Thursday, November 29, 2007

Holiday Job Search: Follow Up

To follow up on the last post, I just read in the Career Journal of the Wall Street Journal that they too recommend keeping active with your job hunt during the holiday season. A few things the article mentioned was that hiring managers do like to find candidates through their referral network, and that the holidays can be a great time to participate in annual holiday events. Also, fiscal year budgets often coincide with the calendar year, and managers are eager to fill head count positions that are open. Many times executives are looking at the upcoming year's budget, and are interviewing in anticipation of hiring at the beginning of the new year. These are opportunities for you to get noticed now--and not after the holidays. Lastly, with the holidays upon everyone, many hiring managers hope to stay near home. This gives you an advantage to catch them at their desks and often with time to schedule an impromptu interview.

Keep at it--no time like now!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Take Advantage of the Holidays for Your Job Hunt

Okay, as a former sales manager, I have to admit that one of my favorite movies is Glengarry Glen Ross. You may think I'm callous liking it, but it does show a lot of the personalities that work in the sales world, and some of the ones that are successful. Being a bit jaded, Alec Baldwin's sales speech wasn't that shocking to me. Maybe I was a tough manager.

The best salesperson in that group was Al Pacino's character, Ricky Roma, who when the power went down at the office went with his roll of quarters to the nearest phone booth and kept calling away. The other salesmen were griping about how they couldn't make calls, and therefore couldn't work. It's not surprising that Al Pacino's salesman outperformed them all, everytime. I've seen both types of salespeople and recruiters, and have never been surprised when the innovative person is more successful.

Having worked in an office with other salespeople, I often heard excuses why they couldn't sell at various times. Everyone always said that the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's was the worst times to be trying to sell services. They are also the easiest time to get distracted by holiday shopping, family gatherings and the related hub-bub.

But if you are smart, and really want to pursue a new job opportunity or new client, the holidays can be a great time to connect with people. You may be able to carve out a little extra time to search job postings. You may also be able to contact people in your network to wish them well during the holidays--and ask about any opportunities they have heard of. And, you may be one of the few people that responds to a posting--since they other job hunters are too busy with the holidays!

So, don't look for excuses why this is a bad time to be looking for a job. Look at it as a good time to make some solid inroads in your job search--while spreading holiday cheer!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Career Advice: How you act in an interview

A few months ago I interviewed a gentleman for a sales position I was working on. I interview all of my candidates in person before I send them along to my clients. There is a very good reason for this. To make sure I'm representing them in their true light, and to make sure there aren't any personality problems I need to be aware of.

Case in point. This gentleman who has been selling in the wine industry for the last 15 years is very qualified for many sales positions. And I'm sure he would interview very well with many male hiring managers. He might not do so well with female interviewers. Why? The entire time I was interviewing him he was staring at my chest. I asked my husband if my outfit was too revealing, and he said "Possibly, in a black burka sort of way." Having worn a conservative, long sleeved black sweater that day, I didn't think I was calling attention to my anatomy.

While interviewing he brought up that he has a very active social life and that he has been divorced for the last three years. While these things come up in interviews, I felt the conversation was moving into personal waters.

While trying to direct his attention back to my face, let alone my eyes, I started to realize that if he's trying to find his next job, he might need to work on his interpersonal skills a little. Feeling like I needed a shower after the leering looks, I am now questioning what type of sales position would be best for him. Probably one dealing with male winemakers and male general managers.

So when you are interviewing, keep your demeanor professional and think about how you come off to the interviewer. We're paying attention, and may limit the opportunities we present based on how our interview went.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Juggling work and job hunting

This has been a crazy time for me and WineTalent. After a spate of marketing, my plate is yet again full with new orders--which leads to resume reviewing, candidate screening, interviewing, client visits and negotiations--and ultimately to new hires.

With my juggle I get behind in some areas, and am sure when work is busy for my candidates and they are also working at finding a new job, some things get pushed to the side.

My only advice is to prioritize and then to get to work. Your current position has to be your top priority. Being a solid contributor to your company will pay off when it's time to move on. References are very important, so keep focused on your work.

Next, when job hunting, use resources to your advantage. Set up searches and agents on any job boards you use so that new, appropriate positions are sent to you for your response. If you are overwhelmed with information, retool your search parameters to make only highly desirable positions end up in your inbox.

Now, make sure you have a general version of your resume ready for a position. Having a chronological resume updated at all times is very important. When that great opening pops up, you can zip off your resume and not be bogged down with other matters that could distract you from ever responding to the position. You can also always add some custom elements to the generic version that apply directly to the opening you are interested in.

So, your resume's out and you get that call. Return the call as soon as you can, and if your schedule is crowded, let the caller know that you may have to get back to them. Many of us are over-scheduled now, and a last minute meeting isn't always going to work out. But be creative. Ask if you can call them back during a certain time, or give them times that would work when you could talk at length, and see if there is a schedule match. Thinking past "No, I can't" to "How about if we talk at 3:30 on Friday?" will make the interested party know that you are eager to connect, and are keeping both parties schedules' in mind.

Interviewing can be tricky. Interviewers often understand if an early morning, lunchtime, or evening time is the only thing that will work for you. But, some companies can't make allowances for your interview time constraints. So, if the job is important enough to you, you're going to have to figure a way to get there--and not jeopardize your current position.

You're interviewing, it's going well, and they want to contact your references. A great idea is to contact your references beforehand so that they are expecting the call. When I'm calling references, I always get a quick response when the reference knows why I'm calling. They are is hoping to help out a great candidate. I always recommend giving more than the number of references requested so that they are assured of reaching a few people, and aren't stuck waiting for return calls.

Good News: They are interested in hiring you and need to negotiate your offer. Don't do this at work. Make time to call them back when you are out of the office. Another idea is to have a contact at home that can be a conduit to you. I often can negotiate offers faster if a candidate's spouse or partner is open to me leaving messages with them and having the candidate contact me when they can. That way they can already be thinking about it by the time they reach me and have some ideas in place. But don't worry if you don't have a reliable contact outside of the office. Voicemail is a tool that you can use to take messages and return as soon as possible. Most companies won't leave offer terms on a message, but you can know that they have a response for you.

Yea, they want you. If you need to, have them send you an offer letter and/or contract. That way you can read through it when you have time, and respond appropriately. You also can do it away from work, where you aren't thinking about work matters.

Lastly--don't abandon ship. Always let both your old employer and your new one know that you need "at least two week's notice" before you can start your new position. It is the professional thing to do, and will keep you smelling like a rose with everyone.

Congratulations. You successfully juggled your work with your job hunt--and found a great new job.

Gotta run, calls to make, references to check, clients to call.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mentors: Answers or Guidance

Recently I've been juggling several open orders, sales visits, a marketing push and my usual hectic home life. On my drive home today after a string of sales visits, I was reminded of a previously overwhelming point in my life when a great mentor had invited me to start up a new venture with him, and I was also facing a promotion at my current employer.

The new venture was a dream opportunity, and a chance to work with a great group of industry visionaries. It was a huge compliment for my friend to ask me to join him. But as is true with any start up, I would be taking on a high level of risk, both financially and professionally.

