The Med season is almost upon us, and the marinas will soon start filling up with boats returning from the Caribbean, or further afield. The end of a season for many is a time of upheaval and change – leaving a current yacht to move to another, or ashore. The beginning of the new season is a time when current and new crew are searching for their next position and the next adventure. Consequently, the docks can be flooded with hopeful crew, and you can quickly be lost in a sea of faces all wanting the same thing. So, how can you stand out, and how do you prepare yourself for (potentially) months of dock walking? Here are some very simple guidelines and tips to ensure you make a good name for yourself and create a good impression on all those jaded yacht captains who will be inundated with requests for work…
Be Prepared – Things to organise before you get there:
Going back a few years, the yacht industry used to be a tad more relaxed than it is now, it was also not really known about. Thanks to this, approaching the task of getting a job could also be a pretty informal affair. Not so these days! Competition is fierce and the industry is now a well-oiled, highly professional machine. So, you need to be prepared to spend quite a bit of time in your location of choice to succeed. Primarily, this means you need to ensure you have enough money saved to survive for roughly 3 months, this includes accommodation, food, transport to various marinas and socialising. Accommodation is of course the most important, and if you’re sensible, you’ll book it before you get there. Crew houses will be over-subscribed but are likely to be your first option. If they’re full, you could look at sites like Airbnb and www.couchsurfing.com, or local apartment listings. Ideally, share with a friend or two to lower costs.
When you arrive:
It’s always a good idea to purchase a local SIM card/phone number for your mobile. Having a local number shows you’re planning to stick around and makes you easily reachable. It’s also a lot cheaper than using your UK mobile and you could even buy a cheap phone and get a Pay-as-you-go SIM purely for this purpose. Update this on your CV so we can get hold of you…
Once you’ve had a little settling-in time, establish what your game-plan is. It will help to really know what you want to achieve in the industry, and what kind of job you’re looking for. Write down your goals – sail or motor? Privately owned or chartered? Are there particular places you’d love to sail to during your employment? What career progression are you looking for? Be prepared to massively compromise if you are inexperienced and looking to get your foot in the door, but it certainly helps to have in your motivation in mind to turn to in times of rejection and uncertainty. It will help you keep your focus, and hopefully help you to be more determined to succeed.
Be organised about how you are going to approach the task of finding a job and decide where you are going to start each day, and where you are going to move on to next. Plan your transport in advance so that you don’t waste time waiting for buses or trains and contact any agencies you wish to visit to either agree a time, or find out when they are open for general interviews.
Ensure you have a suitable wardrobe. If there’s one word that’s relevant to every aspect of yacht work, it’s PROFESSIONALISM. How you present yourself is key to making the right first, and lasting impression. Have a few sets of clothing you keep purely for job hunting and always ensure they are clean, in good condition and ironed. Generally speaking, you can’t go far wrong with a good pair of shorts and a smart, simple polo shirt or T-shirt. Avoid loud colours, slogans, images etc., and assume simple is best. Shorts should be of a good length, and not too short. Flip-flops are a yachtie staple but proper deck shoes are the most appropriate option, or good quality trainers. Jewellery and make-up should be discrete and minimal. Men should be clean-shaven and any body piercings (other than ears) should be removed or covered. A smile is essential too!
Be smart about where and how you socialise. Try to ascertain where captains and crew hang out locally and have a presence there. Get to know people and have fun, but never forget that you might be talking to a first mate, or a head stewardess or even a captain, and you could be in a really good position to create relationships that could benefit you. With this in mind, drink sensibly, dress well, always behave properly and try not to be remembered as ‘the one who fell in the marina after too many rums’. Many job offers have been made at a bar over a few drinks. Also keep an eye out for crew yoga meets, football games or walks to socialise with others away from drinks.
Top Tips for success from those in the know:
Treat dock walking as a full-time job. Be early, leave last, be committed and reliable. If you cry off a days work, there will be 10 people ready to step into your shoes immediately.
Avoid engaging crew during tea and lunch breaks as this is their time to relax and rest. They won’t be enthusiastic about being questioned during down time. When you do get the opportunity to speak to someone, try and start an actual conversation with a view to being more memorable than someone that just asked if there was work and then left.
If there are particular boats you are interested in working on, learn as much as you can about them. Knowledge of the boat will impress and show you mean business. It will also make starting a conversation much easier.
Take on as much paid day work as you can, providing it doesn’t interfere with getting a full-time position. Day workers can easily be first in line for permanent positions if they’ve proved themselves and built a rapport with the crew.
Obtain contact details and references from crews and other day workers you’ve worked with. This also serves as a really good record of how much work you’ve been doing and shows commitment. Character references are good too, as being part of a crew means living in close quarters with all kinds of people, and getting along is hugely important.
Always be personable, polite, interesting and honest. Don’t bother lying about your experience or skills as you will soon be found out!
Stay positive! You will likely face a lot of rejection but don’t let it get you down. The right job is out there, you just have to persevere and keep your goals in the forefront of your mind.
You can find further useful and relevant information in some of our previous blog posts, and we are always on-hand to answer questions and help in any way we can. Good luck!