We need to talk about Rotation…
Rotation is without a doubt the holy grail for the majority of qualified engineers. Whether the appeal is taking time off to further studies, spending time with family, or simply enjoying a healthier work/life balance, everyone is talking about rotation.
I’m noticing a higher number of engineers transitioning over from the commercial shipping and cruise ship industries, with many getting in contact as their friends and ex-colleagues who have made the move have dangled the carrot offering more money, incredible charter tips/bonuses, and world cruising itineraries.
Those coming from the commercial industry will be used to working in rotational roles, however it’s still gaining momentum in the Yachting world, with many boats offering rotation only to senior crew, and occasionally only for the Chief Engineer (trust me, I’ve spoken to a few disgruntled Captains about this!) However, many Captains and Owner’s Reps I speak to see the benefit in offering rotation of some description to crew across all departments, as they become more aware of the benefit of having a rested crew on-board. So it may be offered further down the line once you have proven yourself on board.
Something else to consider is that you will probably be exposed to things you won’t have much hands on experience of. For example as a 2nd Engineer on a 70m yacht you will probably have some AV/IT responsibilities.
The issue many crew transiting over from the commercial world face is not being able to find a rotational job straight away… and worst of all, holding out for it. I’ve spoken to plenty of candidates who have turned down temporary/relief and full-time positions because they’re waiting for that one perfect rotational role, you know the one on the prestigious large yacht with the incredible world travelling itinerary, lovely crew and owners, and amazing financial package to boot. These jobs do of course come up, but the competition is high. As an agent I know my clients and know the type of person they are looking for and predominantly that means good yachting experience is essential. I receive dozens of emails a week from hopeful candidates, many with similar backgrounds, but a larger number than years before are now asking for rotation, only rotation – nothing else will be considered and this isn’t realistic for your first yachting job.
Now some of these candidates will stand out, and after an in-depth interview and speaking to their previous Captains and/or Chief Engineers, they will often tick many of the boxes my clients are looking for, in terms of background, skill set, experience, and arguably most importantly just being a decent human being with a positive attitude – they will be the candidates to get a rotational role first time up. But many won’t.
For those who have been holding out for that dream rotational job, it may be worth taking a look to see whether you can be doing anything to increase your chances. I understand full-time positions simply aren’t an option for some people (i.e. those with young families), but if you’ve been out of work for a while there are a few things you can do to improve your chances;
- Temp/relief work – take the temp job for a month, it looks good on your CV to show that you’ve been working. Yes positions come up requiring ASAP starts, but listing temp jobs on your CV looks better than a 1 year gap whilst you’re looking for work. By temping you’re keeping your skills up to date & (hopefully) leaving with an excellent reference, and further contacts within the industry
- Be open minded – if you can consider full-time positions, do so. Many Captains and Chief Engineers I speak to offering full-time roles to engineers do so reluctantly. They understand what qualified engineers are generally looking for and will often try to compromise, either by offering a higher salary, or time off in between guest trips when they can
- Get yourself known; to agents, Captains and other engineers. Yachting’s a small industry and building your network is a good way to stay connected. Taking temp work, crossings & deliveries can help with this – just be sure to present your best self
I do understand and empathise with the search for a rotational role (my husband’s an ex-yachtie), but bear in mind that if you’re coming from another industry although your skill set and experience may be strong, there are many other engineers who have similar backgrounds, but many of which started out in full-time roles, proved themselves and worked their way up to warrant that rotational role. Some clients may ask for candidates specifically with yachting experience, that’s not taking anything away from the skills you may possess, it’s merely less of a risk for them as Yachting can be very different from other industries in many ways. My advice would be to raise your profile with crew agents and those within the industry, gain further experience & qualifications if required (after all, an unpinning theme in all professional fields is Continuing Professional Development), and consider taking a full-time position to improve your longevity if that’s lacking to get a foot in the door.
With rotation becoming more and more accepted by owners and management companies, we’ll hopefully see a higher number of rotational roles for crew in the coming years. However, we’re already seeing a vast number of engineers move into Yachting from other industries, so it’s always best to present yourself in the very best way as it is a competitive market.
Sam started her career in recruitment, eventually managing a team of 4 consultants. She left to join Cobham plc, a FTSE 250 technology and engineering firm, which has a large maritime sector (inc. SeaTel and Thrane & Thrane). During her time there she was promoted multiple times before heading up Internal & Corporate Communications. Sam’s husband is a former yachtie and now a commercial Captain, which gives her a unique perspective on the industry. Sam looks after all the engineering roles for Quay Crew.