09 May 2024
by Carly Fields

Charting your course: Key takeaways from IMarEST’s Future Leaders conference

The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology's (IMarEST) recent Future Leaders conference provided a dynamic forum for young professionals in the maritime industry. The event offered insights and practical advice designed to empower attendees from the marine sector to navigate their careers with focus and intention. The following are some key takeaways: 


Cultivate a skillset aligned with your passions: 

Conor Savage, ESG Manager at Sainsbury's Bank and a member of IMarEST’s Marine Mammals SIG, underscored the importance of pursuing volunteer opportunities that ignite your curiosity. This not only broadens your experience base but also fosters the development of transferable skills valuable across diverse marine roles. Savage suggests volunteering as a "vanguard" for exploration, encouraging attendees to find or even create opportunities that align with their interests.  


Leverage connections: 

Claudene Sharp-Patel, global technical director at Lloyd's Register, emphasised the significance of fostering professional relationships. Stepping outside one's comfort zone and cultivating a strong network can unlock new opportunities and mitigate self-doubt, she said. It is crucial to remember that soft skills such as communication and collaboration are equally important as technical expertise for career advancement in the marine sector. Sharp-Patel acknowledged the prevalence of imposter syndrome, but assured attendees that strong mentors and a supportive network can help them overcome self-doubt and leverage their full potential. 


Strategic career reassessment: 

Amanda Peach, career coach at STEM Returners, advised attendees to periodically re-evaluate their priorities and refine their career goals. Don't be afraid to invest time in identifying the right opportunity, but also be prepared to make calculated decisions and take initiative, she said. Peach encouraged participants to recognise that "oh my god" moment of clarity, a turning point where they decide if they are on the right career path. This self-reflection should lead to a more strategic approach where they bide their time for the perfect opportunity. 


Visibility in the digital age:  

In today's digital landscape, a well-established online presence is essential. Jenny Kovacs, visibility specialist, outlined her VIBES program, a framework designed to help young marine professionals develop a robust professional brand. This includes actively participating in industry discussions on platforms like LinkedIn, showcasing expertise, and crafting a compelling online biography that highlights unique strengths and accomplishments. Kovacs emphasised the concept of "Visibility for future leaders to raise your professional brand," acknowledging the increasing importance of online presence in today's job market.  


The growing importance of soft skills:  

The marine industry is placing a growing emphasis on soft skills development. Heidi Heseltine, founder of Diversity Study Group, highlighted the need for young marine professionals to cultivate strong communication, leadership, and relationship management skills. Heseltine pointed out that historically the industry has recruited based on technical expertise, but now companies are seeking well-rounded individuals who can navigate diverse teams and contribute to a collaborative work environment.  


Adaptability in a changing industry: 

Ben Darnton, director at Halcyon Recruitment, acknowledged the industry's shift towards a more collaborative work environment. He underscored the increasing importance for young professionals to understand the bigger picture of their organisations and how their roles contribute to overall success. Darnton also addressed the changing nature of project delivery, where remote work and geographically dispersed teams are becoming increasingly common. This new reality necessitates strong communication and collaboration skills for success.