Have you ever tried to get a job on a yacht, and wondered what the qualifications really are? It can seem like a superficial, sexist industry to some. Let’s say you’re young(ish), pretty, have a nice smile, but have limited skills or experience. How can you get a yacht to hire you instead of someone else? What should you do or say in an interview or while dayworking that will get the chief stew and/or captain to notice your work, or your potential for success?
First, remember that you only have one chance to make a first impression. Yachting is a pretty conservative industry, and appearance counts more than you think. You are being scrutinized, so get your look together. You don’t have to be a beauty queen; I’m talking about good grooming, good manners, and good sense.
There is a definitely an expectation about the proper way to look and dress. For starters, always appear polished and professional. Personal grooming and hygiene are important; don’t forget to shower and apply deodorant, and be sure your clothing is clean. Do not wear strong perfume. Wear your hair neatly styled, and wear neutral, conservative makeup. Nails should be kept short and neat.
Wear clothing that is appropriate for the job. That means a short-sleeved shirt, comfortable shorts or pants that you can move around in, and sensible shoes (no high heels and no flip flops). Once hired, you will be told what the uniform standard is. If you are not sure what to wear, ask around. It is always best to err on the side of caution.
If your dress is too casual or inappropriate, you will not be taken seriously for a job. Revealing clothing sends the wrong message. Instead, show that you are eager and sincere about starting your yachting career. Be confident, modest, reserved and respectful.
Get to know crew agents and build rapport. Even if they are not able to find you a job right now, they will be a large part of your career. They represent captains and owners looking for candidates to fill vacancies. They introduce you to the person doing the hiring; however, they do not decide whether you get hired.
Typically, there are not many requests for inexperienced stews, but it is important to build a good relationship with crew agents from the beginning so they will remember you favorably when you come back with more experience.
You must have an idea of the kind of yacht you want to work on, and what the objectives for your career are. A good crew agent can help you clarify this. Your resume should be in the proper yachting format, and have an appropriate photo attached. Ask for pointers from crew agents, and if they give you advice, follow it.
If they get you a job, demonstrate your good manners by sending a thank you note or a small gift; at the very least, send a thank you e-mail. Keep them updated on your situation. Let them know what your availability status is, so they don’t waste time trying to place you if you already have a job.
Crew agencies are closely connected, and your personality, your work ethic, and your reputation will be well-known in a short time. If you are dishonest in any way the word will get around and it will be difficult for you to find work. Recruiters frequently check postings on Facebook and other social media so take care that you represent yourself in the best possible light at all times. Be sure that nothing you do in public will reflect poorly upon your reputation and your suitability for a position.
If you are asked about tattoos, do not lie. Be honest about any tattoos that may be noticeable in shorts and a T-shirt because many yachts will not hire stews with visible tattoos. I know a lot of stews think tattoos are no big deal these days, but it may make it impossible for you to even be considered for a job.
Another hot topic is piercings and excessive jewelry. Be conservative in your jewelry choices and if you have multiple piercings, do not draw attention to them. Wear only one small pair of earrings. Tongue, eyebrow, and nose piercings are taboo.
If you are not getting a job through the agencies or networking, you can try walking around marinas and shipyards, introducing yourself, handing out resumes and asking for work. In some places, it is illegal to do this, so know the regulations wherever you are.
But there is always the possibility that someone may need a temp for the day. If you walk the docks looking for work, think of it as your job. Look presentable, get out on the docks early and go out regularly. Do not go out in pairs or groups. You look much more confident on your own, and you have a better chance of getting hired.
The best time to approach a yacht is in the morning, starting about 8 a.m. Crew will see you, and respect you for trying, as long as you are professional, organized, friendly and genuine. If you try at lunchtime, you may not see anyone around, or if you do, you may be interrupting someone’s personal time.
Always have a stack of resumes ready, and try not to take up too much of anyone’s time. Don’t ask to see the captain or the chief stew; the person who takes your resume will see that it gets to the proper person.
Also, pay attention to the environment onboard. It is generally not appreciated if you approach a yacht with guests. You can tell if guests are present if there are plants on the dock at the boarding area.
Bottom line: always be yourself. Be friendly, be confident, and be sincere. Smile, and make others smile. Your personality is an important part of who you are, and could be the deciding factor in whether you get the job.
Alene Keenan has been a megayacht stewardess for 20 years. She offers interior crew training classes, workshops, seminars, and onboard training through her company, Yacht Stew Solutions (www.yachtstewsolutions.com). Comments on this column are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.