The promotion was a logical next step for me, but would require more travel and more responsibility for me. The company had always treated me very well, and I knew that as long as I could handle the job, I would be rewarded financially. But juggling travel, staff management, and a busy home life was a concern. I could stay in my current role and continue to enjoy my job--although always wonder what "could have been"

Feeling overwhelmed, I asked an experienced female entrepreneur to dinner to discuss my situation. She had been a good sounding board in the past, and I thought she might be able to shed some light on my predicament. Over a meal and a good bottle of red wine, we talked about our families, our career accomplishments, and aspirations. She had built a successful career while raising three daughters and maintaining a strong relationship with her husband. She had opened new companies, headed business groups and consulted on new opportunities.

I asked her what I should do, and as maddening as it was, she wouldn't just tell me what was the best option. She did say that starting up a new company was a big endeavor, and that my children wouldn't be young forever. She said I was sure to have plenty of great opportunities down the road, and not to feel like I was passing up on my one chance to do something special. She also said that I was probably ready for more responsibilities, as long as I had strong systems in place at home to handle situations when they arose.

Heading home I was disappointed that she hadn't of told me what to do. But I also realized that a true mentor can't simply tell you what makes the most sense. A mentor is there to show you the road ahead, help you understand the challenges and also how to overcome obstacles. So go out there, build some relationships with mentors, and listen to their advice. Then make your own decisions.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Talking about Compensation at Work

Yesterday Sue Shellenbarger's Work and Family Q&A column in the Wall Street Journal addressed talking with co-workers about compensation. While Ms. Shellenbarger confirmed my thought that it is inappropriate to discuss salary directly with your co-workers, she had a very interesting insight about people who do discuss salaries at work. Ms. Shellenbarger stated that "bringing up salaries, bonuses or raises can be a veiled power play, a way to belittle or intimidate others, or just a way to stir up trouble." I do encourage people to do their research on what market salaries are, but agree that it is never helpful to talk about it with your co-workers. It has only led to trouble among co-workers and feelings of resentment either of peers or management.

Being Promotable

All too often I get calls from people who feel underappreciated at their employer. While many times this is very true, managing your own promotability will help you both at your present employer and at future jobs. Here are some tips to make you a most valued employee.
-Keep up with Industry trends and technology: Know what's going on in your field and the technologies available to help improve efficiencies and market position
-Stay Marketable: Attend industry classes and seminars. Volunteering for new projects will help you participate in company initiatives and put you in front of new colleagues who may be useful in future positions. Keep an up to date resume handy in case you find out about a company opening—you want to be ready in case a application deadline is days away.
-Become an industry expert: Joining industry associations and attending events will increase your presence in the wine world. Reading up on industry issues will make you a resource for your co-workers. When a discussion comes up at work about something that was dealt with at a recent meeting you will be able to bring outside insight to your company's problem.
-Be proactive: As a recruiter I always had posted "Ask for the order". It's the same with your employer—let them know you are interested in new responsibilities and are ready to make the next step.
-Find a mentor: Mentors are a very helpful ally in your career. Finding an internal mentor at your employer can help you navigate office politics and gives you someone else who is keeping an eye out for possible career advancement opportunities.
-Build a relationship with your boss. Many times working on your interactions with your boss can reap huge dividends. If your boss starts feeling that you are an asset to your company, and also that you are highly valuable to the group, she will be more likely to keep you engaged and put you on new projects. This will allow you to add new items to your resume and keep you highly promotable.
-Dress for the position. I can never say this enough. If you want to step up the company ladder, make sure you are dressing the part. Too often I have seen A+ candidates who technically are ready for a step up, but dress like college students. Although dressing for success may not be comfortable for you, looking the part makes your supervisors and peers take you more serious. This puts you a step ahead of your competition and outside candidates.
- And most importantly, do a good job. Without proving to be a worthy employee, no grooming or industry insight will move you up.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Career Journal Articles to Read

Today's Wall Street Journal's Career Journal section had two insightful articles for job hunters.

The first article deals with how to search for a job without your boss finding out. As I have posted previously this article touches on things you need to keep under wraps while job hunting. Especially helpful is the information about confidential posting to job boards. The article notes that on sites such as, and you can block the viewing of your resume by certain companies. So if you are working for ABCXYZ winery, you can block anyone from that winery viewing your resume on these services. View the whole article at

The second article talks about getting your resume noticed. Similar to my notes in Black and White and Never Read this article advises you to make your resume stand out from the competition. Interesting ideas include a free-lance writer who structures her resume as a press release and a resume packaged as a slick marketing brochure. Keep editing those resumes, and take a look at the article at

A subscription may be required.

Book Review: Judgment of Paris

Just finished Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the historic 1976 tasting that revolutionized wine. This book was written by George M. Taber, the former Time magazine reporter who first wrote about the now famous wine tasting.

This was an excellent book. Mr. Taber did a great job of developing the story, giving a lot of insight into the people who were a part of the tasting--including the judges, the winery owners and the winemakers. There was a good description of what was happening with California winemaking in the 20th century. The story allowed keen insight into who was changing the wine world.

The 1976 tasting had a major impact on California wine and George Taber's insight is very helpful in understanding it. He also delves into the long term effects the tasting had on the international wine industry.

After slogging through the Robert Parker book this book was a joy to read. George Taber talks about how he came to be involved in the tasting, he was the only journalist there, and also the reaction to the tasting. His love of the wine world is apparent and he treats his subjects with much respect. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about the judgment of Paris, the history of California winemaking, and the future possibilities of the wine economy.

Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the historic 1976 tasting that revolutionized wine by George M. Taber, c. 2005, Scribner

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Book Review: The Emperor of Wine; The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr., and the Reign of American Taste

It hasn't been all sunshine and sightseeing on my vacation. I've also hunkered down to get some industry reading under my belt. Here's my take on Elin McCoy's biographical book on Robert M. Parker, Jr.

Having a general knowledge of Mr. Parker's impact on the wine industry, the book was a good in depth look at his upbringing, his interests and many of the struggles he has dealt with on his path to becoming one of the world's most important wine critics. The writer, Elin McCoy, is a journalist and longtime contributor to wine columns for Bloomberg Markets, Food & Wine, New York Times, and House and Garden. Her writing is very imformative, if not exhaustive, in telling the tale of Mr. Parker's rise to prominence.

Not knowing Mr. Parker, some of the stories show a favorable side of him, but many times he is shown as brutal to wineries he doesn't care for, tender to criticism and quick to defend himself, sometimes excessively.

I thought the book was very helpful in understanding Robert Parker's impact on the wine industry and offered some insight into the wine world. The writing style was a bit dry for me, and didn't lend itself to enjoyable reading. If you want to get an insiders view of the wine world, of Mr. Parker, and of wine criticism overall, it's worth your time.

The Emperor of Wine; The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr., and the Reign of American Taste, by Elin Mccoy, c. 2005, Harper Perennial.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Career Decisions: Following Tradition

As I sit on a houseboat in Lake Powell I’m vacationing with a well educated group of people. I’ve got lawyers, doctors, nurses, engineers, PhD’s and educators sitting around me. And as all good houseboat trips include, there are lots of children. As parents, all of us want the best future for our children. And for most people, a college education is a first step in getting a better education.

Looking at resumes and working with wine industry professionals, I see every background in the book. From the career changing self educated salesperson to the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology PhD, every background has its place.

If you’ve come to love the winemaking world, and want to be involved in making wine, the best first step is to work a harvest. Believing you will love it, the next best step is to get a degree in viticulture and enology.

