Many strategies exist to aid in the development of soft skills, but one of the most fruitful approaches is through mentorship, where soft skills are not only taught but also practiced.
What is mentoring?
entors have played an essential role in communities since ancient times. A mentor is someone who has expertise and experience in a subject that they pass on to a mentee. Mentoring serves as a bridge between previous knowledge and future innovation.
Mentors pass on their truths to their mentees, who can then use and evolve them by putting their own spin. As a result, mentoring can be an effective means of assisting an individual in dealing with uncertainty.
Mentoring is less common nowadays due to its nature. People have less time, and they can google something and have an answer in seconds rather than learning progressively through a mentoring process. Unfortunately, with this way of looking at things, humanity risks missing the forest for the trees.
Skills beyond technicalities
Some things cannot be taught on a piece of paper or a screen. One of them is soft skills. Soft skills are a range of qualities that include communication, teamwork, leadership, and other aspects of the human factor and relationships.
Soft skills are frequently dismissed as secondary, but businesses and organizations are beginning to recognize their critical role in proper management and, as a result, a healthy and effective work environment.
Some people are naturally strong communicators, and soft skills are frequently considered as something you are either good at or not. However, developing soft skills may be taught just like any other skill.
Soft skill development in a mentoring relationship
As mentioned, soft skills are not only taught but also performed in a mentoring relationship. Mentoring, which is highly tailored and personalized, can significantly improve the development of soft skills. Mentoring relationships can help people develop soft skills such as leadership, effective communication, and empathy.
Especially in a working environment as such the one onboard a ship, one could say that soft skills are not just crucial, but essential to ensure smooth operation. There are various reasons that soft skills training is essential, especially for leaders, such as:
#1 Their colleague is also their neighbor
Seafarers not only work but also live in the same space. With proper soft skills set, they can prevent arguments and misunderstanding from rising, which will ease their comfort.
#2 Communication promotes safety
Effective communication can promote a safer workplace as seafaring is a dangerous job. After soft skills mentoring, a safe place where mistakes can be confessed and confessing to feeling tired is not a crime, can be promoted.
#3 Shipping connects the world
As seafarers are usually from diverse backgrounds, they need training in order to understand each other. In this way, instances of discrimination can drop significantly.
Maritime soft skills mentoring programs can be conducted through various methods such as:
- Workshops and Seminars
- Individual mentoring sessions
- Practical scenarios and role-playing exercises
- Web-based training modules
- Regular assessments and feedback sessions
According to 2019 Mentoring Seafarers research by Solent University for ITF Seafarers’ Trust, mentoring can address the following:
- The provision of consistent technical and psychological support for new seafarers during the initial stages of learning about seafaring.
- The provision on board providing training support.
- The offer of encouragement, motivation, industry experience, career development advice and networking opportunities.
- The provision of the building blocks to help develop human resilience by equipping individuals with experience, confidence, and someone to contact without fear of reprisal
The mentoring practice is rising in popularity amongst the maritime industry with more and more organizations turning to this method so their crew can develop soft skills. This has led in the establishment of some very interesting initiatives such as:
- The Mentoring Seafarers Project by Nautilus, with funding from the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, from which the research mentioned above was developed.
- The WISTA Hellas Full Ahead Executive Maritime Mentoring Program in which mentors and mentees can participate in interactive sessions with constructive feedback in a diverse environment.
- The Nautical Institute is an avid supporter of mentoring with initiatives such as Mentoring at Sea: the 10-minute challenge, which invited seafarers to spend just ten minutes of their day passing on a piece of seafaring knowledge to a colleague.
- Talking Point by ISWAN which is a series of thought pieces written by experts in the maritime industry, offering insights into different topics affecting seafarers.
- The Foundation of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners offers support, encouragement, advice and assistance to the mentees as they progress through the various stages of their career, starting as a Cadet.
- Marine Society charity’s Coming Ashore mentoring initiative which helps seafarers get the support and skills they need to transition to a shore-side career in the maritime sector.
- Since 2019, Danish Shipping has established a mentoring program to support young seafarers entering the maritime world.
Where we stand
Overall, the implementation of mentoring programs focused on developing soft skills is a very advantageous endeavor for the maritime sector as it holds significant benefits in terms of enhancing overall performance, safety, and the quality of interactions among maritime professionals.
In the context of a rapidly advancing technological landscape and a growing degree of digitalization, it is imperative to prioritize the cultivation of fundamental human connection for the sake of an individual’s psychological well-being.
Simply put, a seafarer’s holistic professional development encompasses more than just technical expertise.