Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How to Land that First Job

All of us need guidance on how to do things, and soon-to-be graduates are just the same.   Here's a question a reader posed, with my advice below.  Hope it is useful for all job seekers out there.

Good afternoon Amy,

I am a senior at Washington State University studying Viticulture and Enology. I wanted to touch base with you about reaching out to wineries and winemakers via email. My goal is to work for a great winemaker as an intern and do whatever it takes to show how hard of a worker I am and the value I can bring as a leader and a team member. I am always learning and I am always trying to get better. 

If you have any advice for me, it would be greatly appreciated.

         Butch T. Cougar
Dear Butch,

Great to hear from you up at Washington State University, and Go Cougars!  I'm glad to hear you are in your last year in the Viticulture and Enology program there.  This is a great time to be graduating with a degree, and a great time to be looking for a job.  The job market is quite a bit different than a few years ago.  It is really active now, and salaries have come up in the last couple of years.

This is a great question and I encourage people to take an active role in the job search.  Contacting wineries and winemakers directly is ideal.  That's what I do, and how I've built my network.  Here are a few things to think about when you are planning your email campaign:

  1. Timing is everything.  Right now might not be the best time to start contacting winemakers.  Here in California, at the end of August, winemakers are thinking about one thing--HARVEST.  If an unsolicited email came into their inbox right now, they'd most likely ignore it and forget all about it in a few days.  I would recommend getting these emails out in December through March.  
  2. Beware the spam folder!  Your email might get in the spam folder.  This happens.  You'll never know if it does.  And if it does, the person you are contacting most likely will never know you emailed them.  So I encourage you to follow up with a phone call, or if you are able to, an in-person visit to the winery.  
  3. Strategize.  Start a list of wineries and winemakers you would really like to work for.  I'm a fan of geographical lists if you need to live in a certain area.  I'd take a map and start contacting wineries closest to home first, and move out from there.  Who doesn't want a 5 minute commute.  It is good for you, for your car and the planet.  
  4. Learn everything you can.  Educate yourself on the wineries and people you are contacting.  Know if they are Cabernet houses, Pinot fanatics, or are trying some funky new varietals and blends.  Put this information in the message to them--it shows you took the time to research them, and you are making a case for why you could be a great intern or employee for them.  
  5. Cast a wide net whenever possible.  If you are hoping to get in with a renowned winemaker, contact everyone you have been interested in working for.  You'll never know if you could have worked for Rock Star Winemaker if you never asked her.  
  6. Follow Up.  This is key.  Follow up with each contact after you send the email (maybe within 3-4 days), and then if you are really serious about a certain place--try to contact them again.  I think I've outlined this in past posts, but try to be pleasantly persistent, not irritatingly hounding anyone.  
  7. Be professional, conscientious and gracious.  Yes, you may be dying to work for that Rock Star Winemaker, but she may just not have anything right now.  And if Ultimate winery hiring manager gives you a call, make sure you return it right away.  Thank everyone you deal with and come across professional and eager.  Hiring managers want to hire people that want to work there.  Make sure they know you want the job if you do.
  8. Informational interviews can get you in the door.  If you get a winery that is open to discuss career paths or the winemaking team, but they don't have an opening today--take the informational interview.  These are generally with people you have contacted, and that you have expressed interest in.  Information Interviews are way you can learn about their company and to get guidance on your career.  You can learn a lot about the industry and jobs, and they may just have an opening come up down the road or know someone who needs Butch Cougar to help out at their winery, right away.  
  9. Interviewing, thank you's, next steps.  If you get that interview, maybe look at some of my posts on how to do it right.  After any interview, informational or regular, send a thank you.  And always see if you can find out what the next steps are during the interview process so you have an idea of the timeline and recruitment process at the company you are meeting with.  
Butch, I hope that is helpful.  Let me know how the search goes--I wish you the best of luck.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

How to Find a Resume Writer

Quick pointer here for people looking for help writing their resume.  Go to the Professional Association of Resume Writers website at www.parw.com and search their database of certified resume writers.

Also, for you DIY folks out there, I just came across a great website with templates for resume writing, www.myperfectresume.com.  And as I've mentioned before, there are tons of free resources online for resume templates and content development.

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cranky Recruiter's Interview Bloopers

Yes, dear reader, this blog is all about advice for the job hunt.  As they say, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make her drink.  I may put the advice out here for consumption, but often people don't know they could use the information.  I thought I'd share some of my favorite interview bloopers to lighten your day.  Think to yourself, "Oh great, is she talking about me?" or "Would hate to be that guy!"  No one ever needs to know but you and me.