I am a firm believer in going to the best school that you can. But even more important is graduating from the best school possible. Going to community college for two years of undergraduate work and transferring in to a well respected school can save you money on the front end, and allow you to gain the GPA you need to be accepted into the right school. For winemaking, UC Davis is the school to attend. Other good schools in California are CSU Fresno and CalPoly. The professors you will interact with and the research you can be involved with will set you up well for future positions.

I do believe that going to the best school in your discipline is the best thing you can do. Many of my clients will request a manager with an MBA from one of the top 50 US business schools. Going the distance and getting a degree lends a “stick-to-itness” that employers feel will serve them well in the future.
Also, professional degrees including law and medical degrees allow a fall back career to you anytime. Having a professional degree allows you to experiment with different career paths, and find the vein of your profession you enjoy most.

Many job seekers have a law degree but decide to try out production positions. More often than not, they move into the executive circle working on land-use, merger and acquisition, or trademark issues. They are able to marry their love of wine with their professional training—with financially rewarding results.

So, while I think many people can succeed without a degree, there is definitely a place for a degree, and often job security to be had with one.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Career Decisions: Break with Tradition

Greetings from Washington. I've been on a trip to the wine areas in Oregon and Washington, and am stopped for a few days in the San Juan Islands. Beautiful Site!

I'm visiting two of my dearest friends and mentors and we've been talking about career changing and career planning. As I've mentioned in past blogs, one idea remains essential--do what you love. And speaking with my friends, it is the key to both career and personal happiness. But think broader about possible career paths--what you enjoy can very well turn into a very successful career.

Growing up my good friend wasn't an academic wiz--but was extremely good with his hands and with problem solving. Restoring his own cars and constructing buildings around the neighborhood was his true love. His parents both were academics, and urged him to go to college. While attending community college he worked part-time for the electrical department of the city. This became very interesting for him and the money was quite helpful. He quickly took on more hours and his school load lightened up. Within a couple of years he was working full time for the city and had had enough of college. This wasn't his parents' wish, but he was an adult and seemed to know what he wanted. Today, he's still with the city electrical department, having seniority and a management role and making a very substantial living.

Would he have been more successful going to college and then finding a white collar job? I don't think so. He enjoyed the outdoors, working with his hands, and solving problems. Although most of those qualities can be had with a white collar job--he wouldn't have been as happy. And for most college educations today the total cost is close to $100,000 for a bachelor's degree. Coming out of school with that debt load to land an annual salary of $35,000 isn't that empowering. And having a large debt hanging over your head makes you less willing to try new jobs and take risks with your career.

Sometimes finding an interesting field that fits your needs and dreams doesn't require four, six, eight or more years of school. Many careers out there can be rewarding personally and financially and don't require a degree or specialized training. On the job experience often quickly surpasses what a traditional education brings to work.

More on this later--the flip side to education--when it makes sense.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dirty Jobs

Okay, I'll admit it, I'm a huge fan of Mike Rowe and his show Dirty Jobs. . Twice now I've seen him go to a winery and get filthy while putting in a hard day's work. Are winery jobs really that dirty? Some are and some aren't. If you're thinking about working in the wine biz, you'd better figure out which ones you'd be interested in.

Talking with my writing mentor back before this blog became a reality, he mentioned that one of my topics should be working indoors or out. At first this seemed too simple--but then again I understand the different jobs available out there--and more importantly who can make it where. It really is good to realize early on what type of work you are up for.

Growing up I had my share of dirty jobs. I've cleaned out swampy pools at the beginning of the swim season, cleaned out chicken houses, spread manure on acres of land, combed and cleaned llamas, worked at a pilot manufacturing plant for Clorox 2, fermented gallons of stinky bacterial concoctions and have lately stomped and racked and bottled my own wine. On the flip side I'm no stranger to suiting up for board meetings, laboring away for hours at a keyboard and being tortured at company retreats in stunning locales. Which one do I prefer? This is a tough question. While dirty jobs can be disgusting and very labor intensive, white collar jobs can be grueling mentally and can lack variety.

Winery production jobs, including winemaking, vineyard work and bottling all require someone who doesn't mind rolling up their sleeves and getting dirty. Many times throughout the season you can be up to your eyeballs in stinky slurries, out in the vineyard getting soaked to the bone or working out a manufacturing malfunction that is sending full wine bottles crashing to the floor. Yet many of these jobs have a lot of variety and a direct connection to wine.

Sales, marketing and hospitality positions are often seen as more glamorous jobs. While these winery professionals are frequently at their desks making calls, tracking sales figures and handling new VIP tours, often times they are also out on the road traveling 70% of the time, attending branding meetings for the umpteenth time and dealing with unruly visitors to the tasting room.

To figure out what suits you best look at jobs you've enjoyed in the past. If that position in retail where you were frequently dealing with new customers was invigorating, look in sales and hospitality positions. If you worked outside in construction, landscaping, or a similar vein, you may only feel happy doing something in the fresh air. Moving indoors to a desk job could spell disaster for your sanity. If spring rains make you think of muddy floors and destroyed shoes--a vineyard job probably wouldn't work out too well. If you have to be dressed for success--a sales, marketing or hospitality job is perfect, while you'd quickly get bored of the casual attire worn by the production crew.

Wineries offer a lot of variety both in positions and work environments. Whether you enjoy getting dirty or staying buttoned up, there should be a match for you somewhere.

Oh, and catch Dirty Jobs sometime. You'll be surprised by some of the occupations out there.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Self-Centered Cover Letters and Resumes

Cranky Recruiter Comment #2

Of course cover letters and resumes are self centered. But I recently read a cover letter from a passionate wine retailer. Every sentence began with the word I. Having written lots of resumes and self-promoting literature, I too can get caught up in the ease of saying what "I" can do. But be careful. Think about selling yourself to the recruiter or hiring manager. They like to think they are important, since in many ways they are very important, and you may get a better reception from the reader if it's more of a two-way street.

I know this can be agonizing. Many times I have to re-read my marketing materials and emails to make sure I'm not using I too much. How can you recreate a sentence about yourself using your reader as the subject. Look at the sentence or subject and try to think of it in another way.

Taking the I out of your cover letters can be a chore, but keep in mind that the whole reason for the letter and cover letter is to promote yourself. Show your command of writing and vocabulary to impress the reader.

How to Make Your Recruiter Happy

I am currently wading through about 50 resumes a day, and being a diligent recruiter am inputting them all into my database for tracking. A word of advice to job hunters: Put your resume in a Word document format. Too often I get beautiful resumes in Adobe or in an unknown format that are difficult to navigate around or to input into my database. When I'm recruiting on a new position, I go to my database first. If your resume is in a different format, I might not see it right away. I know that Adobe is a nice program, but a simple, to-the-point resume in a .doc format is always preferred.

Yes, dealing with lots of resumes can make me cranky--but getting that perfect candidate is totally worth it. So keep those resumes coming--even if they are in Adobe Acrobat.

Monday, June 25, 2007

What's in a Name?

I once made a sales appointment at a large company in Napa. When my contact was repeating my name she said, "Amy Gardner, you can't get much more white bread than that!" That was the first time I had heard that expression--and it has always made me wonder. Would I do better in business if I had a more unique name? Recently I read an article about how parents are going to great lengths to pick the perfect, unique name for their children. Many of the parents said the reason they wanted a unique name was to help the child later on when she is looking for work. How come?

