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The Crew Coach: Three Reasons People Get Passed Over for Promotion

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Q: James, Bosun:

"I recently got passed over for promotion, and I genuinely don’t understand why. I’ve done my courses and I’ve got experience, yet when the Chief Officer position came up on our boat recently, they hired someone in. When I went to the Captain and asked why I didn’t get the job, he just looked uncomfortable and said that he didn’t think I was quite ready yet. This happened on my last boat too. What am I doing wrong?"

A: The Crew Coach:

Being turned down for promotion is difficult, especially when you work hard, you have the necessary qualifications, and you believe that it’s high time for a new stripe on your epaulets. So why hasn’t it happened yet? And how can you make sure that your goal of promotion is reached?

People often make some basic errors when aiming for promotion, so just check that you’re not falling into these common traps.

1. You spend all your time trying to impress the Captain, and in doing so you upset the rest of the crew

Yes, it makes good sense to get along well with the Captain, and for the Captain to respect and admire your hard work and ambition. So far, so good; this is a vital step in your track to promotion. But be careful that you’re not ‘sucking up’ to the Captain, for the other crew will definitely not respect that. Above all, do not become the crew ‘tattle tale’, throwing others under the bus to ingratiate yourself with the Captain and get ahead. If you are good at your job, there’s no need to do any of these things.

Never forget that your crew have a choice when you finally get that promotion: they can either support you and happily support your newfound authority, or quietly undermine you and begrudge you your success. On a yacht where you all live together, being the boss of people that don’t like you is a lonely feeling indeed. Also, don’t forget that the Captain is bound to consider how well you get along with the crew as part of the decision making process on who to promote.

2. You’re so desperate to show off what you can in your next role, that you neglect your current one

Take the example of a third stew going for second. She’s come up with a great new uniform inventory system in order to impress the chief stew, but has spent so much time on it that the cabins aren’t detailed to her usual excellent standard before charter.

There’s also the risk of over-stepping your authority and offending your Head of Department or unsettling the whole team. This can also have awful consequences, like a second engineer deciding to fix a complex bit of machinery on his own rather than calling for the Chief, in a bid to prove their competency. Breaking a superyacht by showing off is not generally the path to promotion. Don’t be so desperate to move up that you stop doing your current job properly; being a sure pair of hands that everyone can count on is a far safer path to promotion.

3. You’re not asking for promotion

I learnt this lesson myself, rather painfully, many years ago when I was a junior freelance copywriter working in a big ad agency. A permanent position came up and I was so confident I was going to get the job I didn’t even bother going to see the Creative Director about it. (Cringe). Needless to say, they hired someone else, and when I asked why I didn’t get it the Creative Director simply said: “You didn’t ask!” I was so mortified I left soon afterwards.

The fact is, in life – if you don’t ask, you don’t get. You absolutely can’t assume your superiors know about your ambitions. Don’t worry, you don’t have to put them on the spot and directly ask for a promotion if that’s not your style, and bear in mind that the strong and direct approach can also be too confronting. Most people don’t like being put on the spot for a request they weren’t expecting (and might not want to grant), so lay the groundwork first.

There are un-pushy ways to let your superiors know that you’re up for more responsibility. Mention to your Chief Officer and Captain that you’d like some more mentoring as you would like to move up one day. This doesn’t threaten their job in the short-term, and good leaders like to share knowledge and train their team well. Tell your Captain when you interview that you want a career in yachting, and when you’ve been on board a good amount of time and proven your worth in your current role, let them know that you would like to be considered for a more senior position if one came up, and if they think you are ready. This gives them plenty of time to plan and consider your suitability and offer you help along the way. If you are sufficiently qualified, work hard, treat others well and let it be known you’re interested in promotion, then your move up the yachting ladder will be a successful one. Good luck!

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