There are times as a crew member, no matter how senior your position and how many years of experience, when it’s difficult to know where to turn when you need advice. It could be career related, a professional, personal or ethical dilemma, your training, your future plans, a business idea, or your own professional development.
Finding a mentor isn’t easy, someone who is truly committed to being available to supply intelligent, informed, advice without agenda, someone who has “been there and done it” who will challenge you as well as support you, with the benefits of their own experience and knowledge.
For the uninitiated, the idea of seeking a mentor, is to find someone that has specific skills in your sector and who has the experience to help an individual to develop and grow within their career, supplying time, wisdom and direction. In my capacity as a professional mentor, I help crew find solutions to their career, training, business and sometimes personal challenges, finding pathways and resources to lead them to successful outcomes. The aim being to enable them to find clarity and motivation to achieve their goals, not only in their current careers but forward onto life beyond yachting.
At times it can be a very careful balance, my role is to seek to add perspective and insight to help solve a dilemma, issue or decision that an individual is facing. By taking the wrong line of approach it would be easy for me to undermine the line of command on a vessel, rather than seek to give the individual the tools to deal with a situation professionally. Sometimes there is no perfect answer, the nature of the industry means that the issues I discuss with a mentee can kick up real moral and professional dilemmas, where tough decisions have to be made as to whether the response is one that would reflect the individuals personal moral and professional code, or one that retains their job.
Being a mentor is both a privilege and a challenge, I am acutely aware of the responsibility, especially when it comes to major decisions. But it’s not all a one way process, it’s a hugely rewarding experience for me too. A good mentor/mentee relationship is full of debate and conjecture, where both parties learn so much through each interaction. I love the work, following crew through their careers and watching them grow as individuals, the highs, the lows the cock ups, and the triumphs….. it’s all a huge pleasure. Even the whatsApp messages at 4am in the morning when someone “forgets” the time zones. On a more serious note it continues to allow me an extraordinary window on to the day to day reality of life onboard, and the collaboration of a group of professionals who support and underpin the work I do to effect positive and proactive change within the sector.
I take on a small number of new mentees each year, if you think it is something that would enhance your professional life, then please take a look at my testimonials and get in touch.
Mentor Q & A
How did you start mentoring crew?
Completely by accident, after 12 years at sea, I was fortunate to transfer my skills into developing and delivering training for superyacht crew in interior, chef and latterly running the first Superyacht Deck Cadetship Programme for 10 years.
I built relationships with the individuals that I trained both in the classroom and once they were at sea actively working in the industry. It became obvious very early on in the evolution of the program that the students stuck at the training and developed a much more professional approach to their careers if they were able to access advice and support when they needed it. WhatsApp was the key to making it work and enabled me to message and chat to crew globally with ease. The immediacy of it meant that, I was able to help in real time and help them avoid, knee jerk decisions and unwise behaviour. The vast majority of those individuals are still in the industry in senior positions or are out on the other side working in related careers, and although I moved on in my working life, our relationships have endured, and I still work with them to support their career journeys.
How do you have the knowledge and experience to mentor crew from all departments?
That’s a really good question, I am fortunate that I have a pretty good level of emotional intelligence and I find it easy to both understand and build strong empathetic relationships with crew. That and three other factors, I am passionate about the industry and have built an in depth knowledge of all aspects of it over the years, I am a bit of a geek in that respect! I worked in the industry for a long time across all departments bar engineering however I have a strong technical interest, particularly in sustainability and recently worked with a UK College to develop a pioneering superyacht engineering cadetship, and that combined with my previous experience, means I can tick most boxes. Ultimately the issues and challenges are different onboard when an individual goes from a junior to leadership level, I am always learning and developing my skills and that’s something I try and pass on in my work.
Do you mentor crew new to the industry?
Yes I do, I do work to encourage awareness of the industry amongst young people whenever I can, through partnerships and collaborations and also by talking to anyone who will listen!, through that, I take on a small group of individuals each year to help them to find the right training and support them into their first roles and beyond.
Who do you mentor?
I work with over 200 crew, on a regular or ad hoc basis, across the board from Captains, Chief Engineers, Officers, Pursers. Interior HOD’s Bosuns and deck and interior crew.