Nowadays, it is par for the course for potential employers to "google" an employment candidate before making any hiring decisions. Some people believe that being easily searchable on the internet gives you an edge in the job search. If you have a fairly common name, your information or profile may be hundreds of pages behind some of your moniker's more famous owners. If you have a distinctive name, you may pop up immediately in a google search, allowing a potential employer to quickly gain information on you.

So, doing my due diligence, I Googled my white bread name. Luckily, I have a famous TV character name twin--Amy Gardner from the West Wing. Mary Louise Parker's character's information fills hundreds of pages on Google. Back at my old corporate job several of the guys even said I had a lot of similiarities to her. Watching it years ago, I just wondered if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Along with other Amy Gardners there is a math wiz and there is also a famous producer who is linked to some movie hunks named Amy Gardner, sadly she too is not me.

Having a disctinctive name also leads to some trouble. Although you might be easily searchable, any indiscretions you may have had could quickly be found. As this article mentioned, the name Zoe Rose could perfect for a cute baby girl. It's also happens to be a porn star's handle. So looking up Zoe Rose one day could pull up some embarrassing although completely unrelated information on Zoe. Luckily, the name Amy Gardner is pretty common, and although I'm sure there are some notorious Amy's out there, I don't think they'll likely be linked to me.

So how do you deal with getting the right attention for your name in case a future employer is googling you? On your resume note some current research, marketing or press that has been attributed to you. If you've written anything, list your publication. If you were interviewed and know it's online, mention it in your accomplishments section. If you have some racy stuff on the web, my advice is to bury it. If you have a MySpace page with incriminating information--button up and get rid of it. Although you might not get as many online friends, you'll most likely get a job quicker. Then you can make friends at your new place of employment.

I think worrying that your name isn't unique enough is a waste of time. Even plain Jane names can be a bonus for you. You don't have to spell your name to new people a million times, and you can either hide in internet space or reveal professional items about yourself to highlight you and your name.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Benefits: Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

Health insurance has always been a very illusive subject to me. I get a thrill looking for a candidate for a new position, but my eyes start glazing over when various health insurance options are discussed. I know I need it, I know it is very important when looking for a job, and that there is a lot I don't understand about insurance and benefits plans. When looking at a potential employer, understanding their portfolio of benefits is very important to understand the entire compensation package available to you.

Working in the wine industry I've been exposed to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) much more often than in other industries. An HSA is a tax-advantaged way for individuals to save for qualified medical and retiree health expenses. Individuals can sign up for an HSA if they are covered by a high-deductible health plan. Often, small wineries and affiliated companies have HSA programs that they contribute to as well.

In case you are considering a position with a company that offers an HSA, here are some resources to take advantage of:
U.S. Office of Personnel Management's HSA website
U.S. Department of the Treasury's HSA website
HSA Insider

Recently the Wall Street Journal publishes an article that HSA's are losing favor with consumers. To read that article, visit The Wall Street Journal Online.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Why I Chose to Focus on the Wine Industry: Life of a Wine Recruiter

Last night my husband and I had a wonderful evening at Tra Vigne in St. Helena at the Wine Spectator's Bring Your Own Magnum party. The staff at Wine Spectator pulled out all the stops to host a wonderful party with great food, shared wines and dancing.

As a newbie to the event, I didn't know what to expect. Driving up to the event we saw the big tents and scores of people walking in--most with a magnum slung under their arms. Searching for parking up and down the area, we finally made our way to the event. Seeing lots of familar faces, we waded through the sea of people to stop in at the appettizer tables, to grab a taste of various wines at the pouring tables, to eat a great dinner and to dance the night away.

Sitting down with some industry greats, my husband and I enjoyed a wonderful evening meeting winery owners, converts to the way of the vine, and the talent that makes exceptional wine. Talking with some veterans brought home to me why I decided to focus on the wine world.

In my past life I worked with all types of technical companies; pharmaceutical, biotechnology, engineering, semiconductor, software design, website development, aerospace, hospitals and of course wineries. I enjoyed interacting with all of the industries, but always felt that winery personnel were much more personable. Sales calls were never high pressured meetings, but conversations where we got to know each other. Topics ranged from the personnel they needed to travel, food, art and countless other topics. My personal life was not an issue with winery insiders, but just another facet of me. Meetings were chances to catch up on business and each other's lives.

Another big reason I chose the wine world was that the clients I enjoyed working with the most also had a true passion for what they were doing. This included the young lab technician who wanted to find out as much as she could about how wine was made, all the way to the self made millionaire who spoke eloquently about his choice to start up a winery and the enjoyment he took in the hard work that is required to make great wine.

And although it gets blurred in the romance of wine--wine is an agricultural product, tightly tied to how the season shapes up and how the fruit is handled through the production process. For this reason most winery personnel have a close relation to the growing cycle, making them very "down to earth". They don't get caught up on small things, but are looking at the bigger picture. If this year doesn't shape up the way they want, there's always hope for next year. And vice versa, if this year was exceptional, most times they realize their luck and prepare for potential problems next year.

Working with these professionals makes my business a pleasure, and one I will stay in forever.

Yes, I too can get a job.

On Tuesday, June 5th I was reviewing the recruiting blog Secrets of the Job Hunt where Chris Russel was talking about his resume that never dies. Then today I received this message from the same woman who contacted Chris:

"Hi Amy

I recently received your resume for a position our firm had been looking to fill. This position was filled, however your resume appears to be a good match for some of the employers who frequently use our recruiting services in Sacramento. If you are still actively looking for a job in your field, click this link. If you are looking for a site specific to Sacramento, try here. Remember that it is important to keep your online resume up to date.

Best of luck,

Jennifer M,HR Manager"

Now, I haven't sent my resume out to a regular posting board in close to 10 years, so either this is a solicitation for my resume--which you should beware of--or a blanket response to a marketing email I sent to a client that was doing a confidential search. It makes me think that that confidential job search was only a company fishing for resumes.

Recruiters often post blind ads to pull in a lot of resumes for future opportunities. These resumes can be used to find out who is looking, what companies are going through changes, or to find contact names that are included on resumes. Unless you know the company that is searching, keep your references off the resume, and if and when you are contacted by the recruiting company, make sure they are up front with you about why they are contacting you.

Hmmm, now how do I keep that resume up to date!

Friday, June 1, 2007


A friend of mine was recently in the second interview stage for a large winery sales position. She was working with another recruiter who works on various executive search positions. Before she was scheduled to attend the interview, the recruiter contacted her to fill out an additional form that included her birthdate. The recruiter was insistent that she complete it and return it to him before the interview. He also had asked previously how old she was. Although before I was 30 I was thrilled to tell people how old I was, most of us are a bit reluctant to disclose our age, especially when a chance for employment hangs in the balance.

My friend asked for advice. Being a placement professional, I am up to speed on employment law. A potential employer is never allowed to ask a person's age, except to make sure they are old enough to be employed. Assuming we're all above age 16, age should not be discussed. But interviewers are not always up on employment law.

Discrimination based on age is a real concern. As Kate Lorenz recently reported on Career Builder, "Ageism on the Job" In California, nearly half of the working population will be considered older workers by the year 2010. AARP has reported an upswing in age discrimination claims.

