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Guiding as a Career?

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I fit the bill of the young 20s, single, recent college grad who is about to make his way into the field as a guide next season. I've been working in the office of a guide service this past year and feel like it has been an invaluable experience. I have learned skills and seen a side of the guiding industry that I will use for the rest of my job/career as a guide (job/career will be decided after a few years of doing this).


I will say that the biggest thing I've noticed between those that guide as a job versus those that see this is as a career, is the career guides really know how to "make it work." To me guiding encompasses all of your skills, both in and out of the field. You really need to be comfortable talking to clients both during and after the trip, and work to make them repeat customers. In the office, I do my best to create work for guides, however as a guide you unfortunately can't just rely on the office. Use email, Facebook, your own personal website to make it work, whatever you have to do. You have to sell yourself just as much as the company you work for and the trips your company runs. The more you participate in the business, the more business you as a guide will get.


These comments may seem very naive, not having spent a season guiding yet, however I feel pretty passionately that once I'm in the field I want to continue a sense of "office work." Every job has it, why should guiding by any different? Perhaps it is because I am recently out of school and used to homework, or being in the office the past year has me used to sending 40+ emails a day, but it just makes sense to me. I'm looking forward to participating in creating my own work, and accelerating my track to "seniority," when altering my guide schedule and choosing my work is more of a possibility/reality.


I'm well aware that this may seem overly simplistic and optimistic, but I'm young and new to all this. I'll either loose my innocence soon, or prove my point. I would say the proof will be in my bank account, but it is difficult to put a price on quality of life.

Edited by yasso1am

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Great post! very thoughtful. I think you are right on with the 'selling yourself' stuff. Lots of pro guides have their own websites, much like musicians.

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I run a small guide service and have been guiding since 1989, full-time since 1992. I love my job. We get 3 or 4 e-mails most weeks from people wanting to break into guiding. I think the biggest challenge is that the supply of people that want to guide greatly exceeds the number of guiding jobs.


After 13 years of guiding and doing OK, I took the plunge and became AMGA certified and eventually IFMGA. I work with many fantastic guides that have never taken an AMGA course and are the best at what they do. That said, it is so wildly competitive that guide services do look more and more for AMGA training and a trajectory leading toward certification. It is not exactly a fair request as the training is expensive, but it is one very practical way that those hiring guides can gauge the commitment level of those applying.


When I completed my AMGA training I was surprised to find myself wondering how I managed to guide without incident for the first 13 years of my career, and once the bills were paid I was happy I had put myself through the ego crushing routine of being examined. Without a doubt my certification increased my income drastically and made it easier to sell my services.


Choosing to guide is above all a lifestyle decision. Most of the money is in doing very routine trips, being desperately patient, and having an almost saintlike partner if you are planning to be in a relationship. As someone mentioned above, guiding is a good "job", an outside job, but it is usually not climbing per se. The pay is rarely huge, and it took me a good 15 years to feel "established."


Those that succeed seem to be able to shrug off difficult clients, challenging employers and move forward. From my perspective being a great climber can make it more difficult to be patient with those that are not, but early on I realized that I was not great, only good enough and very enthusiastic.


Good luck! Guiding has provided me with the opportunity to see many places and do many things I never would have had the funds to do otherwise, but it has had plenty of bad days.

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