How to get a job, S4 style. (Cadets, take note!!)

Muse thoughtfully about looking for a new job next time you are on leave…..

Imagine where you would like to go and what sector you would like to work in…..

Have a cup of tea, and voila! Your inbox will ping and an exciting job offer will have materialized.

With a chunky pay rise.

I kid you not, this is exactly what happened to me about 2 weeks ago. I am, I know, the jammiest little swine in the world, and actually feel slightly very embarrassed at my good fortune, when many people I know are desperately seeking their first job as a qualified officer. However, I have a point to make here, mainly directed at cadets:

WORK YOUR ASS OFF.

As a cadet, you may feel tempted to cruise by, doing the minimum necessary to complete your TRB, workbooks and the dreaded Work Based Learning. Telling yourself that at the end of the day the grades don’t matter as long as you pass, it’s only the ticket that matters. In a way, this is true. But consider this: once you have your ticket, you are plunged into a depressing search for that first trip job. You are up against all the other people who have also recently qualified and you need an edge.

You may be lucky and be sponsored by a company who say they will take you on once you’re qualified. However, this seems to be more and more infrequent. (How many cadets does your company sponsor and how many positions do they need to fill?) Several people I know were told that they would be taken on, only to have this offer retracted when the time came. They may be able to offer some cadets a place, but who do you think they will pick? The guy who cruised by doing the minimum, or the guy who was involved, interested and always willing to help.

It’s not just about doing the work, it’s how you go about it. Do it on ship, rather than try and write stuff up later when you are home, ask the officers for help (at an appropriate time), and offer your help when it comes to cruddy tasks they need done. Go to your training officer and ask for a time to sit down and discuss how you can cover aspects of the TRB that don’t come up all that often. And above all, go about your work with a positive attitude. No matter how narked you may feel inside that you’ve been sent to chip and paint/count shackles/inspect fire extinguishers/take inventory of a lifeboat when you’ve already got that task signed off in your book. Get on with it, and when someone comes past and asks how you’re getting on, be positive. This is all stuff that has to be done anyway, and it might as well be you. You only need 6 months bridge watchkeeping experience, so don’t moan, especially if you are on your first trip. In fact, never moan, if you have a concern, go to your training officer and ask when you can sit down together to discuss your training.

Hopefully, if you do these things, by the time you leave the ship, you will have given the officers on board the impression that you are a hard-working, diligent and pleasant person to have around. Now here’s the really important bit: Get their personal email addresses, and give them yours.

People think that the industry is huge, but actually it’s quite small, everyone knows each other, and memories are long. When a job becomes available, people will not necessarily put an ad up for it. A lot of the time, they will think to themselves “I wonder if so-and-so is available, I’ll just drop them a line, see what they’re up to” If someone who’s been working for a while decides to change jobs, they first of all contact people the people they used to work with on other ships and find out what’s available. So, if you have made a good impression on someone, they might recommend you to a friend; or have a word with the recruitment agency you’ve just had an interview with, who are saying that such and such company couldn’t possibly employ you because you don’t have the necessary experience yet; or they might just email you out of the blue with an awesome job offer. Trust me, it works.

My First Week at Fleetwood Nautical College

As I sat in the car on the motorway on the way up to Fleetwood, I realised that, finally, I was getting scared. The process from application to joining had taken so little time that before that point I’d not really had time to think about it. Going to somewhere new, where you know no-one, is always an intimidating prospect, no matter how many times you do it, and this occasion was no exception. On the other hand, I was looking forward to the opportunity to have a fresh start, it’s not often you find yourself surrounded by people who have no pre-conceived ideas about you: I’ve spent the last few years wasting time and am now itching to get going in a career where I can really see myself being happy and doing well.

