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Do unicorn (purser roles) exist?

For many, becoming a Purser is the dream, your own office, no guest contact and a 9-5 working day….. this may be the dream but it’s by no means realistic! I can’t count the amount of Stews I speak to that having completed the purser course believe they are going to get a Purser role. 


Please note, this is absolutely not a criticism of the Purser course, from what research I have done, candidates I have spoken to etc it seems like a very worthwhile course to do, depending on your situation and position in yachting. But it isn’t for everyone. I see far too many CVs of junior crew who have heard about purser roles and fancy rotation and a massive salary. If you are coming from an accounting background or something managerial / heavy administration then fair enough, look to become a purser sooner rather than later. But for the vast majority you need to serve your time rising the ranks in the interior to at least 2nd Stew, but ideally Chief, BEFORE you attempt to become a purser. Personality wise you need to be extremely organised, thorough, switched on, stay calm under pressure, be able to deal with Captains and owners whilst wearing lots of different work hats. A lot of crew aren’t good enough to do this role to the standard required so think carefully before you go down this route.


So how do you get that first unicorn purser role? This question is akin to how long is a piece of stringThere is a percentage of luck involved, right time, right place scenario but certainly there are things you can do to help yourself. 


As with any role, longevity is key!! Purser roles are few and far between so your CV really needs to stand out especially if this is your first purser position. Better yourself! There are courses you can do online that will certainly show a captain you are dedicated to your career. Accounting and Excel are givens. There is a well known management company that includes an Excel test in their interview process, if you don’t pass you’re out. Brutal but with a bit of practice, avoidable. Numbers and accounts don’t come naturally to everyone either so the more you can do to demonstrate you understand this, the better you stand at being employed. Be realistic! Are you likely to get a Purser role on rotation as your first Pursers gig? Probably not… (that said we are currently looking for a first time Purser on a 2:2 rotation, but that’s not the point!)Chances are your first step into an admin role may be a dual role, Stew/Admin or a yacht secretary position, both are fantastic opportunities to start learning the skill set you require when you move into a full time position of Purser nature.


The following was written for us by a friend who is now a full time Purser. She is now also a client and has been one of my candidates in the past too. She spent 6 years as an Account Manager and Sales Executive on land before entering yachting. She then spent 3 years working her way up the ranks to Senior Stew on an 80m, covering all aspects of the interior, before completing her Purser course.

I always wanted to get into the industry and become a purser. After 3 yrs I did my purser course and really struggled to get a job. Most purser roles want someone with 5+ yrs experience so it was hard but eventually I got there.


Being a purser IS NOT just accounts. I am the lifeline from the boss to the captain and rest of the crew. Some days I work 12 hours, other days can be 18. My last boss trip of the summer was 82 days straight. I look after all the crew logistics, cash accounts, credit accounts, run the interior, oversee chef and chief stew provisions, manage budgets, handle crew conflicts, keep on top of all crew certifications, PA to the captain, PA to the boss. I’m lucky enough to have a very close relationship with my owner so even when he’s not onboard, he will still message me. Some nights I have been dragged out of bed or shower to go up and see him because he only wants to deal with me and it’s urgent.


I’m required to put together presentations to management when asking for extensions on budgets, EOM accounts that can be very tedious. All uniforms (the pressure to get it right) and being a world travelling yacht, always having to plan guest trips, reservations, transfers, dealing with private jet pilots about arriving and departing. And all the while you have to get it RIGHT!


One of the biggest challenges I had to overcome was trying to get a role. It’s seriously NOT easy. If you think you can just do your course, get 2:2 and be paid 8k a month, you seriously need to reconsider. If you’re not absolutely CERTAIN you want to be a purser, don’t do the course. If you are, do it, but be prepared to look for a role for quite some time and you MUST do the work. You can’t pick and choose what you want to do. You have A LOT of responsibility on your shoulders. Sometimes I don’t get it right, but people expect you to every time.


Hiring and firing is also another big part of the job and can be soooo frustrating. It’s probably the one part of my job I don’t like.

So as you can see in a nut shell, a Purser role is perhaps more extensive than many consider, it is also a tough role to get into! With every role in yachting, it’s important to walk before you can run. Absorb everything you can along the way and ensure you are fully prepared and ready to take on the role when it comes up. A huge part of the yachts running smoothly will come down to YOU so it is a large responsibility. Screw up on expiry dates on certificates and all of a sudden the yacht is operating illegally and there are insurance, flag and other serious implications. Plus, let’s not forget it is your head on the chopping block if you get it wrong……

Do unicorn (purser roles) exist?

About the author

Caroline Clarke

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