Moving from a career shoreside to a career on yachts

Breaking into the yachting industry can be tough, especially if you have “no experience” in yachting, however, there are entry level positions out there which are a great stepping stone for new crew. But along with entry level positions comes plenty of competition so being prepared and organised is key to finding your first yacht role. Since working at Viking in a Yacht Crew Management role I had always fancied trying out a yacht season for myself, not only to help keep the travel bug that I have had for many years at bay but to also gain more experience from an operational prospective to help me in my current position. Fortunately for me, I was lucky enough to get a couple of seasons under my belt and return to Viking in a Senior Yacht Management position bringing a wealth of extra knowledge back with me having now experienced working on yachts first hand.

As I mentioned, being organised is key to finding your first yacht role, so below I am going to outline how you can prepare yourself for a successful yachting career!

Firstly, you will need to make sure you are adequately qualified with the basics such as STCW safety training. This is made up of four elements and at our ‘Maritime Skills Academy’ in the UK also includes a fifth element - Security Awareness. It is a five-day course and is valid for five years, some elements however do not expire, this you can check with your training provider. It is also advisable to obtain an ENG1 Seafarers Medical.

Next, self-assess and identify what transferrable skills you have to offer the yachting industry. How does your current experience and skill set match the requirements of the position you are targeting or applying for? In general candidates with general hospitality skills and experience, that being from hotels, resorts, restaurants or luxury airlines would be at an advantage. Candidates transitioning from a cruise ship position would have even more of an advantage having had a taster of life at sea. For myself, working in a yacht specific role and having worked in hospitality previously, working on a yacht was a no brainer.

Having your CV prepared is also vital and my advice as a first point would be to keep it simple and relevant with all current contact information, references and work history. No more than two sides of A4 paper with your photograph, in colour, head and shoulders shot – no sunglasses or selfies! Your photo speaks a thousand words so no pouting, make sure you smile and look the part. You also really want to make yourself stand out from the crowd by adding some personal traits, because personality can be just as important as experience to some Captains knowing that you will essentially be living together, I found this out for myself! Spelling and grammatical errors will also be picked up by recruiters – your CV is your very own personal marketing document and it needs to be on point! Fortunately for me, I worked alongside a team of experienced yacht recruiters who gave me any CV advice that I needed and supported me throughout my transition to yachting.

Basing yourself at a yachtie hub, depending on what time of year you start your search, will also play a huge part in your success. The Mediterranean season usually runs from May through to September, so head down to Antibes or Palma and base yourself there from around March, in time to catch the start of the Med season. The Caribbean season sees yachts basing themselves out of Florida through the Winter and into early spring with peak crewing times being around November. Be certain to arrange suitable, cost effective accommodation that can cater to flexibility as you never know when you will be in the right place at the right time. Being available at the drop of a hat will be of huge benefit not just to you but also to the hiring yacht. In every yachtie hub you will find certain places where yacht crew hang out, do some research, go and explore and get networking in the area but remember you are trying to kick start your yachting career and need to continue to present yourself professionally. Getting a local sim card for your phone will also help you save money while on the job search in the Mediterranean. Building connections is super important and one of the main reasons I was lucky enough to meet a Captain “in the right place at the right time” that was willing to hire a green Stewardess with no previous yacht experience, let alone day work experience! The next thing I know, I met with the Captain and Chief Stewardess for an interview for a Seasonal Stewardess role on a 50m, I was offered the position there and then based on my personality and drive succeed. The Captain first and foremostly wanted someone that would slot in well with the current long-standing crew already onboard.

To conclude, my main top tips would be researching the industry, make yourself available for day work opportunities, arrive early to interviews well-groomed and dressed smartly, be prepared, don’t be afraid to ask questions and make sure you answer calls and emails right away.

The global yachting industry may seem vast, but it is a tight professional network and you never know when you are going to be in the right place at the right time.  Networking is crucial, walk the docks and meet with as many industry connections as you can to increase your chances of employment. If you are looking for your first yacht role, I hope you have found this helpful. Wishing you all the luck and success in your yachting career ahead! Louise x

Louise Hunter, Senior Crew Management Coordinator