Camper and Nicholsons

Seasonal crew... Beware or be hired

28th Mar 2014

When captains look at a CV, we would all like to know what they see. Or what they want to see. We have all added buzzwords and put those qualifications in bold but let’s be honest, when it comes down to hiring crew, it is not the fancy font or glossy photo that is going to provide the edge – it is the experience.

For professional crew members in search of senior positions onboard, evidence of commitment to past yachts is an invaluable asset. For deck crew, with the sea time required for higher certification, this often happens naturally. But for interior crew as well, it is important to have spent substantial time in a position in order to be taken seriously down the road. Any crew member that has continuous years of seasonal work will find it difficult to convince an employer that this time will be different. Longevity has long been the exhausted, magic word, and those without it must often deal with a bit of a stigma attached to their CV. That said, crew should not worry about – nor should captains be scared off by – a seasonal position here and there. This is especially true for crew just starting out in the industry, trying to get a foot in the door wherever they can.

In most cases, seasonal work is not the first choice of career-minded crew. Regardless of how lovely we crew agents are, they are not thrilled about having to come back and see us every few months. However, what tends to be forgotten is that very often it is the needs of the boat that determine the short term parameters of the position – not the fickleness of the crew member. This could be caused by lack of charters, lack of funds, or simply an owner who decides to put their boat in the yard and no longer needs a full roster of five-star crew. Boat hopping is just as unappealing to the one packing a bag and looking for work as it is for the captain who must fill their shoes.

Furthermore, when a crew is reduced, it tends to be the more junior members who get the first axe, leaving behind the bare minimum to keep the boat running and the crew eating. And unfortunately it is these junior stewardesses and deckhands who are fighting to get their feet in the door and need that longevity more than anyone.

The thing to remember is that if crew had their choice, at least so they say, most would prefer to find a permanent position. But as the season gets going and they are faced with short-term work or nothing at all, crew will take what they can get. An entry-level job is hard to come by these days, and to pass on seasonal work at that stage of your career would be a silly move.

That is not to say that seasonal work goes without question. From a crew agent’s perspective, short-term work is definitely something that demands an explanation. “Why did you leave your last position?” is probably the most common enquiry that crosses our desks. However, I find that on most occasions this question has a very viable answer, and one that usually does not involve the crew jumping ship. We often get calls from captains who are having doubts about a prospective hire because of a spotty CV. I find myself more often than not trying to ease their minds, for I do not think that seasonal work is necessarily an indication of lack of commitment to their career. Though a winter spent on a boat is preferable to one spent in a chalet or working back home, I am usually happy as long as there is a reason behind the decision. Off-season work, off of the yachts, can definitely have its benefits and should not always be seen as a negative point.

This is not to say that longevity is by any means overrated, but hearing that word does get a little tiring. Every yacht and owner is different, and every captain runs his or her ship with a different style. While it is always comforting to a crew agent or an employer to see four years, working up the ranks, under the same captain, we know that this is not a realistic expectation all the time. Circumstances change onboard, and whether it is due to money or love or a better opportunity down the road, crew do not always stay as long as you might like them to. From where I sit, I must continue to remember to read the fine print in order to put the whole story together. Not all jobs have happy endings, but many times there is nothing to hide. By choice or by force, it is an inevitable aspect of an unpredictable industry. Keeping this in mind will help dissolve the stigma that has long been linked to short-term work and help us remember that a seasonal job does not always equal a lack of commitment.

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by Camper Nicholsons

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Every yacht and owner is different, and every captain runs his or her ship with a different style