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 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
Would you rather hire someone with 2-years of experience but who sucks as a human being OR someone with a few months of experience and heaps of praise from their superiors? When you work on board a yacht, experience is one small piece of the puzzle. When hiring crew, captains and heads of department also look at the crew dynamic and how you will slot into the 'family'.
3) Referees are you brand ambassadors
Think about an advert you have recently seen advertising a product you don't know. It looks cool and you want it but you are not sure if it is worth the money. The next day your friend posts a picture wearing this EXACT thing you wanted. You message them to ask what it is like and should you get one and they say ABSOLUTELY! You go on Amazon and order one to the next port the boat is going to be in and wait excitedly until you arrive.
This is what having good referees does for your image. Remember you are a BRAND. It might take a while to get your head around that but the sooner you realise this, the sooner you can start taking the right positive steps to develop brand YOU.