I believe it's prudent to make age a non-issue as much as possible. First, look at your resume. Your resume is your calling card, a way to get in front of a hiring manager or HR professional. Represent your education, work history and qualifications accurately. At this point, dates of graduation are not necessary, unless they are very recent and can explain a recent jump in job position or qualification. Also, if you have a good employment record, you can afford to remove some of your early jobs. The harvest internship or customer service position can be removed without misrepresenting your abilities. When a company is interested in you they can then ask for specifics on education or related areas. With more credentials being checked, this is a very likely reason a potential employer will need specifics.

Recruiters should also know that they cannot discriminate against potential candidates based on age. If you are working with a recruiter who hounds you about your age, be careful. AARP has reported blatant discrimination from an executive search firm that screened out all candidates that were older than 45.

On the flip side, the baby boomers who are experiencing ageism for the first time may be turning age to their advantage. While some jobs lend themselves to an older workforce, such as senior management positions, lawyers and doctors, the baby-boomers have pioneered workplace reform in the past. Bringing work experience and energy to the job makes 50+ year olds very attractive to many employers.

So, keep your age private, but think about how you can use your experience and achievements to challenge any employer's notions about an older employee. If a interviewer raises the age question, try to tactfully avoid the question. Or, use your age to show them a thing or two and then wow them with what you can do.

For more resources on ageism and discrimination, visit

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Blog Link: Is it Time to Ping Your Recruiter?

After writing about this a few times, I just came across a posting on about how to handle communicating with your recruiter. Helpful information.

For Interviewers: Behavioral Questions to Ask

Whether you are a human resource manager or a hiring manager, asking open ended, "behavioral" questions helps gain insight into how a potential employee will handle various situations. Here is a great blog, that has an exhaustive list of questions.

Job Seekers: Take a look at the list and see what types of questions you might encounter at your next interview.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Career Advice: Continue Looking

I'm coming off of a busy recruiting time with an average of one new opening coming up a day. With all those openings, I've been talking to both new and old contacts. I've noticed a distinct difference in job seekers; those you are in search of a job and those who are in search of a career. And the main difference is how they handle themselves once they get a new job.

Whenever I post a job on one of the employment websites I'm inundated with resumes. I typically get 20 a day during the first two weeks an ad runs. I diligently go through the resumes, input them in my database, and contact applicants about current openings. I also send out the obligatory email to all responders that they will be kept under consideration.

The surprising thing to many applicants is that I do keep all those resumes under consideration, and often contact someone 1-2 months after they originally sent in their resume. Sometimes it is several months to over a year before I contact certain applicants. What happens next is very interesting.

When I contact someone who I've talked to in the past, most often they update me on what's been going on in their job and job search. They may have gotten a promotion, there may have been a management change, or they switched companies. Most often, people who are interested in keeping an eye out for future openings let me know that although they are very happy in their current situation, they would enjoy hearing about future opportunities.

The other camp simply says they are no longer looking for a job and end all communication. In the old days I may have taken this personally, but with my tough skin I understand that this person simply is done with the job search, and may contact me again down the road. But for them right now, they are concentrating on the job at hand, not their overall career.

The most productive client and job seeker relationships I have had are with people who are open to hear about potential candidates and about future opportunities. Within my database I update job seekers' profiles, input their hopes for future positions, and put down my thoughts on possible employers. When an appropriate position comes up, I will reach out to old contacts--and often times they are the ideal candidate this time around.

So, if you are looking to manage your career, keep your ear open to a recruiter's call. Not only will it help the recruiter keep up on what's going on with you, but you will have insight into the types of opportunities out there, and help decide the timing of your next career step.

Or you can start the whole job search over again when you determine the new job isn't all it was cracked up to be. Your choice.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Wet Dog and Cat Pee: An Innocent Palate Lost

A few years ago I swore off Chardonnay and discovered the joys of Sauvignon Blanc. Many enjoyable evenings were spent outside sipping the fruity, lively wine.

Then one day I was interviewing a man who had put his winery's Sauvignon Blanc on the map. I of course mentioned how I thought it was an underappreciated wine. With his great success with it, he aggreed, and felt more people would be drinking it over Chardonnay. And then he mentioned that he didn't agree that the varietal frequently had a cat pee aroma. What?

This was quickly followed by my signing up for a wine tasting class, where we were taught the characteristics of various wines. The cat pee issue wasn't brought up when we got to the Sauvignon Blanc--hmmm. So I went to my favorite wine shop after class and asked my tasting teacher to give me a bottle that had the cat piss aroma. The lovely New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs had been one of my favorites (and still is incidentally). I took it home and under "perfect conditions" tasted it. Low and behold, the wiff of cat pee was there. What I had always just thought of as a smell of the wine, had a characteristic odor.

So, going over my aroma wheel and looking at some of the defects, I came across mousy and wet dog--both smells I long to forget but come across on a regular basis with smelly gym socks and a large, water-loving Labrador Retriever. Can you smell these odors in run of the mill wine--or simply in cheap bottles of wine? Soon I learned that these smells are common in wine. I went to a high-end industry wine tasting and after tasting an unpleasant Pinot Noir, pulled my wine expert to the side and slyly asked her what she smelled in the glass. "Wet dog" was her immediate response. Ah-ha--it was there.

Ignorance is bliss--and sometimes very helpful when you are a social wine drinker. Once your palate gets exposed to all of these flavors and odors, you can never go back to casually tasting wine. So dear wine enthusiast, take heed before you try to find out all there is to smell and taste in that glass of wine--it is both good and bad.

But surprisingly, I keep right on trying new wines--and fall in love with several of them.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Becoming a Wine Expert

Last night I went to a local charity wine auction hosted by family friends. It was a fun event and was for a very good cause. I am quite curious to find out the amount of donations the charity received. It was a fun night of wine tasting and food pairings, and some good natured bidding.

Working in the wine industry has caused me to be the neighborhood wine expert. Friends pull up to arrange children's play dates, and end up having me inspect their recent Costco wine purchase. At the wine dinner, friends had fun following me around the silent auction and asking why I liked the wines I bid on. And I recently found out one neighbor stops by specifically for the "free wine tastings".

Okay, I do read a lot about wine. Everyday I look at my top wine blogs, and frequently comment. I blog about careers in the wine industry. I visit new wineries and meet industry people weekly. I'm talking to winemakers, salespeople, owners and managers on a daily basis. I go to wine tastings. I've completed a wine tasting class. I have made friends with my wine merchants. I tag along with real experts at wine industry special events.

But does this make me a self-anointed wine expert?

Although I know my way around a wine label and can hold up in a wine sensory analysis, I am by no means a wine expert. I can talk about wine, know a lot about different wineries and types of wine, and know what trends are coming in wine. But wine is still a mystery to me. I feel that winemaking is an art, and I enjoy seeing what a winery has done with the fruit they had available. The mystery of wine is part of it's allure to me and I think to most wine lovers.

And soon I hope to see what mystery my winning bid wine has in store for me. First I have to buy a wine fridge to keep it in good shape until I can have the mystery unfold. That wine auction is turning out to be very expensive after all.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Embellishing Your Resume

On Friday, April 27th the MIT Admissions Dean, Marilee Jones, was forced to resign due to lying on her resume. She didn't just bend the truth, or change dates. While she did attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1974 as a part-time student, she did not receive a bachelor's or master's degree as she claimed. She also never received the degree from Albany Medical College that was on her resume.