How does it work?:
Usually I start with a phone call, where we just chat and get to know each other a little better, we can start to look at the individuals hopes for the mentoring process whatever that might be and gain an understanding of potential goals or what the relationship will look like. From their we will arrange an additional call where we set goals and agree terms of engagement
Alternatively not everyone is ready or interested in that kind of process and what they require is someone who they can consult occasionally for guidance on how best to deal with issues onboard or help at certain points, for instance when looking for a new job, and weighing up the pros and cons or different job offers. So it’s very much tailored to the individual and completely flexible, from regular structured sessions to occasional calls or WhatsApp messaging, to close contact through an intense period where advice is needed.
- Ad hoc: We range over all areas of the help and advice available and start and stop on an open basis.
- Agreed process: Agreed goals and a series of sessions and agreed outcomes over a period of time.
Back up: I am here when needed.
What do you help with?
- Education and Training: Advice on mandatory and non-mandatory training and education, what’s available, when to do it and what benefits your career the most.
- Professional Development: Building qualifications and professional skills, associations and experiences to build on your career and employability.
- Personal Development: Guidance on your own personal journey of discovery and growth alongside your career.
- Career Planning: Making the best decisions to benefit your career, weighing up the options, choosing the right time to stay and the right time to move on and how to best do that to for all concerned. How to choose the right position on the right vessel to achieve your goals and have a happy and rewarding career.
- Life Goals: Long term planning and guidance on how you can balance your career whilst learning new skills and preparing for the future.
- Burn Out: Helping crew survive and avoid burnout and find a strategy to move forward, reset and regain their focus and enthusiasm.
- Interpersonal Issues and challenges onboard: Un biased, neutral, honest and professional advice to navigate the challenges of working onboard.
- Life After Yachting: Help with planning and achieving a successful exit from the industry
- Business and Start Up advice: Guidance and advice on business ideas.
Wouldn’t it be better for crew to find a mentor who is a senior member of their crew?
Mentoring is so important in all its aspects, I would always encourage finding someone on your yacht who is senior to you or having someone who is ahead of you in their career to advise and guide you, there is no limit to who you work with and ask for support. However sometimes it is valuable to have a mentor that is neutral and is not directly involved in the operations of the vessel and who can provide unbiased and much broader guidance through the nature of their career.
Have there been highs and lows in the experience for you?
Yes for sure, I still get emotional when crew that I have trained and or supported pass their CoC’s or attain their lifetime career goals. I know how much blood sweat and tears; sheer hard work and tenacious drive lies behind those achievements. It’s always fantastic to share the euphoria of a new promotion or position gained. It’s also very rewarding when an individual has maybe lost heart, lost sight of themselves and is considering leaving the industry and through our interaction is able to rediscover their enthusiasm and find a new way forward.
But yes, there have been lows and continue to be so, not all conversations are uplifting and not all conversations result in the outcome you would wish. There continues to be some very unprofessional individuals and practices within the sector and when those behaviours are supported from the very top, it can be very difficult to find a solution. For me it’s always very disappointing and frustrating to see and hear about circumstances that were prevalent 20 years ago still going on now, but that’s what drives me to run my business and create training and change in the sector to create a more innovative, equitable, professional and inclusive future.
What is the one most important aspect of being a mentor?
I think building trust, listening, and whilst supporting, giving guidance, and sharing experiences and wisdom are very important, the key to the process is to enable a crew member to develop the skills and tools to help them find solutions independently.
What else do you do?
Mentoring is just one aspect of what I do, I am fortunate to run my own company called THE OM https://www.the-om.co.uk (which roughly translated means pathway to enlightenment) which is dedicated to working with crew and the industry. I work to develop pathways and solutions for superyacht crew to achieve success within their professional lives; whilst driving the industry to develop new strategies to evolve and grow towards an innovative, sustainable and equitable future. My work takes me right across the board from mandatory and non-mandatory training and education to business development and involvement with a number of partners and industry bodies to help influence and effect change.
If this post has sparked an interest for you there is an exciting opportunity to win a year’s free professional career mentoring support and advice with Emma Baggett at THE OM, exclusively for CrewPass members.
How to enter:
Simply write a short sentence/paragraph on “Why I would value the help and support of a career mentor.”
Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org
Competition ends on:
31st of August at 11:59 pm
We will contact the winner on the 1st of September directly.