Hiring managers and recruiters will tell you that personal contacts and word-of-mouth referrals are still the No. 1 way in which companies recruit new team members.
“It’s who you know” remains a truism in career management. That’s true of all industries, even in today’s world of technology. It’s always been true of the river industry. A common thread in the stories of all the captains featured in this special issue is that they were invited into the industry by a family member or close friend who worked in it or had connections.
Having family members in the industry may increase the likelihood of being invited in, but it’s certainly not a requirement. And these days, when all industries are likely to be facing worker shortages for the near future, river companies are quite aware of the need to step up outreach efforts beyond traditional networks.
The first level of recruitment, as our stories show, is current employees who enjoy what they do and are on the lookout for possible co-workers among their shoreside friends and acquaintances.
Longstanding outreach programs like Who Works the Rivers are more important than ever, giving young people who may not be familiar with the life an up-close-and-personal view of a career on the rivers.
Young people today face a lot of challenges figuring out a career path, challenges that their parents didn’t have to face. The cost of college continues to outpace inflation, and student loans have become a career-crushing burden for many. The idea of college as the one-size-fits-all ladder to a good life and rewarding career is being increasingly questioned.
“Unconventional” careers are getting more consideration. Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs fame, has made it a career himself to get the word out about how fulfilling these jobs can be—and some of his episodes have featured river and marine jobs.
Working the rivers may not be for everyone, but many thousands of people from all areas of the country and all kinds of backgrounds have found a river career to be fulfilling, rewarding, meaningful and supportive. We hope this special issue, with its stories of successful, content captains and pilots at all stages of their working journeys will help inspire more young people searching for a meaningful career to give the rivers a look.