Many seafarers eventually look to “swallow the anchor” and have a career ashore. For some having seafaring experience is a real plus, for others it seems to actually hinder them as they can be misunderstood. We look at the power of experience when it comes to developing a career ashore.
There should be no such thing as bad experience, much like publicity, the more you have the better able you are to deal with whatever life…and a job can throw at you. But does this maxim apply when it comes to seafarers shifting ashore?
According to industry data, around 90% of seafarers will move ashore at some point in their careers. Some may leave the industry completely – but most stick around in shipping, but are they making the most of the skills which they have honed and the training they received onboard?
For some the transition is easier than for others – naturally engineers are more easily able to shift their career ashore then deckies. The demands for people to fix things are more apparent ashore than the need to navigate! Which is a shame, but it is a fact.
Shifting to shore side employment is therefore straightforward for some, but a real challenge for others.
“It seems that experience at sea can help, but it needs to be the right experience.”
There is a problem when it comes to recruitment, and that is that some (most) recruiters cannot really understand what it means to have been at sea. Sure there are some who have been there themselves, but for others – the whole institutionalised nature can make them question whether seafarers can adapt to an office ashore.
Now of course there are issues with transitioning – the reality of life at sea is hard, but there are plusses too. There is often tax free salaries, and there time off far outstrips anything ashore.
So seafarers need to be aware of not just the working challenges, but the cultural ones too. By being open with employers or recruiters, by telling them you appreciate what it is like working and having a career ashore, then this can put them at ease.
For those at sea who have a real career plan, and one that does include shifting ashore – it can be beneficial to try and secure some time gaining some experience in the shipping company office ashore. Yes, it can be a pain to sacrifice vacation time, but it can really bring dividends in the long run. A resume/CV which shows some experience in an office environment will really be a boon when the job search starts.
Play to your strengths: The strengths needed to be a seafarer are not always those which shine in a shore role. But you should not downplay the resilience, independence, focus and strength which comes from being at sea. It is about finding how best to apply them ashore. The ability to connect with people of different backgrounds, to understand complex safety or security issues, or even as simple as being punctual and focused. These are all real strengths which increasingly those ashore may lack.
Not all plain sailing: Seafarers go to sea for a host of reasons, some for adventure, for a challenge, for money or time off. When deciding to move ashore there can be many and varied motives behind the move. However, all too often it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that life and working ashore will be so much easier than at sea.
Yes, some parts will be easier – but knowing the flow into a job, and the challenges that it will bring are important. The working life ashore has its own issues – if you have never had to commute further than from cabin to wheelhouse, hours on packed trains could be quite an eye opener…and then there are the different types of performance indicators. Not having a collision perhaps shows a good seafarer, but with demands to deliver business or to complete tasks, the life ashore can be hard.
Know your flow: Having said that working ashore can be demanding in its own way – it can be made easier if you identify your passions and try to work to them. To be someone who excels at managing safety, but then ends up trying to sell machine parts…well it could be a tough transition. By identifying which part of the industry is most appealing, then steps can be put in place to try and move into that arena. Research is important, and with knowledge you can then begin to shape the more ashore into more rewarding job opportunities.
Are you experienced: Having conducted research and begun to appreciate which kinds of jobs appeal ashore, then it may be possible to focus efforts at sea which will provide valuable relevant experience. Also there are many training courses on offer, and knowing what roles would be attractive can give time to pursue some training or education which will make you even more appealing to employers.
Get your network working: Once the prospective shore side career path has been identified, then it is about improving links to it and the likelihood of being chosen. Professional networks can be so important in supporting this that it wise to learn to network like a professional. If you are in bodies such as IMarEST or the Nautical Institute, then there is a ready-made network to tap into.
Go your own way: If there are not the opportunities or routes which are desirable, then starting a business can be a route to take. The added bonus of this approach is that it can allow for a transitional period – with the off trip back to sea interspersed with winning consultancy work ashore. A popular area for former seafarers is surveying, as this taps into maritime expertise – so can be something of a win-win.
Make your own luck: Ultimately identifying the best career path and pursuing it, is about making your own luck. Finding the roles which suit is important, then gaining experience and training – these are all layers in the pursuit of moving ashore and using seagoing experience to best effect. With those in place when job applications are sent out, then you should be heading closer to the top of the pile.
If you are looking to move ashore we wish you all the very best of luck and hope this helps. Let us know what your dream shipping industry job would be and why…