How to find a yacht job: Navigating the marine recruitment minefield
Last updated: 20/09/2016
"It takes a special kind of person to work on any kind of boat, whether it’s a yacht or a commercial ship – sharing cabins, extended periods of time at sea, close quarters, different personalities, long working hours etc. However, yachting does have its benefits that few will find in any other industry.
"Good money - possibly exempt from taxes, medical and dental cover, travel expenses covered, and the fact that you are living on one of the largest private ships travelling all around the world at no expense, gaining experiences that could not be achieved any other way without being extremely wealthy." Commented Brad Yeadon, founder of Seafarers CV, an online recruitment platform for yachts and crew.
To work on a superyacht is a dream for many, and with the industry rising from the flames of the recession, now seems to be the perfect time to get that first job on board. However, with such high competition, getting there may not be as simple as first seems. Yachting Pages investigates the ways to find a yacht or superyacht job
Working in the superyacht industry
Mayte Bruguera, general manager and founder of Barcelona Crew explained, “In recent years, the maritime sector has attracted interest from new candidates and students. Some are attracted by the adventure, others for professional development and economic benefits.”
Each year, hopeful candidates from around the world flock to popular yachting destinations and hiring ports such as Antibes and Fort Lauderdale, with the hope of landing their dream job working on board some of the world’s most luxurious superyachts, but the competition for jobs is fiercer now than ever before.
How to find a yacht job
Anne-Marie Zwart, general manager of Y.Crew Antibes explained, “As the yachting industry grows each year it becomes harder and harder for crew to find jobs. It is therefore increasingly important for crew to approach their job search with a professional and constant attitude."
There are four main ways that yacht crew can find a job aboard a superyacht:
1. Yacht crew agencies:
Different yachts require different skill sets, a crew agent specialising in marine and superyacht recruitment can help you to understand your relevant skills and match you to your perfect position.
It is often best to enrol with only one or two different crew agents, as Laurence Lewis of YPI Crew warned, “Whilst crew agencies do most of the groundwork and provide captains with shortlists, using more than two crew agencies, three at maximum can be counterproductive for both captains and candidates.”
To get the most from your crew agency remember:
- Crew agents often shortlist candidates on behalf of the captain, therefore after submitting your CV to agencies, make sure you check in twice a week to make sure your name remains at the top of the pile.
- Make an appointment and fly over to meet your agency in person. This shows that you are willing to make the effort and are serious about finding a job in the industry.
- All crew coming in to the industry must be SCTW 95/10 certified. Depending on whether you are looking for a job as a deckhand, stewardess, engineer or chef, different training may be required - If you were looking for a job on deck specifically, a certificate in tender handling would be a great benefit and make you stand out amongst rivals.
- Visa’s can be the make or break for getting a job on board a superyacht. Your crew agent will be able to inform you which visa’s and paperwork you will need, but before signing up, crew should always have a passport with at least six-months validity. Crew from outside the USA and Canada will also need to ensure they have a B1/B2 visa before they leave home, if they are hoping to work in the US or Canada.
2. Online yacht crew agents:
With more and more crew agencies working solely online, make sure to scour the internet and submit your CV to online crew agents and forums in the relevant hiring ports. Check Facebook and Twitter for jobs, but remember, yachts are looking for reliable and dedicated crew, not just friends of friends.
Abi Dunlop of Greycoat Lumleys advised, "There is a huge amount of activity for yacht jobs and marine recruitment on various social media groups – Facebook in particular is has become a hotspot for advertising jobs and friends recommending people they’ve met. So much so that we've had a triple figure application count overnight for a junior stewardess role at the beginning of the Med season. This seems to be an emerging and cost effective way for many yachts to find crew – and there does seem to be plenty of candidates responding to these posts – meaning that many are escaping the need to use an agency at all."
This is not always a good move for prospective crew, however, as many are missing out on the valuable industry expertise and tailored advice provided by professional crew agents.
3. Walking the docks:
Alternative to using a crew agent, dock walking is one of the key ways to find work on a superyacht - especially if it is your first yacht job. This may sound simple, but there are a few important points to remember:
- First impressions: First impressions count - ensure you make a good one. Dress in a professional manner; wear a white polo, navy or khaki shorts/skirt and tidy boat shoes.
- Start early: Start walking the dock between 7:30 and 8:00am when crew start work. Crew will be working out on the deck until about 11:00am, there is little point going after this time.
- Presentation: Carry your CVs in a backpack or purse – no plastic bags! Keep paper wrinkle-free and presentable. A dog-eared CV is likely to go straight into the bin.
- Conversation: Visit each yacht and ask if they have a permanent vacancy or day work. Try and engage the crew in conversation, if they don’t have any jobs going on board, they might know someone who does. Make sure to thank them for their time – you never know, a job could become available on their yacht in the future.
Most importantly, when walking the dock, be prepared to hear the answer ‘no’. Don’t be disheartened. Stay confident and try again. Find out where and when to hit the various 'hiring ports' around the world for greater chance of getting that yacht job.
Don’t underestimate the power of networking. Socialising in crew houses and crew bars will give you a heads up on who’s hiring and the best places to look for work. Michael Wilson of Yacht Crew also suggested, "Attend boat shows and speak with the yachts, agencies and crew and let them know what you are looking for. Don't forget to take copies of your CV and certificates with you."
The future of yacht crew agencies
The Internet has transformed the way that companies conduct business, and the yachting industry is no exception. With more and more hopeful crew scouring social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for jobs, is there a place for the traditional crew agency?
The answer is very much so. Brad at Seafarers CV explained, "The Internet has changed industries year after year since its inception, and history has proven over and over again that businesses need to adapt in order to continue to grow and sustain.
“While it may be easier today then ever before for captains, chief engineers and chief stewardesses to simply post a job on Facebook to friends, it does not eliminate the need for a crew agency. Hiring crew is not about hiring friends of friends, it is about creating the best possible team to work on board a ship and in many cases diversity among crew will have a better effect than groups of close friends."
Plus, if you are an experienced crew member with a diverse job history and exemplary qualifications, you can afford to be very specific about your next job role. An established crew agency will have the contacts to match you to your perfect superyacht job.
Abi at Greycoat Lumleys explained, "The yachting industry is small in the way that many people know each other. Recommending each other for different jobs – many captains take referrals from their crew as to who should replace or join them - a friend, a friend of a friend, a friend of a friend of a friend… But is this the best way to get the right person for the job? Whose opinion are you actually trusting?
"The positive of using a professional agency is the time taken to understand the role and the dynamics. Unlike many professions, it is not just down to the qualifications. The crew eat, sleep, live and work in such a close proximity – with the owners and/or guests. There are so many factors about finding the right crew member, the more details shared, the better the understanding – and the more likely we are to send you the right candidate."
Working on board a superyacht is not all fun and games! It’s important to realise that it’s not a vacation; life on board is not easy, expect long hours and night shifts. Crew quarters will be small and cramped, and you may be away from home for long periods of time. Above all, it’s important to realise that discretion is key: Gossiping about superyacht owners and their guests is strictly forbidden.
Read Could you work on a superyacht? to ask yourself eight questions to find out if a yachting career is right for you, or read on to discover the available yacht crew positions and contract types.