Ditch the Beer, not your Career
Blooper:  A few years ago I was interviewing a tasting room manager candidate in a public market
setting.  I arrived a bit early and waited for him.  He sent me a quick text to see if I was there, which I was. He came over and found me, bringing his freshly poured pint of beer.  To put this in context, I was sitting in the common area, not consuming anything at about 11:00 am on a weekday.  In a friendly manner I asked why he was having a beer before our interview and he said he had been really nervous and wanted to calm himself down.  Luckily that occurred during the interview--he finished the pint right about the time I was concluding the interview.  He wasn't the right person for that job, and so far, any others I have worked on.
Moral:  If you find out your interview is about to start--chuck the liquor and get over to the interviewer quicker.

Hello, My Eyes are Up Here!
Blooper:  Maybe you know this, but in an interview it is best to look the other person in the eye or thereabouts.  When you are staring at their chest, navel or anything below their chin you can get yourself in trouble.  Years ago I was interviewing a seasoned salesperson and I was wearing professional business attire.  During the entire interview, his eyes gazed below my chin, and never looked up.   He did however discuss how he was recently divorced, was looking for a nice woman, and, oh, yeah, wants a new job.  Hmm, maybe he has to brush up on his dating skills too?
Moral:  No matter what, keep your eyes on the prize--a job--not anything else.

Would you Like Hollandaise with that Wad of Gum?
Blooper:  Decades ago I was interviewing a young recruiter that I was thinking about bringing onto my team.  He was energetic, had done some high-tech recruiting in the past, and had a good sense of humor.  We had a preliminary interview in the office, and for the second interview we met for lunch.  Salutations and ordering were complete and then our meals came.  The young recruiter took his large wad of gum out and put it on his plate.  Yum, appetizing.  Shockingly I did end up hiring him--and have plenty more stories of his shenanigans after that.  
Moral:  While he shouldn't of had all that gum in his mouth for an interview, his humor, experience and personality won me out--over the huge wad of gum which seemed to be joining us for lunch. 

Sunbather with a Slight Hint of Cocoa Butter
Blooper:  For a particular hospitality position I was doing back-to-back interviews at a coffee shop, meeting experienced managers every hour.  I had gotten to my third interview of the day, and in walked a young woman with her bikini top on under her sundress.  She also had her resume with her.  She had successfully managed teams of up to 5 tasting room personnel and was in charge of the operating budget and revenues for the winery's hospitality program.  And she was wearing a swimsuit.  Now that is wine country casual!  Oh, and for bonus points she did use cocoa butter for tanning so she smelled great.  May be a bit overpowering in a tasting room setting though.
Moral:  While it may be casual in wine country, I appreciate if you wear something that you didn't throw on after sunbathing.  

Thanks, I Needed a Pick-me-up
Blooper:  Recently I was recruiting for a manager role within the engineering department at a large winery.  My candidate met me at the right time, right place and was dressed appropriately.  She brought along her resume, references and some associated documents.  We started the interview at the coffee shop and things were going great.  Right about the time we got into details about her current role her hand struck her coffee cup, hurling it, uncovered, into my lap.  She had my attention then.  She apologized profusely, handled herself very professionally in a very awkward situation and tried to remedy the situation.  While I was wiping up the foamy macchiato, I was giggling on the inside.  This is something that I always worry about doing--not getting done to me.  She ended up interviewing for the position and got the job.  I'll take care of that dry cleaning bill!
Moral:  Things happen.  Be nice and conscientious and most of the time people understand.  And you'll be memorable.  Maybe even earn yourself a new nickname.  Macchiato Mayhem!

Take Home Message:  We all goof up.  Sometimes quite publicly, sometimes in ways only a few people witness.  Handling yourself professionally and courteously will pay off in the long run.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

How to Sideline your Wine Career: Drink and Drive

T.G.I.Friday!  Cheers everyone--here's to a hard week at work!  Let's stop by the bar and grab a couple of drinks to get the weekend started off right.  We did our best this week, whether that was signing a big sales contract, dealing with unseasonably warm weather in the vineyards, bottling the first round of wines or finishing up our tax returns.  It is time to celebrate the beginning of the weekend.  And we are so lucky to be in the wine and spirits industry.  We know what to drink, we know where to get it and often we have friends and co-workers who will share in the celebration.  So bottoms up!

That is quite the siren song, and I wouldn't be here if I had not shared many a happy hour with co-workers, hosted clients to a wine dinner or participated in my fair share of wine tastings.  But that siren song can have a high price, especially if it is paired with the siren of a cop car pulling you over on suspicion of driving under the influence.

