Question: Steve, 26, Bosun:
“I just joined a yacht in my first job as Bosun a few weeks ago, yet I already know it’s not the right job for me. I was told it was going to be a busy charter boat, but it’s actually now going to be private, and we are not going to be doing as much travelling as they told me we would. I am really disappointed because I feel like I’ve been sold short – but at the same time I don’t want to do the wrong thing by them and leave just as the season is about to start. I put feelers out with a couple of people and have had job offers coming in, but they are for deck not Bosun roles and I feel like I need a good reference from this boat to get another Bosun position. But I’m guessing the Captain is not likely to give me one if I quit now!”
Answer: Alison, The Crew Coach:
That sounds like a complicated situation. Nobody likes turning up for a job only to find out it’s not what they signed up for! On the face of it, it seems simple: you’ve got other job offers, so you don’t really need a reference in order to get another position. But as you say, it’s not great to leave on bad terms and if you leave after a few weeks, it can be hard to explain such a short stint on your CV – or the gap, if you leave it off. And as you say, burning bridges is not good either – it’s also never a good idea to leave a boat on bad terms if you can help it! The yachting industry is small and very closely connected, so you do need to think carefully about this because it could come back to bite you later on down the track.
From your question it sounds like you’ve made up your mind that you want to leave, but I’m wondering if you have considered the option of staying onboard to see out the season? Despite being disappointed at the yacht’s change of program, it could be a good career move to really establish your credentials as a Bosun for the season and then if you are still unhappy with the yacht’s program and itinerary you might leave to seek a more challenging role for the next season. It’s definitely worth doing a ‘pros and cons’ list to see whether actually things might pan out just as well if not better by sticking it out for the time being.
If you do decide you really want to leave though, it’s worth having a good honest chat with the Captain, explaining that the job isn’t what was originally described, and that you can’t see a lot of career progression for you onboard in the long-term. Explain that you don’t want to let him and the crew down and would therefore like to stay as long as you can until they’ve found a replacement. A lot of how this pans out probably depends on the way you explain the situation to him. Make sure you don’t accuse him in any way of misleading you about the original job role, and be careful to stress that you really don’t want to let him down now or in the future.
If you play your cards right he may say yes to giving you a reference. Of course he may still say no, but at least you will have tried to do the right thing by the boat. The worst case scenario is the Captain may decide to replace you immediately – in which you are not really stuck because you could take up one of the other offers you mentioned.
If you don’t get a reference and your total time onboard is only about a month, I would consider not even mentioning the yacht on your CV at all. It’s such a short period of time that it won’t make any remarkable difference to your future job prospects, and the Captain’s refusal to give you reference would only count against you if people contacted him. Sometimes you really do have to cut your losses and accept that you’ll find another opportunity in future to progress your career.
One positive thing is that at this time of year I’m sure you can be replaced quite easily, as there would be plenty of hopeful deckhands wanting to progress to Bosun on a yacht like yours – so your Captain might not be too worried about losing you. As long as you explain the situation to the Captain in a calm and mature manner, hopefully you’ll get your reference – and a great new Bosun role on a yacht with a program that does fit what you are hoping for.