Work ethic can change lives

Jan 17, 2015 by Rob Gannon

I’ve read and overheard a lot over the past few years about the work ethic of new — and even some not-so-new — crew in the yachting industry. It sure sounds like some captains and agencies are not real impressed. I won’t generalize here and lump a whole generation into the entitled category, but let’s just say some  individuals carry a stronger work ethic than others.

So heads up everybody; an experienced interviewer/evaluator can spot a strong work ethic a mile away.

A recent coaching client, we’ll call her Kim, came to the yachting industry later in life than most. She had already had a career, mostly running her own businesses, and had culinary training. She came to me concerned about entering this industry a good 25 years older than most who were seeking similar positions.

We talked a good deal about her background, both professional and family. I recognized many fine qualities. One of the big ones that shined brightly was her work ethic. Raised by a single mom, they were of simple means. Kim had to go to work earlier than many of us. (Well, earlier than me, I can tell you that.)

Right from the start, she learned that if she wanted to build a better life, she had to work hard and do good work. From a cleaning business and then a restaurant, she developed work discipline and attention to detail. She had some boating experience but no experience working in a yacht.

In our coaching sessions, we focused on what she had to offer, not on her lack of experience or lack of anything. I told her several times, “You have desire, emotional maturity, cooking skills and a great work ethic. Some smart person is going to recognize this and give you a shot.”

It took a little over a month for that smart person to appear. She got an interview with the owners of a high-end private yacht. She nailed it. They saw her qualities and hired her as their personal chef.

I tell her story for a couple of reasons. First, if you are older and trying to break into the industry, if you have related skills, desire and a strong work ethic, go for it. You bring a valuable set of skills, both from work and life. Highlight them and keep moving forward. The right yacht is out there for talented and focused more-mature crew.

The other reason I recount Kim’s story is to remind younger crew to touch base with your own work ethic. Can and will you go the extra yard? How much attention do you pay to details? If you get a shot on a yacht, take the time to notice how the veterans onboard operate. Do they have a healthy work ethic? If they do, learn from them, model them, and raise your game. Earn a reputation as someone with a good work ethic.

“You don’t have to have everything by the time you’re 30, or 40,” says writer Candace Bushnell. “All you need is a work ethic. It’s what allows you to push through moments of disappointment and self-doubt and fear.”

This issue of age, work ethic and yacht crew made me think about the makeup of crews. When I ran yachts, I always preferred a mix of older, more experienced crew with younger crew if — and it’s a big if — the older crew were not afraid of being replaced and the younger crew were respectful and wanted to learn. That’s when you can have a healthy exchange between the age groups and develop a crew built around respect, trust and an understanding of the bigger picture, the mission of the yacht.

I welcome comments from captains or anyone with good experiences with this kind of mix. I’m always interested in what makes it all work. I’d like to stay on the positive side there as I understand pretty well what makes it all not work.

I’m going to wrap up with another quote: “You have to have a work ethic and you have to be educated in what you’re doing,” singer and songwriter Jakob Dylan sid. “You have to take it seriously. It doesn’t mean that everything you do has to be serious. But you’ve got to have the tools.”

Enjoy the voyage.

Rob Gannon is a 25-year licensed captain and certified life and wellness coach. He offers free sample coaching sessions and can be reached at Comments are welcome at