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The Crew Coach: How to Leave a Boat on Good Terms

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Q: Todd, Bosun:

"I’ve been on my boat three months now and it’s not working out for several reasons. I have another brilliant opportunity elsewhere that I just can’t say no to. I’ve made my decision to quit, but this Captain is notorious for taking resignations badly. Any advice on how to go about it?"



A: The Crew Coach:

What a useful question! Yes, there are definitely ways in which you can minimise the fallout and have a professional and respectful exit off the passerelle. In order to know how to go about resigning from a yacht job, I think it’s important to start with why Captains often react so badly to crew quitting.

Understandably, you’re excited about your new opportunity and you feel like you have to put yourself first in life to make the best of your career. But let’s think about that Captain for a moment, who is not only thinking about him or herself, but also the rest of the crew, the safe and efficient running of the yacht, and, crucially, the yacht’s owners.

Ask any Captain and they’ll say crew turnover is one of their greatest headaches — hiring and training crew only to lose them is both expensive and deeply frustrating. Bear in mind they’re also worried the boss really doesn’t like crew changes, and on a personal note, they will worry that it reflects on their leadership. Put yourself in their shoes, and then decide your strategy to quit.

Last but not least, never forget the value of a good reference! As part of our CV service I often come across crew who can’t list their previous Captain as a reference because they left under a cloud and this can be very tricky to explain to people, especially if it is your fault. It’s worth doing the right thing by your Captain and fellow crew just for this reason alone.

Here are some basic guidelines on how to resign a yacht job gracefully… these should help you form a strategy that’s right for you.

* Just remember the key word: respect. Even if you don’t particularly respect your current Captain as an individual, respect their position.

* Find a time to tell them when they will have a chance to cool down. If you don’t have guests onboard, Friday afternoon is good; if on charter, make sure you avoid high-stress times and think about whether you can actually wait until after the guests have left as it will make things a lot less stressful all round.

* Don’t cut and run at a bad time for the yacht program, i.e. you are just about to receive guests, or are about to leave on a crossing or a trip somewhere. It’s very unprofessional and the Captain will be justifiably angry. This time of year is fairly safe as the season is drawing to a close, but each yacht is different so bear in mind they may still need your help to get to the shipyard or for one last guest trip.

* Be prepared to work out your notice. If for some reason you absolutely can’t, make it very clear to them that you understand how unprofessional you are being and explain your (very good reasons) for asking them to make an exception in this instance.

* Be prepared for them being a little annoyed, even if you are choosing ‘a good time’ to resign. Don’t get defensive; take it as a compliment- their frustration shows that they considered you important to the running of that yacht.

* Thank them for all that they have done for you. Even if you are leaving because of them, they gave you an opportunity in life – this position has earned you money and all jobs teach us something. Make it clear that you have respect for them.

* Don’t start slacking and just leaving unpleasant jobs for the next person, or visibly losing enthusiasm during your notice period. Even if the Captain wasn’t angry at you before, EVERYONE will be annoyed at you by the time you leave if you don’t pull your weight right up until your last day. (Don’t forget their opinion about you matters too – it can easily impact your industry reputation).

* Don’t try to convince others to quit with you. The Captain can manage to replace you, but he or she will be in real difficulty if a few of you leave at once. Allow everyone to make their own decisions: concentrate on your own situation and then you can’t be held to blame if others decide to leave with you.

* If possible (and you say you have, which is great) do try to have another job organised before resigning, and talk to a career coach or crew agent beforehand about your options and the pros and cons of resigning.

We all have to make tough decisions; just make sure you are aware of how your actions impact on others and behave respectfully.

Good luck and let me know how you get on. What do you think? Feel free to post your comments below.

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