Getting started in the yacht industry isn’t easy, but when you’ve got your foot on the ladder, there’s no better career. Successfully completing your first charter feels pretty good. You’ve had a few weeks of sailing from port to port, delivering top class service and hospitality, whilst enjoying some amazing experiences. Quite rightly, you’re proud of yourself; all the training has been worth it, but what happens now?
Maybe you’re not a complete newbie; you’ve been on a few charters or spent a season or two on board a private yacht and are thinking about your next steps? Whatever your situation, there are some key things you can do to make sure you are fully prepped and ready to get back on board. Here’s the Sealogical Guide to Yacht Crew Career Essentials…
1. Update your CV
Remember that competition for yacht crew jobs is fierce. There will likely be a large number of applicants for each job you apply for. This means two things… firstly, no one will have time to wade through a lengthy resume and secondly, your CV must make you stand out from the other applicants.
When you’re between jobs, always take the time to ensure your CV is up-to-date and includes all of the important details about your most recent position. List your employment history in reverse chronological order and don’t forget to include yacht names and sizes, which areas you have sailed and the roles you carried out.
Set out your yachting qualifications separately, so they are clear, then add your education and other relevant training courses. Be sure to include any important details that will sell you to potential employers. Always highlight additional experience that you have with equipment and activities, such as jet skis, diving or fishing, for example.
Your CV should include a recent photograph. Having a professional headshot taken is often a good investment.
Before you send your CV to anyone, get the grammar and spelling checked. It’s a good idea to ask someone else to give it a once-over, as they’ll see errors that you could have missed. The yachting industry requires attention to detail; don’t neglect this important factor on your own CV!
Ask your line manager and captain for references. They are essential when applying for future roles. You will need at least two and one should be from your most recent position.
3. Make sure your documents are in order
Ensure your passport is valid for at least a year and any visas you need are obtained in plenty of time. If you’re a non-US national and want to work on yachts that sail in US waters, you will need to apply for a US B-1 visa. This will allow you to work on vessels that sail in and out of US waters. It does not permit any working whilst ashore, nor on US-flagged vessels. It’s also worth considering adding a B-2 visa if you wish to have the option of spending some time in the US as a tourist. You can apply for a visa online, but will need to attend an interview at your local US consulate.
If you plan to work on board a yacht that sails in Europe, specifically the Schengen Zone, you may require a Schengen Visa. This depends on your nationality; so it’s worth checking the Schengen Visa Information Website . Details of where and when you should apply is covered on the website too.
You’ve invested a lot in your training; this is the time to double-check your Certificates of Competency (CoC) are all present and in order. Make sure they are easily available for crew agencies and employers to examine when requested. Remember that the STCW 2010 must be refreshed every five years, so make sure your certificate is valid for at least the duration of the season.
It’s vital that all of your paperwork is ready to be presented when you apply for your next job. This is your responsibility and a definite way to guarantee you won’t get the job is to show up unprepared.
4. Be in the right place at the right time
Think about what you want to do next. You have the option of looking for another charter immediately, or taking time to add to your portfolio and do some additional training courses. Remember there are yacht crew recruitment windows for each area – aim to be ready for work when they open.
Mediterranean – the season runs from May to September. Some yachts start to recruit early and opportunities can be open as early as February. Most recruitment takes place from March and you can expect most yachts to be fully crewed by late April. There may only be limited openings after this time.
The best Mediterranean ports for crew recruitment are Antibes in France, or Palma de Mallorca, in Spain. Both are busy superyacht ports and have a good selection of crew recruitment agencies.
Caribbean – the season runs from late October/early November, through to April. If you’ve been working on a yacht in the Med, it can be possible to find a yacht that’s crossing to the Caribbean for the winter season. Alternatively, you may need to travel to either Fort Lauderdale, where the annual yacht show heralds the start of the season, or Miami. Both are good places to pick up a charter.
If you’ve applied for a position saying that you’re available immediately, make sure you are or you could quite literally miss the boat. There are often jobs coming up at very short notice and this could mean the next day or even sooner! As soon as you start looking for a crew job, be ready to move quickly if necessary.
5. Consider what you can add to your skill set between jobs
It’s always worth considering additional qualifications and training. Anything you can offer that makes you stand out from other applicants will give you an advantage. You can find training courses and certifications that will enable you to move up to larger yachts, or even into a new role on board.
As we’ve already mentioned, you must refresh your STCW 2010 training every five years. If you have anything coming up for renewal, plan ahead and organise a course with a reputable training organisation.
6. Prepare for interviews
Do your research before attending any interview. Check out the yacht, where it usually sails – if you haven’t worked in that location before do your homework.
Dress appropriately; remember the exacting standards required for crew and make sure you meet them on first impression. Also, be on time. The importance of this cannot be underestimated.
Demonstrate your interest in the role by asking questions as well as answering them. Remember, this is as much an opportunity for you to find out if the yacht is a good fit for you, as it is for the captain or owner to find out if you are a good fit for their crew. Find out what their expectations of crew members are and how they recognise excellent performance.
Be honest, but professional at all times. For instance, if you’re asked what the worst thing about your last charter was, never be openly critical about your former employer or colleagues. Consider answers that focus on what you would have liked the opportunity to have achieved, or step up to.
This is your best opportunity to sell yourself as the best person for the job. Be courteous, pleasant and demonstrate that you have the potential to learn and develop your skills.
7. Be prepared for rejection
As we’ve already mentioned, the competition for crew jobs is huge. There are a lot of experienced crew that do not find a job and you may get quite a few rejections before you land a role. This is common, especially if you are still quite new to the industry. Don’t be disheartened; every application and interview is a learning experience.