Well the Med season is already under way! New crew are arriving in their hundreds to the top locations: Antibes in France and Palma in Spain, hitting the docks and armed with CVs.
The jobs are out there for the taking with many new and old clients returning to their agents of choice. Last year the competition was fierce so you need to make sure you´re well prepared.
Let´s consider your CV. Last year saw many crew registering with agencies for the first time – not just new crew, but highly experienced crew, who´d never found it difficult to pick up work before. It was a shock to the system for many senior crew, and even more so when they discovered just how much competition they would encounter. The CV really is a vital tool in the employment process, with more emphasis on this little document now than ever before. It´s not just a list of things you´ve done – your CV is your first point of contact, so think of it as an important piece of self-marketing. Don´t be modest; this is your chance to shine!
Imagine you are a captain who is actively seeking a new crew member. You´ve contacted a couple of agencies, and had your team collect CVs from the multitude of daily dockwalkers. You set aside an afternoon to go through them all; you open your inbox to find you have seventeen CVs for candidates who all fit the bill… not to mention the twenty handed in during the day. What would catch your eye? What would make you want to read or bin that document? The psychology of reading is well established. For example, before reading a document, most people quickly scan over it first, usually diagonally from the top left to the bottom right. You have only a few seconds to grab their attention, so if nothing in that preliminary scan catches their interest, then you´ve lost them.
So let´s consider how we can make your CV better than everyone else´s and get you off the docks and back into employment.
The best option is a simple head-and-shoulders shot in crew uniform, on deck or in a marina with yachts in the background, bright and cheery. Avoid cropped shots of you in a bar with your mates, with a random arm round your shoulder and please don’t use a photo you've taken yourself – they are rarely good and sometimes even a little freaky! Remove any facial piercings, and don´t wear sunglasses or hats as employers want to see your face. Unlike passport photos, don´t be afraid to smile! People tend not to be attracted to CVs with photos of frowners or shameless pouters. A picture really does paint a thousand words, so make sure it´s a nice photo or you´ll be in the bin before the reader has reached your name.
Put your name in big letters and, if you want, you can put your job title or qualification slightly smaller beneath that (e.g. JOHN SMITH Master 500gt). Don´t write “Curriculam Vitae” at the top, it´s pretty obvious already and detracts from your name.
Next, list important personal information: date of birth, nationality, contact information etc. Make sure you put country codes on your phone numbers, as there´s nothing more frustrating than trying to call and getting someone on the wrong continent at 2 a.m. local time.
Mention if you have a visa (Schengen or B1B2 etc), if you have dual nationality or two passports (legal ones only please), language skills, state of health, and hopefully that you´re a non-smoker. It’s best to be honest here as references might let the cat out of the bag.
WRITE A BRIEF PROFILE OR OBJECTIVE
Write a paragraph, just a brief summary of what you´re seeking and why. Keep it realistic. Even if you do really want to be an astronaut, that´s lovely but don´t mention it here – just something achievable in the next few years.
List your most relevant certificates, starting with the highest. Don´t worry about school education as it´s not particularly relevant, but mention if you have a degree or any courses relevant to yachting, e.g. hairdressing, or massage for stewardesses (probably not relevant for engineers although everyone does love a multi-tasker).
Start with one line showing the date, vessel name, type and size, and your job title in bold. Beneath that, include a few lines about your duties and responsibilities. Using bold allows the reader to scan the important information first.
List at least two or three email addresses and phone numbers for people who can be contacted, but make sure you ask them for permission first, and make sure they like you...
Choose a professional-looking font. That means something modern and simple to read like Calibri or Verdana, or if you´re seeking a more classic look try Cambria. Don’t use bubbly letters, italic script, or anything hard to read, as your CV will go straight into the bin. Times New Roman is a bit old hat now too, and Comic for a CV is never a good option. Ever. Font size 11 is good, and don´t go any smaller than 10 or you´ll give the reader a headache. As a general rule you shouldn´t use more than two different font types in one document.
If you want to use colour keep it simple, highlighting certain words (eg. section headings) in one colour. Choose your colours carefully: sickly greens don´t work and red can be seen as aggressive.
Try to limit your whole CV to two pages. If you really need to, you can include references on a third page. Again, imagine you´re that captain, with all those CVs to get through you are more likely to pick up the one with clear and concise information and a smiling face.
Often it´s hard to see the wood for the trees when you´re writing your own CV. Squeezing your whole life´s work and achievements into two pages is challenging to say the least, so ask a friend to have a read through and make suggestions. Don´t be offended. Or ask a crew agent to cast their eye over it and offer a few ideas. Sometimes something that is obvious to you may not be clear to the reader, so you might need to reword things, elaborate on some points and omit others that may not be strictly relevant to the yachting industry or the particular job you´re applying for.
Another consideration: if you´re going for different jobs, don´t be afraid to have different versions of your CV. For example, if you´re looking for cooking or stewardess roles, you can tailor your CV to fit the job you´re applying for. Deck-wise you could have one CV tailored more towards motor yachts and one for sailing yachts, or you could have one CV for captain positions and another for mate positions. Sometimes having everything on one document might scare off potential employers too. If you´re applying for a stewardess role but your CV says you´re also looking for a chief stew role, you might come across as over qualified.
You could also consider a one-page CV for handing out on the docks, listing the most relevant points. Or you could get business cards printed showing the essentials; photo, name, contact info, skills or qualifications.
Once you have your CV in order, make sure you keep it up-to-date. If you drop your phone overboard then please let your crew agents know you´ve got a new phone number by updating it on your CV, and on your online profile (if you have one). It doesn’t take long, and just think how frustrated you´d be if you didn´t and you missed out on that world exploration vessel or the expedition of a lifetime...
Make sure you communicate any changes or updates with your crew agents and you´ll build a better relationship with them. Keep in touch – it’s a two way thing and keeping in touch with your agent lets them know you are still available – or not!
Good luck and happy job hunting.
Erica Lay is the founder of Erica Lay Crew Company, which launched in January. She has worked in international yacht crew recruitment since 2007. She has developed her own unique way of sourcing and interviewing yacht crew with great success. Having managed two international crew recruitment offices she brings a wealth of ideas and experience with her and has always strived to provide the most professional service to her yacht clients. Erica has worked with some of the largest and most prestigious yachts in the world; not that size matters… She thrives on the challenges involved in sourcing crew for all yachts large and small, and treats every single client´s crewing requirements as an individual project. Erica has a vast network throughout the yachting industry and is known internationally as the person to speak to regarding working on yachts - be it your first yacht job, or your twentieth year in the yacht industry. She loves the recruitment side of the yachting industry, that´s why in 2013 she decided to take the next step and launch her own international yacht crew agency.