New Skills Keep Stews on Top


One of my students recently told me that she was frustrated because the captain on the boat she was working on did not encourage her to take any formal training.

“After all,” he told her, “there is no licensing requirement, and as we all know, it’s not rocket science.”

I have heard that line of reasoning before, but that remark is offensive, disrespectful and basically out of line. What it boils down to may be simply a matter of perspective.

Perhaps it is true that the job of a yacht stew is not rocket science, but it’s no simple thing either. I sometimes wonder if captains and owners understand just what it takes to lay the groundwork to become a member of this elite group of professionals who serve movie stars, celebrities, titans of industry, millionaires, royalty, and sometimes relatively normal, everyday families.

Not only do we have to be meticulously trained to handle an immense range of duties, we have to master the skills and responsibilities needed to serve a demanding clientele with the utmost attention to every little detail. We have to move fast, fast, fast. And, oh, by the way, we are expected to look good, too.

We can easily break some of the duties, skills and responsibilities down into categories, such as guest services, housekeeping, protocol and professional etiquette, and service standards and expectations. There are fundamental rules about what needs to be done, when, and by whom. It is relatively simple to quantify the level of skill and attention to detail and common sense it takes to do the technical part of our jobs.

But there is no checklist to tick off the values and attitude that make one stew perform better than another. If part of our job description includes the phrase “anticipate guest needs” (and it always does), we must be able to articulate what those wishes are. Clearly, we must know what standards are important to the owners, guests and captain on a particular vessel to develop the skills necessary to satisfy their requirements.

This is the area that benefits most from building up your knowledge and skills, because it broadens your perspective. It is hard to quantify the value that this kind of investment brings to you; let’s just say that it is priceless.

As business guru Peter Drucker says, “The only skill that will not become obsolete in the years ahead is the ability to learn new skills.”

The amount of knowledge and information available to us is doubling in every field every 2-3 years. That means that our knowledge has to double as well. Today, it seems like we practically have to run just to stay in place. By continually learning and upgrading your skills, you add more value to your company and, more importantly, to yourself. If you continue to reach and grow, you will never have to worry about becoming obsolete.

Believe me, our jobs are hard enough as it. Could we please get a little respect here?

When we have the desire and the discipline to learn and move ahead, we add value to our world. The desire to learn and grow should be respected and rewarded. It breaks my heart to hear that stews are not encouraged when they are willing to carve some time out of their crazy schedules and make a serious effort to develop themselves professionally.

Training lends intrinsic value to our lives and adds interest to what can become rather mundane aspects of our work. Other than longevity, what better way is there to ensure that you are promotable within an organization than to demonstrate a desire to grow? To earn more, it helps to learn more. When you learn more, you broaden your perspective, empower yourself, motivate your crew, and inspire your guests. That seems like a good bargain to me.