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Cracking the Marine Industry Job Hunt with Doug Sexton

People who are drawn to the marine industry understand that renewing your professional enthusiasm isn’t just about changing the scenery. It’s an investment in a rewarding career that enhances your love of the water and brings you into contact with people who share your ideals, priorities, and passion for the lifestyle.

V20 Recruiting & Consulting President Douglas M. Sexton understands exactly what it takes to thrive in the marine business because he’s done it all. From working with major OEMs to after-market distributors and private dealerships, his 25+ year career has taken him to just about everywhere in the U.S. and abroad where you find water. And yes, that is an antique outboard engine behind his desk. No, it’s not just for show.

Looking back over the years while working within the industry, it became obvious where one of the most pressing issues was: people/talent. Whether it was working with an OEM, a dealership, or almost any vendor in the business, it was almost inevitable that the conversation of finding the right talent was a challenge most businesses shared. He transitioned to marine recruiting because his experience taught him the most important lesson about getting your foot in the door:

You can’t just dip your toes.

Doug eats, sleeps, and breathes these waters, and he knows they’re too deep and too difficult to navigate without help from an insider who knows the decision-makers and what makes them tick. We caught up with him in Columbus, OH to find out everything you don’t know about into an exciting career in this industry, how to stand out from the online bait balls, and why working with a dedicated marine recruiter can be the best decision you ever made.

Sarah: What is the state of the marine industry today and how does it affect job seekers?

Doug: The watersports lifestyle took off decades ago, and the enthusiasm brought entire generations into contact with life on the water. However, what we know is that a lot of the most skilled marine technicians, salespeople, and leaders are starting to age out. That’s created a big talent gap, and with the boating resurgence from COVID-19, there’s a bigger need than ever for go-getters and game-changers. Couple this with forward-thinking, growth-oriented boat builders, engine manufacturers, and dealerships that understand the industry need to raise the bar and offer consumers new, different, and improved products and experiences, and you’ve got an equation for talented people to find huge career success.

You’d think that would mean getting a job is easy, but it’s actually created a bit of a crisis. This industry is extremely specialized, and because it’s largely recreational, customers are highly informed. Professionals in the industry have to be experts.

As a result, the businesses we work with are willing to invest in developing a candidate if they at least have some transferable skills. But if they don’t share enthusiasm for the industry, employers won’t get the long-term return they need for growth.

Additionally, another often-overlooked path for people who want to break into the industry is the value of taking entry-level positions. They may not give you exactly what you’re looking for, but because the business is so quick to reward talent and commitment, they can be a huge springboard into positions that are otherwise unattainable for industry outsiders.

Frankly, as a recruiter who loves the marine business and lifestyle, a little grit and determination are some of the most important qualities you can show me. I can take that information right to the top and say “This is someone who’s worth the investment and wants to climb the ladder. Hire them today and you can start thinking about their future.”

That’s where a lot of people looking to advance in the industry get lost in the process. It’s extremely difficult to communicate that to a potential employer through an online job platform—especially when you’re lost in the shuffle before you even start.

Sarah: How can a recruiter make a difference?

Doug: The most important advantage you get with a recruiter is that we’re working directly with our clients at the highest levels to deliver the two most important things they need from a candidate:

  1. The skills and experience it takes to succeed
  2. The passion and motivation to justify the investment

That’s why working with a recruiter doesn’t cost job seekers anything.

Talent is what makes our equation work. If you have what it takes, we want you, and our clients need you. All you have to do is call, and we can give you the resume resources, networking opportunities, and professional development advice to be a match for our clients.

Beyond this, a candidate does have to be willing to put the work in to present him or herself in the best light. We work our tails off for our clients. If you’re willing to go the extra mile, craft a great resume with your accomplishments highlighted, and communicate with us about your ideas regarding career growth we’re all ears.

However, if you’re going to shoot us a half-assed resume and ask us to find you a job for more money, you’re not understanding how we work. This is about growth. Clients are looking to grow and candidates that are looking for the same are the best fits.

Sarah: What are some of the obstacles candidates face in the marine industry?

Doug: One of the biggest advantages a recruiter can give you is confidentiality. This is a small industry and people tend to know each other. If you go looking for a job on your own, your boss is probably going to find out before you tell them. That can have serious consequences.

Everything we do at V20 is 100% confidential, so sending us a resume to have on file is risk-free. That also means we only contact you when there’s a serious opportunity on the table—you’re not dealing with fifteen weak applications floating around hoping something works out.

That speaks to another extraordinary advantage a recruiter like V20 gives you. We work very closely with the people doing the hiring, and every situation is completely different. There may be two jobs out there that are identical on paper, but for internal and cultural reasons, one may be a far better fit for you than the other.

You’ll never know that on your own, and it can make the process extremely frustrating. But because we know our clients inside and out, we’re in a position to offer you things you won’t get anywhere else.

For instance, most applicants never get feedback about why they didn’t get a call—it’s incredibly frustrating. Any time we have constructive feedback we can share, we’ll let you know and help you use it to get ahead. We can also give you specific resume advice, coaching for the interview process, and provide you with key details and insights into their business and current hiring needs you can’t get anywhere else.

Those are the things that help you improve as a candidate and make the most of real opportunities when they arise.

Sarah: What obligations come with putting a resume on file with V20?

Doug: None whatsoever. That’s the beauty of working with us. Most people in our database are already gainfully employed. Some are actively looking, but many others don’t even know there are incredible opportunities out there. The #1 reason people make a move from one position to another is opportunity. We consider that when we’re combing through our database. The client wants a great fit—a “unicorn”—but the candidate has to look at this position as an opportunity to grow their career.

It’s not uncommon for people we have on file to get a call out of the blue from us with a career possibility that was never on their radar. Many conversations start with “Have you considered…”, and they often haven’t. It opens up a completely different door for their life, and they can choose to walk through it or not.

It sounds cliché, but we are in the business of relationships. We have many candidates we have placed in more than one position. We have thousands of people we have some level of relationship with that we’ve never placed, but we try to keep tabs on them and understand where they are in their career trajectory. Timing is critical, and we understand everyone isn’t looking for the next new job all of the time. But if the timing works out, everybody wins.

Just by sending us a resume, you are putting yourself in a no-obligation position to grow your career.

Sarah: What are the qualities you look for in a candidate?

Doug: That’s easy: have a growth mindset and be process-oriented. If you want to work on the water and be a part of this amazing field, develop your skills, and grow your career, perfect. We’d love to help you.

The marine industry is an industry that continues to grow but needs talented employees to capitalize on the fleet of new enthusiasts who’ve discovered the joy of the open water in recent years.

Our clients are successful because they understand that talent is the engine that’s going to drive their business into the future.

With that in mind, everyone from the CEO to the showroom floor knows that success is a process, not an event. Tomorrow’s winners will be constantly improving themselves and driven by an underlying desire to expand and develop the recreational lifestyle they love.

That’s why they partner with V20 Recruiting & Consulting and rely so heavily on our work. Getting a big investment right the first time is so much more valuable than making ten small ones on ten mediocre candidates in ten years. You can’t grow the industry or a business without passionate people, and you can’t get ahead in the hiring process without an inside edge.

If you’re dreaming of a career on the water and you’re tired of fishing for old boots and tires, contact V20 today and find out the difference a dedicated industry recruiter can make.