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Stew Cues: First challenge is to craft a catchy CV, resume

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Stew Cues: by Alene Keenan

As a newbie yachtie, the CV/resume is one of the first obstacles to conquer. It is a tool to communicate personal and professional information to potential employers and convince them that an applicant can fill their need.

There are usually several applicants for each job, so a CV/resume must make a good first impression. Layout, spelling, grammar and punctuation are important. If there are 10 applicants for a position, hiring agents want to get down to a shortlist to decide who to interview. Which applicants stand out, why they want the job, and their abilities, qualities, and achievements as they pertain to the position must be clear.

The layout of a yachting CV/resume is different from that of a standard resume. It typically includes a personal information section, an objective, a qualifications list, a skills list, a photo  and a section that tells how the candidate fits into the industry.

An appropriate photo makes the first impression. Gavin McMichael, photographer and founder of Super Yacht Resume in Fort Lauderdale, works hard to help crew match the industry’s standards and image. He suggests updating the typical head and shoulders photo of an applicant in a white polo shirt. To avoid a washed-out look, wear a flattering color. No sunglasses, no bar scenes, no glamour shots, no bikini tops or revealing clothing. Smile, stand up straight and look confident. Natural light is best, and early morning or late afternoon are the optimal times. Photos taken from the waist up allow more editing. For women, hair pulled back tightly is not always flattering. Aim for a “business dinner” style. Consider the background to avoid the palm-frond-headdress or piling-growing-out-of-the-head look.

The personal information section includes name, contact, passport and visa information, and date of birth. Passport is important because of U.S. or non-U.S.  flag state registration requirements. No physical address is needed. True non-smokers and those who are tattoo-free may opt to note that.

Beginning crew tend to make the objective too general. McMichael suggests that being more specific proves that a candidate has researched the demographics of the industry and learned some of the pros and cons of different sized yachts. Concentrate on a size category that acclimates crew to the industry and has the flexibility to provide cross-training. The biggest boat might not be the best. Being at anchor in a single role with strict rules for months on end may not be what you were expecting.

Qualifications and skills are two separate sections. Qualifications include job history, certifications and licenses recognized within the industry, as well as specialized training such as flower arranging, wine service, and bartending courses.

Skills are tasks done well. Most beginners have similar skill levels. Interior department crew need skills related to hospitality, food service, wine and bartending, housekeeping, and laundry. McMichael stresses that other experiences – such as working at a fuel dock, maintaining landscaping tools, or a family history of boating – matter too, for all departments. Skills come from repeatedly performing tasks. They build over time and are transferable. Yacht crew quickly become skilled in performing an array of repetitive tasks and will be taught to perform them in a certain way.

An “About Me” section is a chance to differentiate oneself from the rest of the pack. Qualities, abilities, and achievements give an idea of personality traits and values. As McMichael says, the roommate factor is important in the hiring decision to determine whether an applicant will fit in with the present crew. It’s also handy to use as an elevator speech for networking events, or in an interview when “Tell me a little bit about yourself” comes up.

Next, list work experience in reverse order. Include company name and location, job title, precise dates of employment and a concise list of duties. As McMichael stresses, do not leave jobs out, they all matter. If there is a gap in job history, employers will not give the benefit of the doubt. A continuous job history is important.

Finally, most hiring managers will not consider an applicant without references. List three reliable contacts or former supervisors who will describe positive attributes, job performance and details about character. Always ask permission before providing their information. Don’t let them be caught off guard.

A good CV/resume illustrates why a candidate is the best fit for a job. One that shows candidates in the best possible light includes not only skills, but additional responsibilities and promotions. When and how employers trust and develop candidates is relevant.  As job seekers gain experience, skills are taken for granted, and longevity and a vertical career path gain importance.

Alene Keenan is former lead instructor of interior courses at Maritime Professional Training in Fort Lauderdale. She shares more than 20 years experience as a stew in her book, “The Yacht Guru’s Bible: The Service Manual for Every Yacht,” available at yachtstewsolutions.com. Comments are welcome below.

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