Murphy: Go the extra mile to help your company and industry

Murphy Edit

I have the hardest “easy” question anyone might ever ask you. Do you truly care about the financial health and well-being of your company? Yes, if your company falters or fails there will be other jobs around. But will those other jobs be as good as the one you have now? And would the demise of your present company be good for the maritime industry as a whole?

This just might be an “old guy” talking here, but I really DO care about not only my company’s future, but also the future of the maritime industry in general. Most of us, at least in the beginning, really enjoyed what we were doing with boats. And, in my humble opinion, if we don’t put some effort toward what isn’t exactly “required” of our job description, the future of the maritime industry may not be as bright as it could be.

No matter how much you want to keep your job and continue in the maritime industry, your time is limited! There is definitely a “graying” in our industry. Look around you — how much gray hair do you see in your company? OK, now look around again and see how many “kids” are in your company.

And even if you are, let’s say, “mature” and want to keep working, how long will you be able to pass the Coast Guard physical? I have four personal friends who could not renew their licenses due to the physical. The fact is, if you are over 50 (which is a majority of maritime officers) you had better be passing your knowledge and experience on NOW to those coming up in the ranks rather than sometime later!

I have another little question for you. Will the maritime industry, as a whole, be better off or worse when you step down from the “big chair”? It might just be an old guy talking here again, but I think about what I will leave behind. What legacy will YOU leave after you are long gone?

I would like to tell you a little story of an event that happened to me a few years ago. I tried retirement for about 18 months, and was going out of my mind. I just hated not having a job. Retirement is definitely not for me. I have a friend who was director of a maritime training institute, so I went in to “sniff around” for some work.

While sitting and chatting in her office, in walks this guy with his arms full of books and papers. He stops dead in his tracks, looks at me for only a brief moment and says: “You’re Dennis Murphy, aren’t you?” This took me entirely by surprise, and I really had to set the “way-back clock” way back.

My response was: “Ow ya … ah … you’re … ummmm … Doug. That’s right, ah … you’re … ummmm … Doug Pine!” Talk about a “skeleton out of the closet.” This was a guy who I had hired about 25 years ago on a boat I was operating in Maui, Hawaii. Yes, we had become friends when we worked together, but that was way back more than 20 years ago.

And Doug remembered me like it was yesterday. Wow. He turned to the director, and all he had to say to her was: “Hire him.” And he walked out. Wow again. What if I had been a jerk to him all those years ago? What if I hadn’t worked with him, mentored him and given him some direction in his life? Would Doug have spent a lifetime in the maritime industry? Would he be the quality captain that he is today?

We ALL leave a legacy in our lifetime whether we want to or not. What is the legacy that YOU are leaving? What is the legacy you would like to leave? Personally, I had never set out to leave any kind of legacy at all. This is one of those things that just happen if you want it to or not.

So how can you benefit your company and the maritime industry in general? Do you feel that you could do “something more”? Why do some of the mariners around you seem to be more successful than others? How do some mariners “get ahead” while others some seem to languish in obscurity?

Once again, in my humble opinion, the best way to benefit your company and the maritime industry in general is to do MORE than is asked of you. Yup, actually do things that you might not even get paid for.

You might need to, as my dear old dad used to tell me (more often than I wish to actually admit to now), “step up to the plate” and get things done. You might need to start volunteering for projects. “Special projects,” if you will. And when I use the term “volunteering,” I don’t necessarily mean handing sandwiches out to the homeless crowd. (But that’s not a bad idea.)

A while back I had a guy in my leadership class who told a little story about how he wasn’t doing well at a previous job. He was passed over multiple times for promotion, and generally he wasn’t respected or liked. A Chinese guy in his company pulled him aside and advised him that he should start “volunteering for projects.”

Come to find out, he didn’t mean volunteering in the same context as we Westerners think of the word (as in doing something for free). He thought of the word as going beyond what is explicitly expected of you in your job. He was advising this guy to stand up and ask for more responsibility. Say yes when they ask for someone to do something more, and be pleased for the chance to help.

So where is this rambling story going? I’m advising you to take my dad’s advice: “Step up to the plate!” If you are not now mentoring these new young mariners who show promise, then you should start right away. Will you get paid more for your trouble? Probably not. Will it be more work? You bet. Will there be times when you just don’t feel like it? Probably so. So what’s in it for you?

We all always ask “What’s in it for me?” Whether you realize it or not, that question is always in the back of your mind. The answer, at least for me, is that I am helping to perpetuate an industry that has been so good to me all these years.

The maritime industry has taken me over most of the waters of the world. It has also kept me entertained and engaged for most of my life. And that doesn’t even take into account all the money I have earned having fun and adventures all these years. If I could still work that darn 6-hours-on/6-hours-off rotation, I would still be out there.

If I want those who are following in my footsteps to have the opportunity to do the same things I have done, then I have the moral responsibility to help. And you definitely should also be helping those around you who are working their way up. I am counseling you, as professional mariners, to get with the program and start mentoring those around you.

And if you’re one of those “kids” I talk about, you had best grab onto someone who will take the time and work with you. If you don’t do it NOW then tomorrow they will all be gone and you will be on your own to learn all this stuff without any help. So get with it before it’s too late!

Capt. Dennis Murphy, of Olympia, Wash., is a longtime shipmaster and is an instructor at Pacific Maritime Institute, where he splits his time between teaching classes and working in the simulation department. He also teaches at Fremont Maritime.

By Professional Mariner Staff