I don’t know about other employers, but for me to employ a freelance leader unknown to me is a real leap of faith. If I don’t get the decision right it could jeopardise the safety of my clients, the good reputation of my (small) business and could lead to a string of sleepless nights. Here are some top tips to help you to reassure people like me that you are the right person for the job. And get it right – and there will be more work in the future!
#1 Have an up to date cv
I don’t really care what GCSEs or A-Levels you have. If this is a hang up for you don’t worry about it: I’m no rocket scientist either. I do care that the qualifications you have are relevant to the task in hand however. Be sure to list on your cv all the outdoors stuff that you do. I’m looking for outdoor leaders who have a passion for the outdoors and who have a wide and broad experience base to draw from. So what if you’ve spent your last five winters snowboarding and I need a summer mountain leader. If you can show how this experience has led you to working positively with nervous clients or exploring new off-piste routes it’s all relevant.
And before you save and send your cv, please please spell-check it. It’s an attention to detail that shows you care enough to make the right impression
#2 Get CPD
For a young leader starting out in this industry it can be a bit Catch 22 – no one will employ you without experience, and you can’t get experience until people employ you. So get some CPD. If you’re not already a member of the MTA join them now. Through them there are abundant workshops available dead cheap or even free of charge. If I’m choosing between two SPA candidates, the one that has the coaching awards will pull my heart strings strongest.
#3 Write a blog
Write up your adventures in a blog. There are lots of good reasons for doing this …
(i) You’ll love reading them when you’re an old fart (like me).
(ii) An up to date blog will appeal to your sense of vanity (we all have it). The knowledge that your mates working their 9 to 5 jobs in an office will be green with envy from your latest epic will fire you with the energy to keep getting out there enjoying more adventures.
(iii) But MOST IMPORTANTLY It shows a potential employer LIKE ME that you really do love being in the outdoors. More importantly for an employer it’s an evidence-base of you making dynamic risk decisions in the outdoors. Those are the people we need to be working for us!
#4 Forget references – get reviews
It’s the 21st Century – businesses like mine only succeed if they have customer reviews online. So why not list yourself through Google as “Bob Smith Mountaineering” and encourage employers and clients (where you find your own) to write reviews on you? There’s nothing like five stars and a few kind words to massage your ego and to give people like me a good impression. That said not having referees listed on your cv might look suspicious – but I for one won’t be checking them!
#5 Make your social media look positive
When a stranger applies for work with me one of the first places I go to is their Facebook account. What do they do, where have they been? Who do they know that I know? And if we have shared acquaintances I will tap those acquaintances for their opinion of you. With this in mind build a positive relationship with employers and at some point you might invite them to be your friends on Facebook. For us social media is a business tool and their ‘friendship’ becomes almost like a trusted third-party endorsement.
#6 Write that first email with a smile
We want to employ happy people who are going to make our clients happy. So be happy when you contact us – it will shine through. But also start by using our name, tell us how versatile and flexible you can be and show us your enthusiasm and positivity. (It must be genuine however – or perhaps you’re in the wrong job). But also free feel to ask about what the job requires. Feel free also to ask pertinent safety questions like what are the ratios. Phrased well these questions show us that you are asking from a base of experience – and that’s good!
#7 Get a contract
Once you’re offered the job do ask for a contract of some sort. This should include as a minimum what you’re being paid (and when), what expenses are included, and what to expect in the event of a cancellation. This is all part of good communication and good communication really helps strangers form a positive relationship.
#8 Answer your emails
Ok so you’re out and about and not always easily contacted. Try at least to use your phone to say that you’re still on board and when you will be in a place to properly answer any questions etc. There’s nothing that stresses an employer out more than a leader who goes cold (about two weeks) before the job is due to commence.
#9 Shake hands, say hello and smile
The chances are you’ll meet us for the first time at the start of the day out on the hill or in some car park close by. We are really hoping that you are going to be personable and the sort of character our clients will love. A good handshake, a warm smile and a hello go a long way.
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- Outdoor First Aid – Five items of essential first aid kit for the outdoors
- What to do in an Emergency Outdoors
This article was written by Will Legon, JSMEL, ML, SPA and former teacher of maths and Territorial Army soldier. Now I describe myself as a blessed man who leads people walking and climbing in the hills, mountains and on the crags of the UK. I also run damn good outdoor first aid courses!