As yachts begin to sell, the job market begins to shift with them. Several captains on long-term boats have seen their vessels sell, or face the prospect of them selling.
In some cases, these professionals have become so tightly related to the yacht they commanded that it seems odd to picture them on another vessel.
So how does a reputation — presuming it’s good — work when looking for another job? Do megayacht captains look for another, similar owner and/or yacht? Or are they like actors who can play whatever part they land?
“Do you get on something really goofy and let that impact your reputation?” one captain asked. “I wouldn’t do that.”
As always, individual comments are not attributed to any one person in particular so as to encourage frank and open discussion. The attending captains are identified in a photograph on page A16.
Reputations attach to both captains and yachts. These captains didn’t see it as an attractive challenge to take a position on a troubled yacht in an effort to turn it around. Nor did they embrace the idea of working for an owner whose reputation in the yachting world isn’t well regarded.
Most wanted, instead, to continue advancing their careers as they talked of retiring and resumes.
So what does a long-term captain leaving a well-respected vessel face in their next job?
“Longevity, owners love that,” one captain began. “They love the loyalty.”
“Longevity is generally viewed on as a good thing,” another said.
“I’ve kind of gotten the other feeling,” said a third. “If your resume isn’t at least five yachts deep, you are seen as not having the experience. If the owner wants to go to the Med and you haven’t, he’s going to pick someone else.”
This sparked a conversation about CVs and careers, and just who determines what is valued in yachting.
“Insurance companies are yet another voice in this process, in the selection for your next job,” a captain said. “You are looked at by the broker, and he moves you on to the owner, but whose setting the bar? The insurance company, based on your size and tonnage.”
“But the insurance company, they aren’t interviewing you,” another said. “They are just looking at you on a piece of paper. In this industry, you have to be aware of your resume. Think about how it looks and the path you have taken.”
“Think how your resume will look when you’re 45,” said a third. “I’m not saying its advantageous jumping boats just to jump boats. But this is an independent contractor industry. There’s only you looking after your interests.”
This captain is one of those long-term captains. Do you regret staying with one boat and program for so long?
“I do, a little,” he said. “I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I know how good I have it, but I’m not just in this for the paycheck. Maybe I didn’t mind my career path as closely as I should have.”
His advice to younger captains:
“While you are busy working on yachts for a living, pay attention to your resume and your reputation,” he said. “I care very little about what an owner thinks of me; I care very much what my colleagues think.”
Not everyone in attendance had the perceived problem of longevity.
“I’ve never stayed on a yacht for five years,” one captain said. “They’ve all been about three and a half years. I’ve moved up with the same owner, but at the end of about three years, I’m wiped out, just tired.”
The boss wouldn’t permit a rotation or even a summer off, he said.
“The only thing left to do was resign,” he said. “It’s scary to have to do that.”
The scary part, these captains admitted is not only the loss of a paycheck, but the loss of to=ime on a CV.
“You’ve got to look at it from the point of view of employment,” one captain said.
“A big gap in your CV can work against you,” said another.
Several acknowledged that participating in the job market after so long out of it is intimidating, and feels a little less than sincere.
“The only time the broker sees me is when I’m looking for a new job,” one captain said.
One long-term captain admitted that he’s afraid to simply quit, and he’s cautious to look for work while he’s still employed.
“As a professional captain, you know what you’re up against,” another captain said. “Just go for it. Brokers will put you up. It makes them look like a star if they can offer their guy a good captain. They’re the hero.
“There are still jobs out there,” this captain said. “But because of guys like you, the musical chair game has come to a screeching halt. Sometimes, you’ve got to bite the bullet and make a move.”
“Your next job could come in five days, but it could come in five months,” another captain said. “The thinner the checkbook gets, the more apt you are to take a job that doesn’t fit.”
So when moving, how important is the reputation of the owner?
“You absolutely have to know the reputation of the owner,” one captain said. “You’re doing him a disservice by not interviewing him. I won’t even get on the phone with an owner without knowing the whole story. I talk to the broker, the previous captain. Every situation is so different.”
So what will you consider most in your next job?
“It’s always about the owner,” one captain said. “When I’m 62, I want a nice 100-footer to look after so I can go home at night. But for now, I want to go further in my career. When I look back, I don’t just want to have been paid well.”
“As you get into bigger boats, you get removed from all that,” another captain said of relationships with owners of the largest yachts. “It’s a lot less about the owner and the program.”
“I want bigger,” said a third. “It’s something I want to experience before the end of my career. The owner and the program is the crux of what it’s about.”
But the captains all agreed that reputation is really what it’s all about. And those captains with solid reputations will find work, and even work they want.
“It always works out; don’t be afraid,” one captain said. “If you’re unemployed for six or eight months, you’re freelancing all that time, meeting people. Just do it. The main thing about reputation is your boat. Your boat is your resume.”