The idiots guide for what to do and what not to do in yachting: Part 1 – Getting a job
Some of these have been tried and tested by me. None of them are a good idea. Some of this advice will be painfully obvious and no doubt plenty of you will read it and think ‘I wouldn’t do that’. Well, every season plenty do and I could give you multiple examples for all of the below. If you’re trying to get a job in yachting, make sure you aren’t doing these…
You are looking to start a new career. You don’t know who’s who. So be nice to everyone. It could be a Captain or a crew agent you are being obnoxious too. Why be obnoxious when you could be charming?
It is so, so easy to get dragged into impromptu nights of partying. I have been there so many times so I know what it’s like. Try your best to resist, you are there to get a job. You manage that then you have years of drinking ahead of you in lots of cool places when you don’t have to worry about your money. So save the debauchery for when you are employed.
Not dock walking.
If you are green then most of you will get jobs from your own hard work and networking. They’re unlikely to come from a crew agent or from you responding to adverts on Facebook. You are one of hundreds applying for that job so the competition is fierce. It is hard to stand out from the crowd on paper so hopefully, your face to face charm and charisma can get you day work whilst you are dock walking.
On the subject of dock walking, don’t roll up on your skateboard and tell the guy on the aft to get the Captain for you. On that occasion, it was the Captain who didn’t appreciate being called ‘Brew’ either. Be smartly presented and clean shaven. Don’t reek of last nights booze. Have some crap clothes in your rucksack you don’t mind wearing for rolling around in the bilges in and treat each day of day work like it is a trial and work your arse off because you never know where it could lead.
Know where you are going ahead of time and know how you are going to get there. French public transport is notoriously unreliable so give yourself some breathing space and get the earlier train. Being incapable of getting to an interview or a day of work at the appointed time isn’t a good look and isn’t that challenging either.
If you have day work or an interview the following day don’t go out drinking the night before. If you absolutely must go out for a couple then you are an idiot. If you are anything like me then a couple means you have no idea when you will be going home. In fact, the only thing you do know is that tomorrow you will be hungover and less than 100%. Unless you have incredible will power it is far, far safer to stay in. Iron your clothes and work out some intelligent answers to interview questions for the next day.
An interview is a notoriously stressful situation and then you factor in that you are skint and have to fly home imminently if you don’t get a job asap. Remove some of this pressure by being organised. Make sure you get there early so you aren’t panicking and covered in a fresh sheen of sweat and practice your interview responses to all the classic / cliched questions you will be asked:
• Why do you want to work in yachting?
• Tell me about yourself
• What are your strengths/weaknesses?
There are dozens more examples I could give but this isn’t a blog just about interviewing. Do some research and look at questions online. Run through in your head what you think a good answer would be. Then practice answering questions with one of your fellow greenies. You will feel awkward and possibly look stupid too but I guarantee you that this practice will make you perform better in an interview situation.
Try to avoid any answers that are going to make you look like an idiot. A few quick examples would be saying you would love to work on a charter yacht or a dual season yacht which travels when you are interviewing on a private or a Med based boat. Or that you would like to get your foot in the door as a deckhand before pursuing your goal of becoming an engineer further down the line. Have some intelligent questions to ask at the end which don’t revolve around salary, holiday, tips and wanting to work with your partner. Questions of this nature often make you look bad and are virtually guaranteed to shoot you in the foot. These sorts of mistakes are made daily.
Be enthusiastic and positive about the role. You are a green member of crew. For the vast majority of you that means you are bringing little to the table for a potential employer. Your attitude is pretty much it, so make sure it is a winning attitude.
Send a nice email thanking whoever interviewed you for their time. If you don’t have it, a polite text would also be fine. Keep it to just a ‘thanks for your time.’ No further questions. You had your chance at the interview for that. If you got the interview through a crew agent now would be a good time to update them on how it went and tell them how keen you are on the role (if that is the case). It is always in your best interests to keep the crew agent in the loop and to have a good relationship with them as they control whose CV gets sent where. Sounds obvious but many crew seem to forget. This is a relationship that will hopefully last for years and be beneficial for everyone involved so make the effort.
So you smashed the interview and you are being offered a job. The yacht loved you and thought you would be a great fit and have offered you 2300 euros to start whilst you complete your probation. Accept it. Now is not the stage in your career to be negotiating. Far too many green crew have completely unrealistic expectations and have an inflated opinion of what they are worth. Unless you are bringing an excellent, relevant skill set eg boat building, carpentry, paid for maritime work experience, worked in high-end hotels/restaurants then the harsh reality is the main thing you bring is your attitude.
Pulling pints and serving burgers in a pub doesn’t make you any different from the thousands you are competing with. Growing up driving a tender and wakeboarding doesn’t either. As soon as you start negotiating you lose the appealing attitude you displayed at interview.
Turning down jobs because a yacht isn’t charter or isn’t paying 2500 straight away, or you want a 70m yacht and this is only 40m is not the path to go down. Very few people get amazing boats in their first role. Those that do normally have that something that sets them apart from their peers. There is also a very good chance you will live to regret these rash decisions to turn down boats for arbitrary reasons in the future.
Ultimately it’s up to you
On a very regular basis, people have ignored my advice and done what they think is best. That is fair enough, it is their future and their decision to make. Sometimes they have got lucky and scored that amazing job. But my advice is always honest and the vast majority of the time correct. (I am slightly cringing as I type this as I am aware it sounds fairly arrogant, sorry!).
If you are looking for your first job then the most important thing is to find a well run, safe yacht with a happy environment on board. If a yacht has all of those things then you are laughing. With those basic points in place you are much more likely to stay for a year or two and build a good foundation for your yachting career. Then you can be picky.
If anyone has any thoughts or disagrees with any of the points above please feel free to comment. We are all here to learn and I would love to hear another point of view. Good luck in your job search and don’t forget fortune favours the brave!
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.
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