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By Lynn Fleming
I recall the expression on my Sergeant Major’s face when I told him that after leaving the military I would travel to Florida to work aboard yachts.
It has been nearly two months since I departed from Camp Lejeune, N.C., after a military downsizing and arrival in Ft. Lauderdale for my STCW certification. I didn’t want to leave the Marine Corps. Over the past years, we’ve witnessed our nation battling Al-Qaeda as well as national debt. During the government shutdowns, I distinctly recall reassuring my fellow Marines as they wondered if they would receive pay.
Like many corporations, the armed forces have responded to a decreasing budget by cutting back on manpower. As a result of the downsizing of our military, I along with many other veterans found myself joining the ranks of job seekers in a competitive job market.
Becoming a civilian again has had its challenges. I had to decrease my use of the words Ma’am and Sir as well as attempt to call people by their first names. The last time I created a resume was more than a decade ago. My latest CV included a picture of myself in dress blues. I thought it looked good, but not everyone agreed.
For many vets, it is a challenge to convey exactly what one has done during his or her military service. I was informed that words such as “combat trauma”, “aggressive” and “enforcing” may be a little too militant for a yachting audience. However, I was fortunate to encounter many who were more than willing to assist me. One will discover that there is no ideal way to create a CV, which seems to alter every time one has it reviewed.
Getting into yachting is a project within itself. By living in a crew house, I’ve been pulled in various directions. Whether it be attending networking events, visiting crew agencies, obtaining day work or investing in certifications, everyone has their own opinion regarding the best way of finding work. I’ve even dedicated hours on placement agency Web sites to the point that I have committed most of my information to memory.
All of these methods have their benefits. In the military, the process of settling a new Marine in is handled within days. A senior Marine is appointed to ensure that the new Marine is provided with everything required to function. So yachting can seem a bit unorganized when one is accustomed to a chain of command. (Having said all that, I’ve secured more day work through networking alone.)
The path to securing a position seems obscure. There is a barrier between the hiring personnel and the crew. I am normally accustomed to having clear-cut criteria or a direct influence on my objectives. For example, if I sought out a position, I would pursue it until I succeeded or I was turned down. I would identify the requirements and complete them relentlessly.
But I find that, in yachting, when one applies for a position, he or she can only do so much. It is not a tenable objective. One may send an e-mail and never get a response. I’ve witnessed people get hired with no experience while others are hired through contacts alone. It could be discouraging.
Even though interviews are conducted, it isn’t as standardized as the military, where one is expected to produce speedy, quantitative results in an environment where protocol is a major factor as opposed to personality-based encounters.
In my mid-20s, I commanded hundreds of personnel, many of whom were older than I. I had a notion that I would walk straight into a yachting job. After all, cleaning is easy right? Initially, I was insulted after being informed that I didn’t have enough experience. It wasn’t until I did an exterior wash down and operated a RIB that I realized I had a lot to learn.
I’ve come to find that yachties come from various backgrounds with a lot to contribute. But at the end of the day, captains are looking for crew, not doctors or lawyers. Humility is required in this line of work.
I have encountered many who feel as if veterans are entitled to a job. Although I do understand, I do not completely agree. Personally, I do not advertise my service as a means of securing employment. It is simply the majority of my employment history.
Military members fulfill a contract that requires them to risk their lives and put their aspirations aside on our behalf, which is why they are doing a “service” for our nation. Keep in mind this is voluntary. I don’t think that serving entitles one to employment but I appreciate how frustrating it is to deploy only to return to be unemployed.
Now that I am out of the military, there are times when I feel as if I am a foreigner within my surroundings. Yet as I look around, I can say that was all worthwhile. Semper Fi.
Lynn Fleming is a graduate of The Citadel and was a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps until mid-April, when he moved to Ft. Lauderdale and enrolled in the STCW class at MPT. Comments on this essay are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.