Face it, you’re in an industry as turbulent as the ocean in a storm. Work may come steady for four, five or six months and then completely drop off. Even with impressive certification, jobs aren’t always there as an underwater welder.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Ever heard this one? You may have ignored it because either:
- You don’t want to play politics.
- You rely on your superior skill and knowledge.
These are honorable motivations, but they won’t put you at the forefront of an employer’s head when they begin their hiring process. You need other people more than you need your own talents. Luckily, professional divers are a close-knit group. Here’s practical tips – many of which were taken from real commercial divers with experience.
Networking in the Real World
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Networking doesn’t start in the communications room on your first offshore gig.
No, it began years ago, before you ever stepped into a wetsuit. You’ve practiced building close friendships with people around you for a long time. As an underwater welder, you’re simply doing the same thing in a different environment.
Be intentional. Whether you’ve just started underwater welding school or you’re on your thirtieth diving contract with a new company, take a look around. Open yourself up to other divers, and show interest in their work. Ask questions and find out some of their background, first professional, then personal. If they ask about your background, start with your elevator pitch (practice it well beforehand so it doesn’t sound stiff). Then move into the pleasantries.
Stop what you’re doing and think for a moment.
Who are the top 10-20 people you know that could help you succeed in your underwater welding career?
Instructors, distant relatives, hot-shot diver friends? Focus a larger percentage of your time and resources on these people. It’s not manipulation if done in an open, honest manner. Focusing your efforts allows you to stop spinning your “professional wheels” and relax. These contacts can take you to greener pastures where you can find a better future for yourself and your family.
Don’t just Break the Ice, Crush It
After the formal introductions and a light chat, it’s easy to think you’ve walked away and made a contact. But wait: Did you remember their name? One interesting thing about them? Make sure you do, and address them by name next time you’re in conversation.
Demonstrate Good Character
But the single biggest turn-off for experienced divers are rookies with a cocky, self-absorbed attitude who think they know better than their superiors. It’s a common fault across the industry, and it eventually catches up to you no matter how many times you job-hop. Here’s character traits that divers said they value most in each other:
- Strong work ethic
Watch for Backstabbers
Loyalty is a particularly desirable trait, as some commercial divers enter the industry for the wrong reasons (money, cheap thrills). Professional backstabbing, though rare, does happen. Throw caution to the wind when divulging parts of your life to another diver. Don’t “force” trust by peeling off too many layers of yourself; allow them reciprocate by opening up to you as well.
Say your boss walks up to you and says he has some overtime available. What if you gave that overtime to your coworker without asking anything in return? Favors like these help people out in a pinch, and people don’t forget it. Give what you have to offer, even if it’s just a small trick you learned from an instructor 10 years ago.
Remain Distinct from the Crowd
In a sea of divers, it may be difficult to differentiate yourself from others. As you continue building your skills, try to focus on a particular “niche” that sparks your interest in the industry and meets a need. Train with others who have that skill, and gain additional certification to prove to employers that you can do it too.
Equip for the Job
Showing your professionalism also comes with the certificates and experience you can show. These materials need continual updating throughout your career, especially if your employed mainly through short-term contracts.
CV and Resume: Potential employers and links to employers are everywhere. Keep a digital copy of your CV and resume on your phone so that you can quickly pull them up for these people. If it’s written well, these documents will do the talking for you.
Business cards: Though not as common as they once were, giving your colleague a business card will help you stay in touch with those around you. If nothing else, at least having business cards will let others know you’re serious about your career, and you want to connect with as many others in your field as possible.
Portfolio: A picture speaks volumes, right? So will videos and a website. Employers want to see your work, and an online portfolio is an easy way to provide it for them. For a small amount of money, you can create a professional site, buy a custom domain and display all of your work. Employers will see you went the extra mile, and you’ll thank yourself for it in the end.
Networking in the Online World
Don’t substitute time you spend online for professional, interpersonal interactions. Quality time with one person is better than quantity with many.
Find involvement in all of the popular social networks. Many of these have internal groups that are dedicated to helping you find jobs, and you can join groups that match your interests with other divers.
- Google Plus
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You can also find quite a few forums for professional divers. These are usually in more of a “Q & A” format, but there’s value many of the threads. Offer your two-cents first, and when you have a question, others will listen.