According to some comments on Crewtoo, it seems seafarers are often unaware of some shore side career opportunities. While even if seafarers know what is on offer when coming ashore some tend to see careers in shipping law and maritime insurance as out of reach. It seems that poor old seafarers are being forgotten and this is a huge missed opportunity for employers. So what can be done to sharpen the skills and open people to new prospects?
The shipping industry needs the intelligence, insight and practical know how of seafarers, but it seems we would rather see them kept at sea than embraced ashore.
In many maritime professions seagoing experience is seen as a benefit as it offers first-hand understanding of the trials of operating and living on board ships, but we are not very good at making the shift to shore a reality.
Seagoing experience is so important, and there is no aspect of the industry which is above a sprinkling of sea salt into the working gene pool to make it more relevant, vibrant and hard wired to the cold, hard realities of ships.
We have been down this road before – and sadly efforts to generate a more formal career path have seemingly been ignored. A holistic approach to maritime careers is vital, indeed all who go to sea should know that they can move ashore and settle into a career path which values their skills, knowledge and experience. Just as those who want to remain at sea should be rewarded for doing so.
The move from working at sea, to working ashore is a leap so great that even Neil Armstrong would advise caution. There are many, many things to consider – not least the fact that the skills we use at sea don’t always translate well in the office.
There is what has been termed a “soft skills” gap developing between those on the ship, and those working ashore – and it is in danger of widening.
Increasingly, companies aren’t just assessing their current staff and future recruits on their business skills, but on a whole host of competencies around how well they relate and communicate to others.
The basic “soft skills” involve:
These are recognised as key to making businesses more profitable and better places to work. Now of course, measuring these soft skills is no easy thing, but in the most progressive companies, managers are looking for people’s ability to communicate clearly and openly, and to listen and respond empathetically.
Communication skills that will help you progress
Soft skills can help professionals advance their careers. To bring value to the organisation and clients, your interpersonal skills should be top notch to deliver results. As a project manager or Superintendent, how do you motivate other members of your team? You may need to work and interact with accountants and customer service staff, it’s not just the “closed” world of ships and seafarers you will be dealing with.
Yes, it’s just not what you know but how well you handle and explain it to people. No matter how good you think you are, you will not get the plaudits you expect if can’t communicate well with colleagues or clients.
In fact, if you struggle to communicate, or motivate, or “play nice”, the perception might be that you are not competent or more trouble than you are worth – this might well be unfair, but life is….
Better interaction leads to improved performance, which in turn leads to more opportunity, more responsibility, and career progress. There is a virtuous upward spiral for those who invest the time and effort to focus on all their skills – not just one area.
Soft Skills give you the means of doing your job better – they are the tools which allow you to use the resources, people, facilities and contacts which surround you to best effect, while allowing you to demonstrate worth and value to your employer.
They are useful, not simply for creating opportunities, but for allowing us to take advantage of them. No matter how great your technical or “on-the-job” skills, when job hunting, your “personal marketing” skills should be first-class. This is where we influence, communicate and present – where we show we are the best candidate for the job.
Good jobs are currently at a premium, and in such a competitive environment, perception often reigns supreme. If your professional competencies are similar to those of other candidates then how do you differentiate yourself?
Your certificates and work experience at sea are important, but can you convince the interviewer or clients that you will solve their problems and deliver value? If you are unsure, then the answer is likely to be no. So take time to focus on the actual benefits you bring to your role and which could apply to any future one.
So you’ve read through and are still wondering why soft skills are important. Aren’t your years at sea and reams of certificates enough? Don’t the days managing multinational crews count for anything? What about my ability to avoid collisions, or to know where the heck I am in the vast ocean? You may even wonder why the interviewer remains unmoved that you can fabricate gaskets…
You see, even when you read back and think about experiences at sea, it can be hard to see just how the undoubted skill transfer can be made easily into a shore environment. Whereas most soft skills are regarded as transferable, e.g. communication, project management, business and team work, which are needed in nearly all aspects of life, not just for your career. You need to grow not just as a professional but also as a person.
This might sound a little Oprah, or some X Factor style journey – but it’s not, it’s important. It will make you far more employable, better in your job…and may even make you a nicer person! No, really…
Improving your soft skills set will even improve the way to handle your loved ones, your family, and your friends – your entire personal world! You might well shrug and look at this blankly, but isn’t it worth a go? Think of how much better of you will be using the keys to unlock your career potential.