidance from someone more experienced/qualified in return for paying money. The public experience this as instruction, and a certain degree of professionalism should go with this. I understand why the Mountain Instructor tickets are differentiated, and rightly so, but sometimes I think that AMI gets a bit precious about having a monopoly on professionalism.

One difference between the perceived professionalism of MI ticket holders and ML holders is that there are not many folks who go through the MI schemes to work as volunteers or just to formalise their experience, but there are loads of MLs who fit in to this category. Whether they appear professional or not doesn't matter to them as they are not using it professionally. Its not the award that is different, its the holder and the context in which the award is used.
marsbar - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65: I really don't think its about being shaved or having shiny kit. To me (as a customer) I would be looking for things like kit that has been well cared for, a good level of organisation, the right kit for a group not just for themselves, and professional behaviour, like turning up on time, smiling, not bitching or gossiping about previous clients, being well prepared having checked out weather forecasts etc and an effort to ensure good local knowledge of the area. I also want to feel reassured that you can cope with anything, so a confident manner is important, without being arrogant.

The smile is important, being professional to me in any job means leaving your problems behind at the start of the day, and giving it your best no matter what. HTH
annieman - on 24 Feb 2013
As with a lot of threads on here there are more than one perspective. There are a large range of clients coming to the outdoors for a range of experiences.

If it weren't for ML's there would be a lot less instructors/professionals to provide that experience for the range of clients.

As an ML I work with a lot of MIA, MIC, IML, AMI, doing the same job.

Another measure of professionalism is the employers view. I'm self employed and I know that if I don't deliver a professional service, that their clients are willing to or have paid for, then I'll not get any further work.

As I'm 57 there is no added value for me to pursue higher qualifications.

I'll finish this comment with a HUGE smiley face as I make my living from working in the Outdoors and having a professional attitude puts food on my table a diesel in the car.

:-)))))))

Robin.
Joel Perkin - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65: I think that being enthusiastic, smiley and competent is what it takes. I think having cutting edge kit can sometimes have a negative affect, because clients will often make comments like "Well of course you can do that, you've got the best kit?" Obvious having safe looking climbing kit is essential, just to set clients minds at rest and to show good practice. I feel ensuring that having correct kit, like enough warm clothes and waterproofs, because that will set a good example. The best river guide I know paddles in his basic kit and his kayak isn't top of the range, but can paddle it down any rapid with perfect style which inspires clients. Obviously looking tidy helps.
almost sane - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65:
To appear professional, you need to have at least one bit of gear repaired by gaffer tape.
Torn waterproof trousers are the most obvious, of course (I made that tear in the thigh of my waterproofs with my crampons - I was doing a fig-4 whilst ice climbing).
almost sane - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65:
Another way to appear professional is to have a hot cup of tea when it is cold and raining - and be able to offer the client a cup also, so the two of you can cosily watch everyone else suffer.
almost sane - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65:

Smooth and slick is professional.
By this I mean you put your tent up without any fuss, and have time left over to help the person who is struggling. You can have your crampons on whilst most of your clients are still rooting round their bag trying to find them. You can sit and have a relaxed chat with the person who is struggling, and at the same time eat your lunch and have your gear sorted before any of your clients. If someone trips and hurts themselves, you deal with the situation with no fuss and an economy of effort.
almost sane - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65:
OR
turn up in gear you bought from Primark, then explain why you bought each item, and how each bit of clothing does its technical job. This way you can start to equip people with the knowledge to make good kit decisions. Of course, this only works for some outdoor activities - Primark don't make flotation devices or helmets. At least, my local one doesn't.
TryfAndy on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65:

I've just moved into an outdoors-based role, running a forestry school business with my partner. We thought long & hard about image and looking professional, and have settled on going to work looking pretty much like Ray Mears. It's going down well with the clients, as well as being robust kit that stands up to the environments we are working in, and blending in well for nature-spotting.

On the topic of this, can anyone recommend an embroidery company for badges that doesn't charge the earth for small orders? We don't want to have to order thousands, but do understand there are basic print-setting costs etc. that make short runs a bit pricier.
Pero - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to annieman:

> Being clean, shaved, tidy, ready and organised with a smile costs very little.

Not sure why being shaved matters? That would rule out Messner and Bonnington for starters.
annieman - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to Pero: Must be the client group that I work with. Mostly I do, sometimes when I don't it often gets a comment.

Robin :-)
Carolyn - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to TryfAndy:

> On the topic of this, can anyone recommend an embroidery company for badges that doesn't charge the earth for small orders? We don't want to have to order thousands, but do understand there are basic print-setting costs etc. that make short runs a bit pricier.

Counter-intuative, but I wonder if it's worth looking at US suppliers? It's much more common over there than in UK - Scouts will get a special embroidered badge made for every bike, camp, etc, which must be fairly small runs. They call them "patches" though, so that's probably what you need to Google!
Kelcat - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65: I think perhaps you should have a think about who you've done you ML & SPA with. I did ML(S) & SPA with an BMG and ML(W) with a different MIC. Both put a significant emphasis on the professionalism they expected you to display. Being on time, organised & with a plan. In the right kit, with a good knowledge of why its the right kit for you & perhaps not so much for your clients.
Clean, smiling & friendly...well if you can't mange these your probably in the wrong job anyway :)
ads.ukclimbing.com
marsbar - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to almost sane: That explains much more clearly what I meant by organised.
Orgsm on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65:

Being professional means being an expert. It means being competent and skilful, but it also means behaving in an ethical way. It means putting your client first, and acting in the best interests of the public / society. Being professional means being dedicated to your professional development both for yourself and for those people who are affected by your work. It is about being trustworthy, reliable and committed.
AlH - on 24 Feb 2013
In reply to Beat me to it!:
> (In reply to peas65)
>
> Being professional means being an expert. It means being competent and skilful, but it also means behaving in an ethical way. It means putting your client first, and acting in the best interests of the public / society. Being professional means being dedicated to your professional development both for yourself and for those people who are affected by your work. It is about being trustworthy, reliable and committed.

Amen to that. For me professionalism is the state of mind described above and I've met plenty of MLs, SPAs, CWAs who use their Awards both to earn money AND as volunteers who display professionalism.
peas65 - on 25 Feb 2013
In reply to Kelcat:

It interesting isnt it as professionalism is part of IML and BMG training but not mentioned in any british awards in the syllabus (unless i am mistaken).

I just think its very important and its interesting hearing what other also do to be professional as the outdoors industry is not often seen in that light.
Snoweider - on 25 Feb 2013
In reply to AlH:

Absolutely, we are all ambassadors for the outdoor industry, what we say and how we act can colour peoples perceptions in a negative or positive way- its up to us.

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