Every week I interview and coach Captains to help then find their next Captain job. This is a very simple and fairly short blog which sums up some of the main issues I come across consistently. This is just scratching the surface of this subject. Currently the Captain job market is flooded with candidates and there aren’t enough jobs out there for everyone so you need to make sure everything is on point right now.
Check out one of my earlier blogs where I ask “How many Captains are there?” where I go into some detail about the market place. This isn’t a scientific process and won’t work for every CV out there as it depends on a person’s personal circumstances and the career they have had.
Top tip 1: What’s your selling point?
Generally your selling point is your most recent role. When I say selling point I mean your stand out role on your CV. Ideally this is your most recent Captain job, one where you were with the program for several years. So that’s the one to expand upon what you did. I want to read about what you have done in this most recent role. If this role was a couple of years ago and the last two years has been short term temp roles maybe divide your work experience under two headings of Permanent Positions and Relief / Temporary Positions. People look at CVs very quickly and make snap judgements. If possible you want the first role they look at to show some good longevity. I appreciate depending on your career that isn’t always possible.
Top tip 2: Go into detail
This relates to the point above too. You don’t know who is reading your CV. It could be a Captain who knows your former yacht and its program. Or it could be an owner’s rep who knows very little about yachting and is just reading CVs and looking for someone who has cruised Greece and Turkey as that’s what his boss likes to do each summer. So go into some detail about what you have done. This could relate to the actual yacht, itinerary, owner / guest usage, how much charter etc. There is a long list of things you can talk about.
Top tip 3: Minimise your earlier career
I think yacht owners have very little interest in what you did as a Captain 10 or 15 years ago on a 25m if you have spent the last 4 years on a 50m. They have zero interest in what you did as a deckhand or bosun all those years ago. A lot of Captains just add their most recent job onto their CV. So they end up with that deckhand job they did 12 years ago taking up as much space on their CV as their most recent Captain’s gig. Edit and clean up your CV as you go. Don’t just keep on adding another job onto your CV.
Top tip 4: Your CV shouldn’t be too long
Whilst I don’t believe keeping your CV to 2 pages is absolutely essential if you are an experienced Captain, some CVs are like War and Peace! No one wants to go through 6 pages of waffle. Especially when a lot of it is repeating the same experiences time and time again. Try and mix it up. Don’t copy and paste the exact wordage into multiple jobs.
Top tip 5: Cut it down and clean it up
If you had several Relief Captain jobs over those 3 years don’t lay them out as individual jobs. That looks like you have had several different jobs over those 3 years. Condense it into one entry.
Top tip 6: Spend some money
A Captains job often involves lots of paperwork, writing emails to stakeholders etc. Yet the CV is poorly written and contains spelling and grammatical errors. Sometimes it is laid out appallingly and looks awful. Yet you are applying for a senior level job which could be paying anything from €120k to €250k a year. Not everyone can be a Word expert and it isn’t necessarily a reflection on your ability as a Captain. But…. it is unacceptable in my opinion to consistently be sending this document to potential employers. You have one chance to make a first impression. Make sure it’s a good one. Sometimes you are sending this CV to someone who could potentially have lots of Captain roles for you. I believe you should spend a few hundred Euros and hire someone to write and design your CV for you. For some of you this service will be fine tuning not rewriting. I will go into this in more detail in another blog about what guidance to give this person.
Top tip 7: Who are your references?
I would try and get a written reference as a minimum from your previous yacht owner. Sometimes it is very tricky to get a ref from an owner, especially if it ends badly or you get let go, even if it wasn’t your fault. Ensure you have a good relationship with as many different stakeholders as possible within the program. So Owners Rep, Owners PA, Yacht Manager, Central Charter Broker, ISM provider etc. I’m very aware that you may be in a private program which is self managed which makes it a lot harder to find alternative options. Which means you have to develop that relationship with the owner rep as much as possible.
I would also develop a document of positive feedback. On boat headed paper, every email you get from anyone saying x was great, or charter guests had an amazing week add it to this document. Then when you leave you have some documented evidence of the good things you have done.
Top tip 8: Network and Nurture!
The Captain job market is unique. There are amazing Captains out there who are unemployed and very average Captains in great jobs. Yachting is still an industry which revolves around personal relationships. This is both a good and a bad thing but that’s another blog! To avoid being that amazing Captain out of work you need to be networking at every opportunity with other Captains, your yacht management company, brokers and 3rd party suppliers. Attend events you are invited to and press the flesh. If you aren’t invited then explore and find out what is out there and make the effort to attend. Be nice to everyone at your management company from the Junior Accountant to the MD. Sounds obvious but not everyone is. They selectively kiss arse and then speak down to those who they feel are below them. A truly horrendous look. When I worked in finance and banking recruitment I had dealings with some very senior people. Some of whom would be on huge base salaries and 6/7 figure bonuses. Without exception the super successful people were nice and had time for people*. A big part of their success was down to their personalities. There is something to be taken from that.
*this was not in the front office part of banking where there would be more exceptions to this rule!
All relationships in every aspect of your life need work. Nurture your existing relationships. Stay in touch with people. Don’t be that Captain who has that good job, doesn’t speak to anyone for 5 years and then your CV is attached to that first email, message, Whatsapp saying ‘hi, long time no speak, blah, blah, blah, do you have a Captains job?’ It’s not a good look. I have been guilty of this myself. Giving something back to people and helping others is a far more beneficial tactic. Again I will explore how to do that in a further blog.
Top tip 9: Prepare or prepare to fail
In my career I got jobs I shouldn’t have because I nailed the interview. The reason I nailed it was because I was always well prepared. I would write down examples I wanted to use in the interview. I would rehearse my answers to questions I expected to get. My answers would be tailored to the company or role in question. I would research the company and the person interviewing me. I would demonstrate the research I had done in some of my answers. My top tip on this is write down examples of everything you have done as a Captain. Examples are key. Anyone can say they are good at chartering. Give me an example which demonstrates that!
How to prepare for an interview for a Captain job and how to actually interview is a huge, huge subject but the above should give you some guidance.
My earlier blog "Fail to prepare, or prepare to fail" also covers some points regarding interview prep.
The above top tips to getting that Captain job are only a brief overview of what advice I can offer. As I have mentioned I spend some time each week offering coaching and guidance to Captains who are looking for work or have an important interview coming up. Whilst I am very busy I have a couple of slots free over the next month if you want to have a chat about your CV. Drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to talk.
Alternatively if you are a Captain, Yacht Manager or Owners Rep and you need to recruit a Captain and want to find out more about why Quay Crew is the recruitment company to partner with on this then email email@example.com or call me on +44 7760 202610.
In the last few months, I have placed Captains onto everything from very prestigious 100m new builds to 50m sailing yachts, from full rotation to full time. I genuinely believe I have an untouchable knowledge of Captains in the marketplace and more importantly the best Captains who aren’t actively looking for positions as they often already have jobs.
I hope you found this article helpful. I'd love to hear what you think - drop me a note on firstname.lastname@example.org
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