Back in 1979 she first embellished her resume when she was hired in MIT's admissions office. From her fudged resume, she went on to be a leader in her profession, and sat on many higher-education boards. Ms. Jones was a well respected advocate for easing the college admission process. Being the Dean of Admissions, Ms. Jones was in charge of standardizing the college's application process and maintaining the integrity of the admissions system.

Did lying pay off for Ms. Jones. Since 1979 she has worked at MIT and moved up through the ranks, becoming the dean of the department. She also earned national recognition for her work to ease the college application system. She even co-authored a book for parents of college applicants. Most of this would not have been possible for her if she hadn't of created her credentials.

But where is she today? She has been publicly humiliated and outed for lying on her resume. Her reputation is tarnished, affecting her future career opportunities. Could she have gotten into a similar position through her intelligence and hard-work? Probably not one in academia at least. Hard work and intelligence go far in the school of hard knocks--but it takes longer to get to the top rung.

I have found out that trusted employees were embellishing their resumes. One government expert said he had an MBA from Harvard, and a Master's in Computer Science from Florida Tech. When I had to do an educational background check for a government contract that he was on, all of his school information came back blank. When I asked him what was up, he claimed he was put in the US Government's Witness Protection Plan for Top Secret military knowledge he had. His whole previous life had been "erased". While this may have been true, I could not vouch for his education level or his expertise. I asked a private investigator who I had worked with on background checks how plausible his answer was. The PI flatly dismissed this "expert's" story.

Once you lie on a resume, it's hard to rectify it later on. I have had Ph.D's hide their education level to avoid being seen as over-qualified. I can understand their idea, but always counsel them that it's a big decision. Any college degree is a milestone in a person's life. Hard work went into obtaining that degree. Will it be easy to swallow your pride and continually downplay your education. What if you are hoping for a promotion, and your competitor has a higher degree? Will you be able to hold your tongue? Keep that in mind.

For more advice on what to do if you've lied on a resume, check out the Wall Street Journal article that accompanied their MIT Admissions Dean story on Friday.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Top 12 Resume Blunders

Just caught this press release, and thought you might find it funny. Surprisingly, many of these types of resumes do show up on my desk--so edit your resume before submitting it to a recruiter or a potential employer. (For complete press release click here)

Hiring Managers Share Top 12 Wackiest Resume Blunders in New Survey
CHICAGO, April 25 /PRNewswire/ -- You've used all your creative juices
to build a resume that stands out in the crowd -- but have you gone
overboard? Hiring managers and human resource professionals nationwide
shared the most unusual resume blunders they came across in a recent survey:
1. Candidate included that he spent summers on his family's yacht in
Grand Cayman.
2. Candidate attached a letter from her mother.
3. Candidate used pale blue paper with teddy bears around the border.
4. Candidate explained a gap in employment by saying it was because he
was getting over the death of his cat for three months.
5. Candidate specified that his availability was limited because Friday,
Saturday and Sunday was "drinking time."
6. Candidate included a picture of herself in a cheerleading uniform.
7. Candidate drew a picture of a car on the outside of the envelope and
said it was the hiring manager's gift.
8. Candidate's hobbies included sitting on the levee at night watching
9. Candidate included the fact that her sister once won a strawberry
eating contest.
10. Candidate explained that he works well nude.
11. Candidate explained an arrest by stating, "We stole a pig, but it was
a really small pig."
12. Candidate included family medical history.

Current Reading (or listening to books on tape)

I just found in my local library the book Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream by Barbara Ehrenreich. While it doesn't give the most flattering view of the white collar job world, it does give some interesting insight into the job search process, interviewing and the work world.

There are discussions about career coaches, counselors, networking and other related topics that you might find interesting, or even better, helpful.

Luck and Coincidence

I believe in luck. I also believe in golfing great Ben Hogan's famous quote that "the more I practice, the luckier I am".

Luck comes to those who are ready for it, and possibly to optimists who can see positive results in almost anything. I am guilty on both counts!

Throughout the years I've stumbled upon plenty of lucky situations. From my first job out of college where the company owner had gone to my alma mater and also lived in the same southern town where I briefly lived, to my recent encounter with a talented winemaker, these connections would only have happened if I had been getting the word out about myself and my company.

Put yourself in a position where you can see opportunity (or luck) when it arises. If an old colleague calls up for lunch, go. If a new customer calls to explore your company's wines, invite them in. Take a chance and answer that knock of opportunity. You may be surprised what doors might open.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Do One Thing Everyday That Scares You

From Baz Luhrman's song "Sunscreen" he advises the class of '97 to Wear Sunscreen. With global warming, this is a great bit of advice. Another piece of advice he relates is to "Do one thing everyday that scares you". For the complete song, click here:


I've just finished up my PowerPoint presentation for the upcoming Vineyard and Winery Management Seminar for Managing the Winery Laboratory. Why am I presenting at a laboratory meeting. Because I secretly love public speaking and know that seminars are in need of industry specialists. My presentation deals with employment law for lab managers, and hopefully will be a bit more fun than a law seminar. I'm already getting butterflies in my stomach, imagining the room I'll be presenting in, thinking about where I might mess up---and the meeting is 3 weeks away.

Why do I do something that scares me? Because I need to push myself constantly to try new things, ask the delicate questions that need to be asked, introduce myself to a new company or call an industry heavyweight. From my past experiences, going that extra distance and pushing the envelope has paid off. I've had great life experiences, found out the true reason behind a looming issue, met new clients and learned from some great wine insiders. If I hadn't done something that scared me, I'd most likely be sitting in a cubicle somewhere in a job I hated.

So, my advice to you, class of 2007 is to Wear Sunscreen--and a hat if you're out in the sun for a long time. And do something everyday that scares you. The initial fright is well worth the pay off.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Beware the Gilded Cage

"I've got a great opportunity for you. You can be the right-hand for the owner of the ultra-premium estate winery in Santa Barbara. The winery property is first class all the way--with an office and tasting room with panoramic views of the valley. With the cult status of the wines, your job is pretty much done for you already. All you need to do is show up at work, support the owner in his day to day operations, and work at a fabulous winery."

Easy sell isn't it. When you hear about an opportunity that is too good to be true, it probably is. Every position has drawbacks. While this position sounded great at first, upon learning more about it, it became harder and harder to place someone there in good faith. And selling the position was the easy part--getting someone to stay in the position was the hard part.

When you are looking for a job, make sure you kick the tires and do a gut check before signing on. Even though it may feel like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work at--are there are questions that haven't been answered to your satisfaction? This winery position had lots of red flags. The property was very remote--meaning that you would be working alone for the majority of the time, and getting out for lunch or errands would require planning. The property was spectacular, but the job was a bit tedious. So while you're looking out over the vineyards, you'd be thinking about your next spreadsheet to rework. And then there were the co-workers.

So get beyond the beautiful setting or name of the winery, and make sure you are comfortable working there. The views will get old--and so will the drudgery if it isn't what you wanted to do. This gilded cage is still vacant. Interested?

Friday, April 6, 2007

Money, Money, Money

Proper etiquette both at work and at home is to not discuss salaries. While it is always nice to have good manners, not talking about salaries can leave you in the lurch when it comes time to address your own compensation. Here are some resources to use the next time money is brought up with your present or future employer.

Every year Wine Business Monthly publishes their salary survey which is the best one out there. Click here for the 2006 survey,.

