Are You a Tigger or an Eeyore?

21 April 2009 By Kelly Sanford

Experience may be the most important qualification in determining whether or not you get an interview on a yacht, but once you step aboard, it’s your attitude that ultimately determines whether or not you get the job.

When Professor Randy Pausch, who died of pancreatic cancer last year at age 47, gave his famous “Last Lecture” at Carnegie Mellon University (available on YouTube), he made the assertion that in trying times, everyone makes a choice. Pausch said, “You just have to decide whether you are a Tigger or an Eeyore.”

(For those of you who didn’t grow up on Winnie the Pooh, he was referring to the bouncy tiger and the sad-sack donkey in A.A. Milne’s beloved children’s books.)

Esoteric as Pausch’s argument might be, it touches on the inescapable truth that oftentimes, attitude is everything. A positive attitude is that special spark – that Je ne sais quoi – that makes some people magnetic.

Capt. Mike Travers says, “When I interview, I look for a person who can make good decisions, and being a pessimist shows that you make bad decisions. I think being a pessimist is something you choose to do.” Even if one candidate for the job has better qualifications, if there is another with a little less experience but a better attitude, he says, “Ten out of ten times I will take a good attitude over experience.”

Elaborating on his point, Capt. Mike says, “This is going to be someone whom you have to live with and work with. You can teach just about anyone the job, but you can’t teach someone to have good attitude; that’s something they have to do for themself.”

Capt. Jared Burzler says, “I narrow my search based on résumés, but once the interviewing begins, it’s the attitude that will determine who gets the job…. There are some people who have overwhelming personalities. They are not chameleons, you know; they won’t blend in…. I don’t care if their résumé says they know how to turn salt water into diesel fuel, I’m not going to be impressed if they have a bad attitude.”

These days, when captains talk about having a good attitude, adaptability ranks high on the list. “A lot of boats have changed the program in the current economy and crew need to need to show that they are able to meet the program and that they are capable of adjusting their expectations without it bringing them down,” says Capt. Jared.

However, many out-of-work yachties are growing frustrated and finding it hard to stay upbeat. During a recent conversation, Chef Evan Rotman says, “In my nine years in the biz, I’ve never seen the job market this pathetic. Usually I’m in town for two to three weeks, have three or four interviews, am offered two jobs and make a choice.” Yet even after going five weeks without an interview, like a true Tigger, he says, “I am confident that something will come up; it’s only a matter of time.”

There is no doubt that many crew are struggling right now with both unemployment and a changing work dynamic. However, keeping a positive attitude is more important than ever. No one wants to work with an Eeyore. To quote Pausch, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”