Q: JS, South Africa:
I'm considering going through the required training to become a Stewardess. I believe I have the skills and personality to be a really good stewardess, but I'm 34 years old, and I know that realistically age is a factor in this industry.
I have high-end hospitality experience and I'm confident that I would make a great impression in an interview, but I'm worried that I might never get that far due to my age. Based on your experience of the industry, do you think I would stand a chance against all the other first-timers who are 10 years younger than I am?
A: The Crew Coach:
I am so pleased that you asked this question, for age is something that often holds people back from following their dreams of getting into yachting, and I really wish it wouldn’t. The short answer is, yes, you definitely stand a chance—a good chance—and there are ways to increase your chance of success.
I would of course love to say that age doesn’t matter (unless you’re a fine wine), but you’ve obviously done your research about the yachting industry, and want some honest answers.
It’s true, age is a factor, but so are a lot of other things, and I can tell you from personal experience that a good attitude and enthusiastic energy trumps age every time.
I personally got into yachting at 28, and in my work as a career coach I’ve helped many others in their 30s enter the yachting industry. I can say with complete certainty that it can be done. And you appear to have all the right attributes to succeed in yachting, including the good sense to do your research beforehand!
There are lots of reasons to expect that you will find a job as a stewardess. As the industry has become more professional over the years I’ve seen a trend towards hiring more mature crew with life experience. Think of it from a captain’s perspective; he or she is probably in their 40’s, and has the choice of hiring a 20 year old who has probably just left home and has little to no high end hospitality experience, or someone with years of experience and a steady knowledge of themselves and where they want to be.
For the right kind of yacht, your age makes you a good proposition.
What’s the right kind of yacht? To start with it’s fairly unlikely that you’ll be put forward for a junior stew role on a large motoryacht, as these yachts do tend to hire young stews and train them up (there are exceptions though so certainly don’t rule them out). I think it’s much more likely that you’ll find a job on a smaller yacht, perhaps with one or two other stews, or even a sole stew position. Sailing yachts are also excellent propositions for more mature crew where sailing knowledge and life experience is more imprtant than pure youth.
So, how do you maximise your chances?
1. First you'll need to do all the required basic courses and get yourself to a yachting hub; no-one will take your dream seriously until you are qualified and present. You could find it very valuable to invest in the entry level GUEST qualification - this will also show people you are really serious about making this career move.
2. Once you've arrived, get networking. Make a big effort to meet people and make a good impression. This is crucial for everyone starting out, but for you personal recommendations are essential to overcome the perceived ‘age barrier’.
3. Make it clear that you are very happy to start at the bottom and work your way up. Captains sometimes worry that older crew will not be as easy to train, or will consider themselves above certain tasks. Communicate that you are good at taking orders from those younger than you, as your chief stew could be in their 20s. Put yourself across as someone who is easy to train and takes direction well, and make sure these attributes shine on your CV (with examples if possible).
4. Ensure people know you are physically up to the job; this can be another hiring concern as stewardessing is very physical and requires people to have abundant energy.
5. Have your CV optimized to conform with yachting standards and to make sure all the correct skills and strengths are brought to the fore. Your life experience is valuable but it must be presented in the right way or it might seem irrelevant. This is something we can help you with of course, see here for more information.
6. Invest in having a strategy session to create a plan for exactly when, where and how best to go about your job hunt – you could very easily waste a lot of time and money and damage your chances without this invaluable inside industry information.
7. Above all, you must make it extremely clear to crew agents and captains that you want to move into yachting as a serious career move. This could be the greatest obstacle in your path at your age: captains might be concerned that you won’t stick around for very long, which would make it a waste of their time in hiring and training you. Explain and emphasise your yachting career goals and enthusiasm for making this career change.
Communicate your passion and dedication and you will succeed. There is a yacht out there for you. Best of luck to you and let us know how you get on!
Anyone out there with tips on how older crew can get their first break? What are your arguments for and against hiring older crew?