• The Yacht Crew Coach

3 Reasons Why Your References Matter

If you don't get a reference, did you even work there?

A reference letter is a letter attesting to your skills, work performance, knowledge, achievements and confirmation of your employment. A recommendation letter is an endorsement of your skill and capabilities and character from a third party who you had a working relationship.

It is not uncommon for a captain to decline to provide a written reference for a number of reasons. I had a captain only provide written references for crew who had been employed with him for over a year. I had another who flat out refused to provide a written reference (but gave glowing verbal ones). If someone will not provide you with a written reference at the very least ask them for a confirmation of employment on an official letterhead outlining:

  • the date

  • the name, size and registry of the vessel (or company)

  • your name, passport details (although GDPR laws have moved away from providing personal details such as identity numbers) and nationality

  • the dates you were employed from and until

  • the capacity in which you were employed

Who can provide a reference?

In yachting, it is better for the reference to come from the captain or head of department you worked directly under. However, sometimes you might have had a personality clash with this person, and you fear that they might not give you a good reference. Having someone else as a reference is often a red flag that there was an issue on board. Unfortunately there is still a major bias towards feeling that the captain and vessel are right and that the crew member was the problem, even when we know this is often far from the truth; bad boats happen to good people. This is more of an issue for heads of department because junior crew can choose to get a reference from either their head of department, captain or both.

Why do you need references and recommendations?

I want to stress the importance of getting a recommendation or a reference from ANY job you do, whether it is washing a car, walking a dog, scrubbing a deck or dayworking.

1) They build credibility and trust

Anyone can write about how they are a team-player, hardworking, natural leader or use any other fuzzy, generic, soft-skill words. These are all great qualities to have, but everyone writes that they have them on their CV, so they become superfluous and a waste of valuable retail space. However, they are GREAT things for someone else to write about you.

2) They can compensate for lack of experience or skill