Another tool to review your salary and calculate your possible compensation for different geographical areas is and also have salary information.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Patience and Persistence

A few years back William H. Macy starred in a made-for-TV movie called Door To Door. The movie is based on the true story of Bill Porter who was born with cerebral palsy. Bill Porter was a door-to-door salesperson of household goods. Through his hard work and perseverence, he was able to become one of his company's top salespeople, and had a 40-year long career in sales.

When I'm having a tough day, things aren't going well, or I'm just stuck, I often think about a poignant scene in the movie. Bill Porter is on one of his first days at work, and sits down for his brown bag lunch. Inside his lunch bag his mother has written in ketchup "Patience" on one slice of bread, and "Persistence" on the other. As Bill was having a trying day, his mother's encouragement made him stop to to realize, that if he just kept at it and kept trying, he would succeed.

Many times I wish my mom would make me that sandwich. But I've also come to realize that those two words do wonders. Many times in my career I would keep making contacts, following up with my clients, and making that last phone call--even if I thought it might cause my client to slam the phone down in disgust. Funny thing, those calls often turned into the call of the day, and ended up as either new business or a lasting friendship.

As a sales manager, I often would jump in the trenches with my sales staff to try to crack into new accounts. I'd be given the tough to contact manager, or the department that no one could break. After a few days, I'd be on my way out the door to my new sales appointments, and my staff would ask me how I got the appointment. My answer would be, "I called". Did I say something witty on the phone? Did I drop a name of an important person? No, I just called, introduced myself and asked if I could visit with them to learn more about their upcoming needs.

While this isn't new or groundbreaking, it works. I loved the movie Door to Door, and often say to myself, Patience and Persistence. And it works.

Gotta run, making calls!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Pregnant Pause: How Maternity and Motherhood are Viewed by an Employer

Recently I was reading a career advice column that brought up parenthood. A young newly married career woman was at dinner with her boss and colleagues. The conversation came around to her plans for her future career and family. She said she is looking forward to starting a family. After recounting this story to her husband and the advice column, the unanimous answer was to never talk specifically about your own family planning.

I have to agree with this. I have been on both sides of this topic, initially being my employer's first woman they employed who worked through my pregnancy and then returned from maternity leave, and later as an employer with people who were starting families. So I'll give my thoughts from the employee and employer perspective.

Planning your family takes personal and couple discussions about how you will raise the child, how you will afford expenses that arise, and how you will juggle responsibilities. These are very intimate issues to work out. A big issue is how you will handle your career once you become pregnant and when the baby arrives. Everyone handles this differently, and today more than ever it's a couple's solution. Some people can work throughout the pregnancy and maternity leave without missing a beat. Others have severe medical issues that limit a woman's ability to work during the pregnancy. And other woman have occasionally complaints during pregnancy that can affect performance.

So now your bundle of joy arrives. I remember distinctly the first night my baby was home with us and wouldn't stop crying that I was completely responsible for this new human. That's quite a life changing event. For many women and men today, maternity leave is the first time they haven't worked for a period of time. Some people find it a great bonding time with the new family, and others realize that they don't have the strong nurturing feelings they expected to have. Give yourself time to adjust. This is when some people find that they can accomplish work duties while away, or can barely accomplish getting bathed. Make sure you give yourself options so you don't have to run back to work before you are ready.

This is all well and good--but what if you are an employer who needs to keep the company running. What do you do if your star employee all of a sudden can't remember her sales appointments (surprisingly plausible), or your department manager announces his desire to take family leave, or your right hand winemaker is on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy? If you plan ahead you can make sure that systems are in place to catch any problems ahead of time. You can also cross-train other employees to handle any time off. You can have more frequent talks with your employee to keep abreast of things that might come up during their leave. And most importantly you want to support them during this exciting time.

Great, but how does an employer really feel. When an employee discusses their hopes to get pregnant there is always a twinge of concern. Will the employee become dreamy eyed and forget their past hard-charging ways? Will they assure the boss that they will return to work 6 weeks after the baby arrives, and then find a new job and leave the employer high and dry? Will a father find he loves being a stay at home dad and surprise his company by giving notice? These things all happen, and are why an employer pauses when parenthood is brought up.

So I'll come back to what the advice column said. Never discuss your personal family planning. As a young career woman I always praised new parents and echoed other's comments about how great their accomplishment was, but kept it quite separate from my own personal life. I may have thought that was the cutest baby I ever saw and was dying to have one of my own. But I loved my work, and my family, and didn't want to ruin my future possibilities. So I kept my home life private and also made sure I had options if my own family situation caused me to change my career aspirations.

What do you think? Any experiences or comments?

Marriage, Mortgage, Mercedes and Maternity: The 4 Ms that give bosses pause

Good companies always hope to retain their employees. They have various tools for retention. Many offer career advancement or financial incentives including generous salaries, vested 401(k) plans and retirement accounts. Others provide excellent benefit and bonus packages. There are a myriad of other tools employers use that keep people engaged and committed to their company.

As a former manager, I would work to have high employee retention. Nothing pleased me more than having a good employee who was settling down, getting married, buying a house and leasing a shiny new sportscar. Why? Because as people relied on the money and benefits they were receiving to maintain their standard of living, the more likely they were to work to retain their job.

With the average American living paycheck to paycheck, an employer has a real advantage. They are maintaining the employees' standards of living. What the employer says, goes. And if the employees aren't managing their career or trying to sock away a bit of money for a rainy day, they don't have a position of power to protect them from workplace problems.

Although I like conspicuous consumption just as much as the next guy, if you want to have some negotiation power with your current employer, give yourself a financial cushion. A great example of this is a recent friend who couldn't take the bullying and condescending remarks of his immediate supervisor, and resigned on the spot after a particularly nasty lambasting. The boss was flabbergasted--employees today don't just leave a job. If they did, how would they live. But if you have some financial independence, you don't have to take it anymore.

So work to give yourself some power as an employee. You'll be less stressed, be able to make sound career and financial decisions, and keep an eye on your long term career goals instead of just your next paycheck.

What about Maternity?--I'll leave that as a pregnant pause until my next post.

Monday, March 5, 2007

How long should I expect to be job hunting?

A colleague of mine is currently job hunting, and has been astonished at how long the process takes. I know all too well that the recruiting process can take a long time. Job hunting, interviewing and accepting a new position take time.

With production positions the window to find a new position is between January and July. If you haven't found a new position by then, professional courtesy is to hang in until after harvest. As mentioned in previous blogs, non-production positions are not tied to harvest as much.

The normal job hunting cycle is typically one to two months for an entry level candidate. Once you become more specialized and experienced the job hunt time changes. With between 2-5 years of specialized experience with a track record of expanding responsibilities you are a hot commodity, and the job hunt may be quick. But if your goal is to work at a select winery or smaller sized company, the hunt can take two to four months. Once your experience gets very specialized or your responsibilities greater than the average winery position, the timing is longer. A Director or Senior level position can take up to 12 months to find.

So how can you shorten the time it takes? The first and most important thing to do is to always take an active role in your own career management. Taking new courses, getting an advanced degree, participating in industry events and taking on additional responsibilities at work are very important. Next, keep an active network of peers and colleagues. These are people you can use to gauge your current job track, to ask questions, and to keep tabs on who is where, and who has recently moved on. You also can use this network to find out what other companies are like, and if they would be a desirable future employer. Lastly, this group can put a good word in for you when a position does come up.

