September is upon us and the two biggest autumn boat shows in the Med are about to unfold, with Cannes this week and Monaco at the end of the month. If you’re looking for work, it’s tempting to think a boat show is the place to be, but if you’re not careful in this minefield of industry etiquette you can easily do more damage than good when it comes to improving your job prospects.
On the surface it seems like a no brainer to job hunt at a boat show - you’ve got all the right ingredients: hundreds of lovely big boats, loads of industry boffins, and captive crew standing at the end of passerelles just waiting to talk to people… but all is not quite as it seems. If you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot, keep the following in mind, before stuffing your backpack full of CVs and charging off down those docks like they rolled out the red show carpets just for you.
1. You are the least important person there. Harsh?! It’s true. These shows cost a lot of money to participate in, and people are keenly focused on being there for just two reasons: 1. to sell yachts, and 2. to promote their companies. Anything else is at best a distraction and at worst a distinct annoyance, and in this high pressure environment, humble crew looking for work simply rank way down the pecking order.
2. Those crew might be captive at the end of the passerelle but they won’t thank you for stopping to talk to them. They can’t take your CV because they can’t stand there holding it, and they can’t leave their post because they could get in trouble. They are standing there for one reason only – to keep the wrong people out and impress the right people with 100% immaculate greetings. In the time it takes for you to distract them, an unauthorized person could walk up the passerelle – or they could miss greeting a VVIP arriving on the arm of a very irritated broker. Think twice about doing this – you are not going to make a great impression if you make them look bad.
3. These yachts are for sale. I know I already mentioned that, but think about it – if the yacht sells, the crew might be out of a job. Sure, some new owners retain the existing crew, but just as many will bring their own preferred Captain, who will often bring their own preferred crew with them too. So the job prospects onboard a yacht that is heavily for sale are not so hot when you look at it that way. The next time you see that person you just tried to give your CV to could be in a crew agent’s waiting room, doing the rounds with everyone else.
4. You’ll be lost in the noise. Boat shows are mentally busy for everyone involved and the amount of paperwork and people that pass through these boats in those few short days is absolutely phenomenal. Literally hundreds of suppliers are out there pounding the docks ahead of you, dropping off flyers, magazines, brochures and business cards like their lives depend on it. You know what happens to most of that stuff? It goes in the bin. I know, it’s horrendous and it still breaks my heart to see so many forests worth of trees go to waste in this vain endeavour – but the fact is you’re just another face in a mad sea of people passing through and your CV is just one more piece of paper that is probably going to end up with all that other bumpf in the boat show recycle bins at the end of the day.
5. Use parties to network, but know where to draw the line. There’s a lot of free booze floating around at boat shows – and a lot of opportunities to shoot the breeze with people after hours. In fairness this is probably your best chance of actually connecting with people and it’s not a bad idea to show your face at these events and try to build your industry connections. But be warned, the boat show party scene is fraught with potential danger. Never forget that eyes are on you everywhere, and you’re most at risk during those times you think everyone around you is so hammered they won’t notice you are too. Yachting’s law says the only sober person there is bound to be the one you go for an interview with next week… and believe me, if you were really knocking it out of the park, they will certainly remember you… but unfortunately, not in a good way.
So, just because you Cannes, doesn’t mean you should…. (sorry, couldn’t help myself). Good luck and enjoy the shows for the entertainment they are – but remember you are playing the part of an extra rather than a lead role in these big productions. Have fun, meet people and enjoy - but keep your job hunting efforts informal, subtle and to a minimum. Good luck, and as they say in show business, break a leg!
Alison Rentoul is ex yacht crew with 15 years of yachting experience, and a professionally trained personal development coach working with crew worldwide, helping them realise their highest potential at every level. See www.thecrewcoach.com for more information.