Trying to get your first deckhand job? Read this…

Landing your first job in any industry is hard work, but getting a start in yachting is especially difficult. You must be prepared to face a lot of rejection, and expect to do more than just give out your CV and sit by the phone waiting for it to ring…

Tim Clarke, QuayCrew’s Co-Founder and Director, is someone who knows exactly what it’s like because that’s exactly where he started out. If you’re looking for your first deckhand job, following this advice could be the key to beginning your new career.

1. What is the number one piece of advice you would give to someone who arrives in your office (sans experience) and wants to get onboard?

There are lots of things people can do to increase their chances of finding work but there are a couple of things I recommend. Firstly, which is pretty obvious, work as hard as you can to get a job. If you have a few months to kill before you travel to Antibes volunteer your services at a relevant local business. Help clean some boats or drive some tenders. Make a lot of beds at your nearest high-end hotel. Get some vaguely relevant experience.

When you get to Antibes or Palma get out dockwalking every day and have a plan of action of where you are going and when. Making a half arsed effort by walking around Antibes, Monaco and Cannes a few times doesn’t count. Network as much as possible and treat every bit of day work you get like a trial. And of course, be professional about your job search at all times.

2. How is this type of job search different from that of a seasoned crew member?

Generally, unless you have something amazing about your CV that makes you stand out nothing will come to you easily. Agents won’t be calling you on a regular basis and you won’t have friends you can network off. You have to do it yourself, the hard way. So be prepared for lots of rejection. Expect it to be tough and mentally it will be far easier to stay positive.
 

3. Tell us specifically about CV preparation.

Basics are key. I don’t, as a crew agent really care what order your CV is in. If your objectives are before your qualifications or after them. It doesn’t matter in my opinion. What does matter is that your CV is well written with correct spelling and grammar. Check, check again and then get someone else to. The number of CVs I see with basic spelling mistakes is huge.

If you are green and haven’t had a job before then avoid saying you want to be a Captain. Don’t we all! You’ve never worked on a boat so something a little more realistic is appealing and don’t bullshit because you will be caught out.

Make sure you know when you worked somewhere, practice interview questions with your friends
and work out what your strengths are and then use them to sell yourself using them.
 

4. What courses, tickets or certifications should someone complete (if any) before starting to look for a deckhand job?

Just the basics, STCW, PB L2 and ENG 1 though having your PWC ticket is useful too. Spending thousands on a week or two long course which teaches you how to become a deckhand and covers painting, varnishing, PBL2, line handling, GRP Repair is basically teaching you very little. In 4 ½ years of recruiting deck jobs, I have not had one request for a green deckhand who has been on one of these courses. Save your money and invest it on being in France or Spain.
 

5. Do you suggest starting with daywork before looking for a full-time position?

Without a doubt! Daywork is where you get some experience and pick up some of the basics of being a deckhand. Hopefully you get a solid few days of work and then a great reference for the work you have done. Work as hard as you can and treat every day of work like a job interview. Daywork also keeps your bank balance healthy.
 

6. What are other pieces of advice you would provide to a “newbie”?

Be prepared for a lot of hard work. It will take time, effort and money to get a decent job and there are hundreds in the same boat, pardon the pun!

Be organised in the way you approach everything. Don’t just go dock walking in the easy to get to ports. Hit up the small ones and go further afield to Italy and up the coast towards some of the less glamorous yards.

Be careful with your cash. You have years and years to have wild nights out when you get a job. Don’t blow your money in Antibes on a Thursday night at the Blue Lady quiz when it could be paying for rent and food whilst you secure that elusive job.

Remain as positive as possible. If you are feeling very sorry for yourself on a daily basis then maybe this isn’t the industry for you. Finding your first job is the character test to see if you are a good fit. Not everyone is so there is no shame in coming home if you aren’t happy. And don’t forget to enjoy it all as much as possible. The friends you make in those first few months when you are unemployed will stay with you for life! Good luck.

From 2006 to 2007 Tim was lucky enough to spend two years as a deckhand on MY Sai Ram and MY Leander, two excellent charter yachts. Quay Crew was formed in 2013 and is proving to be a great success: Tim covers the deck department predominantly working on Captain and Officer roles.

+44 (0) 7760 202610 | +33 7810 12245 | tim@quaycrew.com

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