The following post is Part Two of the excellent "going to sea" primer by a member of the gCaptain community. Re-posted with his kind permission:
Time For A Road Trip!
Now that you busted your ass and spent several months getting your MMD, or years getting your Third Mate license, you feel like you deserve a job from the first place you think is lucky enough to have you.
Hold up and put that ego in check. Sad to tell you that you are not a special and unique snowflake, there are hundreds of guys just like you looking for that first job, and even more with experience looking at any one time for their next job. You might get lucky and have a job fall in your lap, but don’t count on it.
The industry is just starting to turn around and while an experienced guy can find work pretty easy, it’s harder for somebody with no experience. Hopefully these few tips will help:
1- What to pack in your sea bag. All you really need are steel toe boots, helps if you can also get a pair of steel toe rubber boots also, enough cloths to last a week mainly long pants and t-shirts, whatever medicine and stuff you need for the bathroom.
If possible bring more than enough if you end up working over. Not exactly a pharmacy right around the corner out here. Keep this in the back of your car on every interview. We are not kidding when we say have your bags packed when interviewing. What you think you are being hired for your sparkling personality and witty conversation? The reason they are hiring you is they need somebody RIGHT NOW! All you are is a warm body to them.
If you can’t leave right that second to get on a boat the HR guy is just going to wait 5 minutes for the next guy to walk through the door with his bags packed, and thus give that guy a new job.
2- What to wear to a job interview. You can wear a suit and tie, but don’t be surprised if you are better dressed then the guy interviewing you is. It’s a very informal industry. That said I have seen people show up looking for a job in flip flops, shorts, and a tank top. Please don’t be that guy, and if you are don’t complain that you can’t find a job.
I keep it simple, blue jeans, tennis shoes, and a button down shirt tucked in. I have long hair and keep it in a ponytail. Also if you have facial hair, keep it neat and trimmed up. The reason I wear the above is that when I get that new job and have to go to the boat I don’t have to worry about changing out of my suit in the bathroom someplace. You also don’t want to wear something that you are afraid to get stains on or snag on something when getting on a boat. Also boats are smelly and you don’t want your nice suite to smell of boat when you get home, do you?
3- How to actually get that first job: I work in the Gulf oil fields on supply boats so this next section will mainly apply to finding work in the oil patch. I’m sure other places are the same, just the locations are different. Don’t waste your time with online applications or constantly calling on the phone for your first contact if you have no experience.
You are going to have to get in your car and drive down to where the boat companies are. Most of them are located along Hwy 90 between New Orleans and Lafayette, with a high concentration of them along LA-1 towards Golden Meadows. If I see another thread in the Jobs section from somebody complaining that they cannot find a job and they have not gotten off their ass and made multiply trips through southern Louisiana I am going to scream.
I live in Austin, TX it’s a 10-hour car ride down there so I get that the trip can be expensive and time consuming. It takes a week to seriously hit most of the boat supply boat companies, and you are more than likely going to have to do it multiply times.
So plan to take at least two weeks. The first one to see everybody you can and the next to go back to the ones you liked and showed the most promise. I’ve had to repeat this several time over the course of several months to find a job before. To find where to go in Louisiana type “Supply Boat Companies In Louisiana” or any such variant in Google to get their address.
4- The Interview: Most importantly besides having your bags packed for work it to have all your documents together. I have a file folder to keep them in along with receipts and any other work related stuff I want to keep together. Also it helps to have your Social Security card and your passport, if you have one. When you walk in, go to the receptionist and ask to fill out an application, look smart and bring your own pen, she will hand you an application and ask you for your documents so she can make a copy to go along with your application.
Be nice to the ladies at the front desk, they are the gatekeepers and are just as important to you getting a job as the HR man. Make small talk with them and use lots of please and thank you with them. After you fill out the application and hand it back to the receptionist ask if they are seeing anybody toady.
Hopefully they are and she’ll either give you your documents back or keep them for the HR man to look over. Go sit down and wait. If she says they are not seeing anybody today ask when the best time might be to stop by and see someone is and come back then. If she says that the HR guy only sees people by appointment, thank her for her time and move on to the next company.
When the HR guy comes out get up and shake his hand look him in the eye and introduce yourself and what job you are looking for. You guys will then take a few minutes doing the usual interview thing; he will then offer you a job or tell you that they have nothing available right now. If that’s the case then get up shake his hand and tell him that you will check back with him in a few days.
And so with the next company and the next. The thing to remember is that you want to make a good impression because you will more than likely be talking to him over the next few months as you keep looking for a job. He will start to remember you and it you just might get a call one day looking for a deckhand because he remembers you and knows that you’re serious about working.
Did I mention if you have questions please do a search first? Any general question you can think of has been asked and answered numerous times. If you search and can’t come up with an answer to a specific question then go ahead and ask, but please include as much information as possible and put some thought into how you are asking it.
We are constantly answering the same question over and over, and this has caused a few members to equip them selves with pointy sticks and others to get even bigger ones. So to save your self some embarrassment do a search. This also keeps the number of threads asking the same questions down so that when someone does a search they don't get page after page of related threads and then you have to dig through all of them to find the information you are looking for.
You will find discussion about the use of head hunters around the forums. Avoid the ones asking you to sign a contract stating that if they find you a job you will pay them an amount equal to 14 days of work. Don’t sign on with those blood suckers. Along with taking your money they give kickbacks to whoever hired you to use them.
So you are essentially paying the HR man to hire you. What they are doing is technically illegal, but have yet to be brought to justice. There are a few companies that don’t charge you and they try, but I have never had luck using them. I’ve always found my jobs the old fashioned way, with the employment agencies calling me a few days after I get my new job with job offers.
Every now and then a guy looking for a spot on a yacht gets lost and ends up on this forum. If you haven’t figured it out yet we are commercial- oriented and can give little if any help outside of questions related to license upgrades.