DUI:  An Occupational Hazard?  I have heard plenty of folks in the wine industry say that drinking and driving comes with the territory; an occupational hazard so to speak.  I've also met plenty of people who had one too many, stepped behind the wheel and ended up with a DUI.  In turn they end up losing their job and spending over $40,000 because of the DUI.  Not much to celebrate after that happens.  And unfortunately, I have also had friends and family lose a loved one in a drunk driving accident.

Drunk driving laws have gotten stricter over the years.  According to MADD, the number of drunk driving deaths has been cut in half since MADD was founded in 1980.  We can all agree that reducing the drunk driving death rate is extremely important, and stricter laws have done that.

Now, for those of us who have never had a DUI, we may not know the high cost of getting one.  It may not be important to you now, but believe me, if you get a DUI you will very quickly come to realize the true cost of it.  First there is the actual monetary cost.  The DMV.org website has a great reference article,  The Real Cost of a DUI in California.  According to this the overall cost of a DUI here is $45,435.  That's a lot.  But there are long term costs that are not taken into account that I think you need to know about.  And they are in your career.

Over the years I have talked to many people who only learned about the detrimental effects of a DUI to their career after they got the DUI.  Some people lose their jobs because they can't drive for work under the employer's insurance.  Others cannot get their dream job because the employer requires a criminal background check and their records will show an arrest and conviction--whether it be a misdemeanor (often for a first offense without any injuries) or a felony (subsequent offenses or injuries or death to others while driving under the influence).  Employers may back off on making an offer to someone with this kind of criminal baggage and hire another person.

From Rising Star to Underemployed:  One of the first stories I heard was of a young, aspiring distributor sales representatives who had recently been promoted to manage sales in a large metropolitan territory.  This sales manager was the rising star and went to dinner with one of the company's executives.  After sampling some great wines, enjoying a wonderful dinner and probably having a night cap, she drove off towards her new house in the suburbs.  The world was her oyster, and she was living her dream of success.  That was until she was pulled over and her field sobriety test showed her way over the legal limit.

Of course she was panicked, and dealt with the legal aspects of her arrest and conviction, but she also quickly learned what the cost was to her career.  Once her employer found out they terminated her position because she could not be driving on company business.  Having just relocated to the area, she didn't have the safety net of family and friends nearby and had to go it alone finding a way to support herself while also paying the high legal costs of the DUI.  Looking at new jobs, distributor sales positions were essentially unavailable to her because of the requirement of a clean driving record.  Having built her career on distributor sales, she had to quickly regroup and figure out what else she could do.  A DUI can stay on your driving record for 10 years in California, so she needed to reinvent herself.  She enrolled in an MBA program with a great local business school and was up front with potential employers about her DUI.  She ended up getting a sales management position with a small winery and has been getting her MBA completed.  The DUI costs may have been around $40,000 but she took an annual pay cut of close to $40,000.  Four years into it she would have missed out on over $160,000 in salary.  Ouch!

Young Student Doing Everything Right Until the DUI:  A more recent story I heard was of a student in the Viticulture and Enology program at a well known California university.  This guy had recently turned 21 and was at a bar on the weekend.  He had some drinks and then hit the road.  Unfortunately, he had a bike rack on his car that caused his license plate to be blocked.  A CHP saw that and pulled him over.  When he was pulled over, the officer detected alcohol on his breath, gave him the breathalyzer and he was over the legal limit.  Now he has a DUI and can't work in viticulture;  his chosen field.  He had already worked in various viticulture positions, building strong experience for his future career.  With the DUI, he most likely cannot work in most viticulture positions due to the need to drive a company truck and be on the company's insurance to drive vehicles and operate machinery.  He has had to rethink his future and is now looking at cellar and enology positions at companies that do not require a clean driving record.

My advice to him is to stay keep his record clean, build up a strong list of references and stay on top of his DUI record.  It is expensive, but anything that can be done to make your driving record reflect a lesser offense is worth it.  In some states you can get a past conviction expunged.  Nolo Press has some great information about DUIs, including this on getting a DUI off your record.

Don't Drink and Drive.  It can ruin your career.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Management: Introverts and Extroverts

I'm always interested in the best way to manage people--taking into consideration their personality traits and how to make the most of everyone in your team, not just those who perform well in a group.  Topmanagementdegrees.com sent me this great info graphic about how best to manage and mentor introverts and extroverts.  

Introverts and Extroverts
Source: topmanagementdegrees.com