After a fairly heavy night on Sunday, which included the mandatory introduction to the delights of Rafters, I put my uniform on and headed for the classroom to meet my tutor for the first time. Our first two days were taken up with enrolment and inductions so it was on the Wednesday morning that we started lessons. Meteorology was the first lecture, which suited me well as I have a head start on many of my peers from my time on the Pelican. No doubt they will all soon catch me up but it’s nice to have the basics of the subject already firmly ingrained in my mind. Maths was next, which was a harsh reminder of how long it is since I last played with numbers. I seem to have forgotten most of my A-level and GCSE maths, although it seems to come back to me fairly easily once I’ve gone back over the basics. I will have to put a lot of time in on this subject and expect to be spending many evenings at the maths clinic while I brush up my skills, but at least now I can see how I’ll be applying the maths and therefore have a reason to make sure I can do it. Wednesday was also the allotted day for our basic sea survival induction, which I had been dreading somewhat. As a tall ship sailor I’m very used to heights, but I have a strong objection to falling or jumping off them. However, there was no way I could get out of this so I gritted my teeth, shut my eyes and walked off the edge. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had thought it would be and I enjoyed the rest of the session, despite Mr Hackney’s best efforts with a cold hosepipe.

Thursday brought more lectures; chart work in the morning, which I was pretty comfortable with, and maths in the afternoon, which was more of a struggle. There’s a lot to cover in the maths lessons so we are taken through things at a fairly high pace, which I am finding rather unnerving, but I’m sure it’ll get easier as I get used to it. After a brief introduction to Study Skills on Friday we had a little time to get ourselves ready for the weekend. Camping in the Lake District in January didn’t sound like fun to me, but I figured that as long as I was warm I’d be able to cope with whatever else was thrown at us. Friday night was bitterly cold but I was well prepared and had lots of warm layers on, so much that on the night walk I ended up too hot! It was a stunning night; still, moonlit and clear, and we had a lovely stroll though the countryside for a couple of hours. The roads were very icy, as I discovered first hand when walking down a steep slope – my feet slipped from under me and I (very gracefully) landed on my behind, luckily I have plenty of padding in that area!

Saturday morning was taken up by team trust building exercises, during which, my tent tried to escape, but we managed to catch it and peg it down into the frozen ground again. In the afternoon we were sent off on our 15k hike, my little team had decided to not worry too much about the competitive element and just enjoy the walk, taking the chance to get to know each other better. One of the other teams had taken a different attitude and jogged the whole thing, they’d just reached the end when the tutors called us up on the radio and said the whole thing had been aborted. We were only halfway round by then, the light was fading rapidly, the wind and rain had picked up and Paul had twisted his ankle so it couldn’t have happened at a better time as far as we were concerned. The wind had picked up so much that the marquee tent had taken off, and the tutor’s tent had done the same so as soon as we got back it was a mad rush to pack the camp up and get it into the vans and trailers any old how. It took us 40 minutes to take down what had taken us two hours to get up. I was pretty scared in our tent, franticly packing sleeping bags and roll mats up, as the wind was whipping the sides of the tent around viciously and I knew that if the pegs came loose I was going to be off with the tent halfway across the county! When we got home we were taken into the gym to do another team exercise. This involved getting everyone over a 1.5m high ‘electric fence’ without touching it, I got dropped on our first attempt, landing, once again, on my behind, which wasn’t much fun, but they were very apologetic and I wasn’t badly hurt. The best part was climbing into my lovely warm bed that night, knowing that while we had to get up and do the last day’s exercises on campus the next day, we weren’t in a tent.


Sunday morning dawned and we were up early to get kit out and get ready to do the rest of the exercises. Each one was led by a member of the team, they were all about problem solving, working together and demonstrating leadership. I had to get everyone across a series of islands with 3 planks and a piece of rope, it took us 20 minutes over the allotted time because someone dropped something and we had to start again, but I think on the whole I did well, jumping around giving instructions and encouragement.

This first week has left me in no doubt as to what I have signed myself up for. The next 3 years promises to bring a lot of hard work, and in between that, a lot of fun. The most important thing is that I already feel that my course mates and I have built a level of trust and understanding, which will serve as a strong platform for mutual co-operation and help as we each struggle with different aspects of the course. I am confident that together we will get though the course and look back on our time here with fond memories.