Be an Attention Seeker! Making your CV work for you.Written by Erica Lay for Dockwalk Magazine
With the Med summer season looming, crew agencies are already gearing up in preparation for the onslaught of new crew registrations, profile re-activations and hopefully lots of new job orders.
So far so good, the jobs seem to be coming in earlier than usual and in their masses too; after last year we all know that the competition for positions was fierce, so how are you going to prepare yourself for this season?
Let´s consider your CV. Last year saw many crew registering for the first time with agencies – not just new crew, but highly experienced crew, who´d never found themselves unable 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 stuff you´ve done – your CV is your key to beating the other candidates, so think of it as a form of self-marketing. Don´t be modest. Sell, sell, sell!
Imagine; you´re the Captain who is actively seeking a new crew member. You´ve contacted a couple of agencies, as well as 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… plus the stack from the dockwalkers to go through. What would catch your eye? What would make you want to read or trash that document? First impressions last – so how do you make those impressions the best they can be? There´s actually a whole psychology about how people perceive a CV, so let´s consider how we can make your CV better than everyone else´s and get you off the docks and back in employment.
Before reading a whole document, most people will scan over it first, and (bizarrely) they´ll do this from the top left corner, diagonally down to the bottom right. You have a few seconds to grab them, if nothing in that preliminary scan catches their interest, then you´ve lost them.
A simple head and shoulders shot in crew uniform, maybe on deck or in a marina with yachts in the background, bright and cheery. Not a cropped shot of you in a bar with your mates with a random arm round your shoulder (or better still – a mojito in shot), and please, not a photo you´ve taken yourself as we can tell. Really, we can… Take out any facial piercings, don´t wear sunglasses or hats either as they really defeat the object. And don´t be afraid to smile, people are not attracted to CVs with photos of frowners, or 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´s reached your name.
Put your name in big letters, if you like 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. List your important personal info next: date of birth, nationality, contact info etc. Make sure you put country codes on your phone numbers, there´s nothing more frustrating than trying to call someone and getting someone on the wrong continent at 2am local time. Also mention if you have a visa (Schengen or B1B2 etc), if you have dual nationality or two passports (legal ones only please), language skills, health, and hopefully that you´re a non-smoker. And don´t fib about the smoking either as your references might well let the cat out of the bag.
Write a brief profile or objective
Just a paragraph, 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 too relevant for engineers although everyone does love a multi-tasker).
Start with one line showing date, vessel name, type and size and your job title in bold, then beneath a few lines about your duties and responsibilities. Using bold allows the scanning reader to see the important info first.
List at least two or three email addresses and phone numbers for people who can be contacted, make sure you ask them first for permission, 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, don´t go any smaller than 10 or you´ll give the reader a headache. As a rule you shouldn´t use more than 2 different font types in one document.
If you want to use colour keep it simple, highlight certain words (i.e. section headings) in one colour. Don´t make it nauseating though, sickly greens or washy oranges don´t work; similarly red can be seen as aggressive.
So that´s the basic outline for a CV. It´s as simple as that, keep it to two pages, if you really need to then put your references on a third page. Imagine you´re that Captain; with all those CVs to get through are you going to start on the five page novel or are you going to leave that one and pick up the one with clear and concise info and a smiling picture on it?
Often it´s hard to see the wood for the trees when you´re writing your 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 either. Or ask a crew agent to cast their eye over it and offer a few ideas. Sometimes something that´s obvious to you might not be to the reader, so you might need to elaborate on some points or omit other things that perhaps aren´t so relevant to the yachting industry or to the job you´re applying for.
Another consideration; if you´re going for different jobs, don´t be afraid to have different CVs. For example if you´re looking for cooking or stewardessing roles, you can always tailor your CV to fit the job you´re applying for. Deck-wise you could have a CV tailored more towards motor yachts and one for sail yachts, or you could have one CV for Captain positions and another for Mate positions. You don´t have to try and squeeze it all in to fit on one doc, you can have two. Having it all on one document might scare off potential employers too, say 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 have a one page CV for handing out on the docks listing the most relevant points, or get business cards printed showing the essentials; photo, name, contact info, and skills or qualifications.
Once you´ve got 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 won´t take long, and just think how frustrated you´d be if you didn´t and you missed out on that world cruising exploration vessel with the super cool owners who pay amazingly...
Speaking of agents, when it comes to checking in with them, make sure you communicate any changes or updates and you´ll build a better relationship with them. Update your online profiles and/or email them with new CVs, new certificates or references, keep in touch and let them know if you see jobs you´d like to apply for on their internet sites. It´s a two way thing, keeping in touch with your agent lets them know you are still available – or not!
Good luck, and happy job hunting.