On the surface, working at Club Med might seem like a cush job — but in the mid-’90s nothing could have been further from the truth. The hours were grueling, the challenges were frequent. And for me, it was three fantastic years of adventure, dedication, and growth that set me up for business, entrepreneurship, and life.

1) If you want something badly enough, make failure an impossibility.

My parents first took my brother and me to Club Med when I was 11 years old. It was love at first beach. There was nothing fancy about the resort — no phones, no TVs, not even any clocks! The Club Med motto in the 1980s was: ‘Escape from Civilization’, and they meant it.

After two weeks in Ixtapa I was hooked. I knew that no matter what else my future had in store, I would spend some time working for this company.

Fast forward to my second last year of University. I called the North American head office and asked one important question: “What positions at Club Med do you constantly struggle to fill?”

Much to my surprise, the answer was ‘Archery Instructors’.

And so, I took a deep dive into learning everything I could about archery. I bought a compound bow, joined an archery club, (where I was the only female and only non-hunter), and took weekly lessons. I read ‘Zen In the Art of Archery’, and learned the breathing techniques of Olympic Archers.

One year after the first call to Club Med, I mustered up the courage, and called them again. I requested an in-person interview. They suggested that a phone call with the local Montreal office would suffice. Nope. I wanted to be in front of the biggest mucky-muck decision-makers I could find.

One month later, over my spring break, I flew to the Club Med head office in Port St. Lucie, Florida. I had my bow, a quiver of arrows, and several sheet targets. When I arrived for my interview — looking like a blonde-haired Rambo — the interviewer took one look at my gear and hired me on the spot.

Key takeaway: If there is something you really, really want, take the time to plan and execute on it. This will set you apart from the competition.

2) Surround yourself with positive people.

You may have heard the expression:

“You are the average of the people you spend the most time with.”

There is scientific backing to this idea:

According to social psychologist Dr. David McClelland of Harvard, the people you habitually associate with determine as much as 95% of your happiness, success, or failure in life.

It is important to consider this when choosing how you want to spend your days and years.

Although on the surface Club Med might seem like a cush job, it is incredibly hard work. In the mid 90’s international labor laws permitted us to work 7 days per week for months on end, (the longest I went without a day off was ten months). We worked from sun up until midnight: my days were filled with teaching archery, welcoming guests as they arrived, and constantly participating in events like ping pong tournaments and trapeze demonstrations.

In the evenings we performed theatre shows, (think: Cabaret, Cats, and a whole lot of dancing, singing, and skits). Then at about 11:30pm we rehearsed the show for the next night! Club Med was definitely a job for 20-somethings.

I was with Club Med for three years almost exactly. I loved the job as much the day I left as the day I started. In hindsight I realize that my appreciation is attributed to one main thing: I had the privilege of being with guests during the happiest week(s) of their years.

Key takeaway: By surrounding yourself with excited, grateful, positive people, your job — no matter how grueling — will brim with joy.

3) Adventure pays off.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all”.

– Helen Keller

The time spent in Club Med and traveling the world helped me develop a more adventurous mindset, an extroverted approach to life, and a deeply ingrained joie de vivre.

When I returned to Toronto and entered the competitive world of advertising, doors opened uniquely because of my travels. All these years later, when I am interviewed for an article or podcast, often it is the years at Club Med that sparks initial dialogue.

This experience demonstrated:

  • Cultural adaptability: the ability to recognize, understand and work effectively within a range of different contexts where there are different cultural norms. Every day was filled with a variety of languages, cultures, and values. (Our team alone had people from six continents and 17 different countries!)
  • Problem-solving skills that cannot be taught in University, (ie: dealing with a delayed plane full of New Yorkers arriving at 3am. #Grumpy)
  • Commitment to purpose over paycheque. Working at Club Med is never about the money. Not to be too revealing, but my monthly wage was less than the current cost of a used iPhone 10.

I would recommend that everyone try to work at a Club Med, or another similar role, at least once in their life. Travel is the best education there is.

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Sunny McGaw

Sunny McGaw

Advocate for Women in Leadership //. Entrepreneurship, productivity, having more success and fun. TEDx Speaker + Host // Co-founder, Ivan Joseph Leadership.