It takes a special type of person to join the merchant marine. Just as no two people are alike, no two sailors have the same personalities. However, there are certain merchant mariner traits that can pave the way for a successful career on the high seas.
You may have thought of becoming a merchant mariner, and that’s great! But before you set about doing just that, it’s helpful to “know thyself,” to determine whether or not you have the right traits to succeed in this field.
Here are the 3 personality traits that define the spirit of a sailor:
Those who want a stable, 9-5 office job need not read any further. The merchant marine isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s one of the few careers that demand a certain lifestyle – not just a job. Many people cannot handle working 6 months, crisscrossing the world on cargo ships, then coming back home and spending time ashore for another 4-6 months.
While there are benefits and drawbacks to this lifestyle, most mariners relish the opportunity to see new places each time they receive a new assignment. They also look forward to working on a new ship every couple of months and getting to know the inner workings of how each one operates. No two days are ever the same in this field of work.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? That saying may as well have been invented by a merchant marine wife. But mariners don’t just need to leave their family and friends behind for extended periods of time. They also need to take initiative with their duties onboard a ship.
Most crew members, whether in the deck or engine department, need to stand watch for a certain amount of time in a given 24-hour period. During a watch, an employee must make sure all the necessary systems are working properly. Merchant mariners must also know how to work in the worst weather conditions. Each individual employee on board a ship needs to assume full responsibility for his or her own safety, as working on ships presents many hazards – the threat of falling overboard, boiler room accidents and the risk of electrical shock are just a few of the many things that can go wrong out on the ocean. Assessing the risk involved with any given task is something each crew member must do independently.
The good news is, shipmates in the merchant marine are some of the most supportive co-workers anyone can have.
Merchant mariners need to learn to adapt to a multitude of different weather conditions, tasks, and yes, even personality types on a ship. While sailing from port to port, the weather can be 80 degrees and sunny in the morning, and 40 degrees and rainy in the evening. The best merchant mariners, the most dynamic ones, take these conditions in stride.
Merchant mariners specialize and work in one of two main departments – deck and engine. However, each department handles a vast range of duties. Deck officers handle navigation and communication systems. They maintain all safety and firefighting equipment onboard as well. Deck workers also load and unload cargo. Engine room employees must maintain nearly all mechanical systems on a ship, from the pumps and the engine itself to the plumbing. This wide variation of tasks means every maritime worker must essentially become a jack of all trades.
Being a dynamic individual also means having the ability to work with many different personality types. Almost every time a merchant mariner sets foot on a ship, he gains a few dozen new co-workers. While certain types of personalities may not naturally go well together, sailors must learn to set differences aside and work for the common good of everyone onboard. After all, it’s the ship and her crew against the ocean and the forces of nature.
If you have these merchant mariner traits, you may have the right mindset to forge a career on the high seas. While the challenges of sailing in the merchant marine certainly demand a special type of person, most people who join this profession report very high levels of overall satisfaction with their job.
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