Making the move to one of the many shore based maritime jobs available can be a daunting prospect if you’ve spent years working in traditional seafarer jobs. Taking the leap into the great unknown can be both exciting and scary, and your to-do list of things to consider and take care of can be literally as long as your arm!
One big thing to think about is how the skills you’ve spent years developing will transfer to sea careers ashore.
How to upgrade your soft skills for shore based maritime jobs
For the purposes of this blog post we’re going to assume that you’re an ex-crew member - or soon to be ex-crew member - who already has the skills and qualifications on your seafarer resume to be hired to work in your chosen maritime jobs on land.
These skills are known as hard skills.
So that takes us on to the next question: what exactly are hard skills - and how do you know if you have any?!
What are some examples of hard skills?
Hard skills are things you have learnt. They are things you may have been taught, either at school when you were young - such as reading and writing, or during your maritime training - such as your seafarer qualifications. These are some examples of hard skills:
- Being able to speak and/or read a foreign language
- Holding diplomas, certificates, qualifications etc in a given subject
- Being able to read, write or do math
- Being able to use technology or do certain disciplines such as coding or computer programming
As a licensed seafarer you most likely hold a number of certificates and qualifications already - some of them may be relevant to your new chosen career working ashore, especially if you’re applying to shore based maritime jobs. And chances are you speak a second language too.
That’s all good news as employers, in any industry, will be looking out for the hard skills you’ve listed on your seafarer resume.
But here’s where it can get tricky. You will also need to be able to show that you have soft skills as well.
What are soft skills and what are some examples?
Unlike hard skills, soft skills are more to do with the type of person you are. They’re people skills and usually personality based.
You may have been born with them, learnt them at an early age, or acquired them in your teens or as a young adult. You may have even developed certain soft skills when you started gaining experience working in seafarer jobs.
But that’s the good thing about soft skills - even though they’re a personality trait, they can still be learned.
Soft skills might not sound as important as hard skills, but they really are. Hard and soft skills complement each other and combine to make you a more rounded employee, team leader or manager.
Soft skills come into their own when applied to management. Now, you might be moving to shore based maritime jobs where you’ll be managing a team of people. Or maybe you’ll just be managing your own workload. Regardless, soft skills are a must for effectively managing both projects and people.
Some examples of soft skills that you might want to include on your seafarer resume are:
- Leadership skills
- Communication skills
- Being a team player
- Being able to negotiate
- Being able to work to a deadline
And the good news is, as an ex-crew member, it’s likely that you can truthfully say that you possess many of these qualities already. The majority of sea careers involve working closely alongside your fellow crewmates - that’s the boxes for teamwork, collaboration and communication checked right there!
Being on watch could translate into being punctual and being able to stick to a timeframe or deadline. And if you’re a Master or any of the other seafarer ranks responsible for managing crew, you’ve no doubt got leadership skills that could be important in your new role too.
But it’s well worth keeping in mind that working in maritime jobs on land is going to be very different from working in the seafarer jobs you’ve previously held. Life in an office, and the way communications are carried out is going to be very different to life at sea.
You might have already acquired some of the new hard skills you need for your new position on land, but could your soft skills need polishing?
The truth is, they might need tweaking so that the ways that you communicate with and manage people are more suited to an office, or even a port, than on deck or in the engine room.
Why you may need to develop your soft skills for shore based maritime jobs
So, if your number one goal is to adjust the way you communicate with your new coworkers in a different environment, how do you actually go about doing that?
The key is to remember that, regardless of where you work, you need your coworkers and possibly your clients or suppliers, to understand you. And you need to understand them.
You just need to make sure you’re communicating in a manner that is appropriate for the environment in which you’re now working.
Let’s take a look at a few things you can work on, if needed.
5 Tips for developing your soft skills
1. Upgrade your written skills
Many shore based maritime jobs will involve more written communication than most seafarer jobs. Emails and workplace messaging platforms might be the main means of communication. Depending on the company you work for, the way you talk to your coworkers could be casual or it may be more formal.
For example, if you work in shipbroking or a maritime law office you will need to use more formal and industry specific language in business communications.
Make sure your email etiquette is on point and while smiley emojis and abbreviations such as TBH (to be honest) or FYI (for your information) might be fine when messaging coworkers, you should avoid using them in formal business emails and documents. The trick is to know your audience!
2. Upgrade your oral skills
How are your oral communications? Yes, we know we all talk and listen to the people we work with every day, but in an office or similar maritime jobs on land, the way coworkers speak to each other won’t be the same as your ex-crew mates did onboard a vessel.
The style of speaking in a shore based job is likely to be more conversational and less about giving, or receiving commands or orders. Therefore, make a real attempt to actually practice speaking and listening.
We’re all guilty of taking part in a conversation and not really thinking about what we’re saying. And as for zoning out when someone else is talking - we’ve all been there!
It’s something we could all use a refresher course on, so try and be aware and more involved in the next conversation you have and see if you can make it a full time habit!
3. Get comfortable with eye contact
Another thing to be aware of when you’re speaking with someone is eye contact. Maintaining eye contact with the person you’re talking to shows that you’re listening and are interested in what they have to say. Something that’s crucial in building relationships in the workplace.
It also shows honesty: rightly or wrongly, it’s a well known fact that not being able to meet someone’s eye when you’re talking to them makes you appear ‘shifty’ or untrustworthy.
If making eye contact makes you feel uncomfortable, there are a couple of tricks you can do to make it slightly less painful. Making eye contact doesn’t mean staring at someone, and you can break contact every so often by looking away or making a gesture such as nodding your head.
4. Check your body language
And while we’re talking about the physical side of developing your soft skills, it’s a good idea to take a look at your body language too. The way you move around an office or other workplace for a shore based maritime job will probably be very different to the way you act physically onboard a vessel.
What does the way you stand say? How do you approach people? Do you come across as someone who is easily approachable and open to discussion? Or is your usual pose one that could be read as aggressive or unfriendly?
Making yourself appear to be someone who your new manager, coworkers or the people you lead can come and talk to is important. You’ll settle into your new role much more quickly if you forge good connections with people. And it doesn’t have to be hard to do.
Smile more. Take your head out of your smartphone. Be positive - nodding your head is an example of a positive pose. Standing with your arms crossed over your body is not.
5. Learn to read body language
On a similar point, pay attention to the person you are talking to's body language. This can be read as a reaction to what you’re saying and if you’re coming across negatively, this may well be shown in the way they are standing or acting.
Is what you’re saying making them look uncomfortable? Upset? Angry? Bored, even? If that’s the case, take a quick minute to think why that could be.
And then consider your own communication skills and approach and see if there’s anything you can do to change the situation by adjusting your own words and/or body language.
Building a successful career in maritime jobs on shore
We hope that the above pointers have helped you prepare for what will be a very big change in sea careers for you. There’s no doubt that working in traditional seafarer jobs is a rewarding and unique lifestyle.
But for whatever reason, if you’ve decided that you’re going to quit working at sea, dust off your seafarer resume, and seek work ashore, we wish you all the very best.
Meanwhile, if returning to shore full time is something you’re only considering at the moment and you’re not ready to become ex-crew and want to line up your next contract, take a look at Martide’s seafarer jobs crewing board and apply for a new position today!