Now when you decide to get a new job, get an idea of your time frame and then start charting your course. Talk with your network, look at job openings, contact companies that interest you, and follow up on promising news. If you are actively managing your career, the job hunt will go faster and smoother, with better results.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Keep Calling

Checking in
Following up
These are all words recruiters use when simply communicating with candidates and clients. But they are also the most important thing anyone can do in the job search business.

I recently advertised for several winemaking positions I'm working on. I posted them on and within 5 minutes I had received my first respondent. Over the next two weeks I have gotten at least 30 resumes a day, seven days a week.

Have I contacted all of these people. Well, although I like to stay on top of my work, I just haven't been able to. I've tried to get a brief email out that I received their message, and will contact them when a suitable position comes up, but I have not been able to get back to everyone. There's a nagging feeling that I'm letting someone down.

So why am I telling you this? Because I want you to understand that I am typical of a recruiter, a human resources professional, or a winery manager. My day, like those of other hiring managers, gets sliced and diced just like yours. My four hour morning of religious resume review quickly turns into an impromptu interview with a potential candidate, a client who calls in with a urgent new request, and an old friend seeing how things are going. By the time I get back to my email review, 10 new resumes have come in. This is where you come in.

If you are interested in being put at the top of the resume pile, follow up with your contact. Some candidates preceed their resume submission with a brief call introducing themselves. This lets me understand what types of positions they are interested in, and also lets us set up a review time. Many candidates follow up a blind resume submission with a call a few days later. This is also quite helpful because I remember their name, and am likely to call them. Guilt is a great motivator, and I always feel guilty when a job seeker is looking to me for help, and I don't get back to them quickly.

Unfortunately, sometimes a candidate who contacts me has great potential, but isn't the right skill set for my current recruitment. If I only see a resume, file it and never hear from them again, I may forget about them when the right position comes up.

So make sure if an interesting position comes up that you try to contact the recruiter. You'll have varied degrees of success. Hiring Managers within larger corporations tend to be harder to reach than owners of small establishments. Also Personnel departments have dozens of openings at any time, and have limited resources to take individual calls. But try to connect with the recruiter, it can have serious payoffs.

Oh, and if you've sent your resume and haven't heard back from me, guilt works!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Coaches, Conselors, Recruiters

Quick note on a Q&A item I read in the Wall Street Journal this morning. (To view the article, go to The complete link is: A subscription is required)

For job hunting you might consider enlisting the help of a career coach or counselor. The Journal article talks about some items to consider before signing on with a coach.

Career coaching has been an expanding field in the last few years. Career coaches help people identify career aspirations, identify and minimize personal foibles that could prove detrimental in an interview or on the job, and help you along the way in your career. I recommend researching the background of any coach you are considering. See if they will give you references and make sure you understand their fee structure before moving forward. Make sure you feel completely comfortable with this person. They will be talking about some very frank issues with you, and you want to make sure you can be open and honest with them.

Career counselors and coaches are working directly with you, and are typically paid by the person they are coaching. A recruiter, which is what I am, works to match candidates with companies. Recruiters traditionally are paid by the company that hires the individual. With this difference, the incentive of a recruiter is quite different. A recruiter wins when their candidate gets the job. Recruiters are not as incentivized to help job hunters identify their career path, but instead are always looking for the ideal candidate.

But there is a great reality of how recruiters can be beneficial to job hunters. Recruiters are constantly talking to people who are looking for a job, and also companies that are looking for people. Recruiters tend to know where your next job might be. Also, if you have great skills, a recruiter will be thrilled to work with you because the possibility of placing you is quite high. This means money in the pocket of the recruiter.

Another option is a temporary placement company. Temporary firms work to place people at companies for both short term positions, and increasingly for long temp-to-hire positions. Hiring a temporary is a great way for a company to "try before they buy" and make sure an employee fits in with the company culture, has a strong work ethic, and handles themselves appropriately. This also allows employees to try out an employer before becoming a regular, full time employee. Many, but not all, of the positions are more entry-level, so are a great opportunity for an inexperienced worker to gain experience at a variety of companies.

So when you are planning your career path and are considering employing the help of professionals, keep in mind where you are in your career. A temporary service is great for a career field changer or recent graduate. A counselor is good for someone mulling over where they want to go with their career. A coach is generally best for highly experienced and often management level job hunters who want to plan their next step. A recruiter is good to work with when you have figured out what area you want to work within, and are ready to make the move.

Recruiters, AKA head-hunters, are by no means blood hungry savages--at least not the good ones! Do enlist the help of a recruiter to keep abreast of what's going on out in the job world. My best advice for working with a recruiter is to explain to them your strengths, explain the next job you want, and tell them your position specifics. These specifics include required minimum salary, acceptable commute range, ability to relocate, benefits needed, expected profit sharing, and any related needs. A recruiter should be straightforward with you about your marketability and also how long your job hunt should take. And once you get involved with a recruiter keep them in the loop with what you have going on as well. Every recruiter has great war stories about the perfect candidate who their client was drooling over who just took a job minutes before the recruiter called.

And one last item. Make sure you are comfortable with the level of confidentiality your coach, counselor or recruiter gives you. My first priority with all my candidates is their complete confidence. I never want my actions to adversely affect a person's career. Make sure your career confidant feels the same way.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Don't let the cat out of the bag

Looking for a new job is a big step for anyone. With our busy lives, some of our closest friends are our coworkers and peers in an industry. It's nice to have someone to talk about a job search with. But be careful who you talk to.

Although we share our day to day lives with our colleagues, a job change has impacts on them that they may view as negative. If your move could bring them more work or scrutiny, your confidence with them may be on shaky ground. Any employer who gets wind of an employee who is in the midst of a job hunt changes their attitude about that employee. It is rarely a good thing for your boss or colleagues to find out you're looking for a new job. So I stress complete confidentiality in your job hunt.

To maintain confidentiality, be sure to keep all job hunt communications separate from the work place. No email should be sent using your company email account. As I've mentioned in past postings, the company email system is the property of your employer, and any message can be viewed by your employer. You can be terminated for using company email or computer systems for personal, non-company purposes. Phone calls should also be taken outside of work, and on your own cell phone. If you get a call while at work, simply inform the caller that you will call them back. A potential employer or recruiter will understand and connect with you at a more convenient time.

I have had solid relationships with coworkers and knew that they would keep my job search quiet. I do not feel that telling them about the job search helps them. If I was looking for a new position and was hired, I would have already had a transition plan in place. Having a work friend who knows is nice, but it can cause them unneeded stress. Their time should be focused on their job, not on whether you are out interviewing during your recent sudden illness. I recommend keeping the job hunt separate from work. An employer wants a dedicated employee, not someone with one foot out the door.

And don't forget to pick up the copy of your resume off the office printer. Plenty of secret searches have been foiled by a resume left in the print queue or on the copier.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now

Last blog from Bangkok. Getting ready to get out of here. I always love visiting good friends in new areas of the world, and have had a great time with a lifelong friend here. And it always makes me realize something. No matter how different things are, people are quite similar. And the same joys and sorrows affect people around the world.

So what does this have to do with a wine job blog? The answer is, it doesn't matter where you are, you still have to deal with the same things. Many times I work with people who have gotten their dream job and later find out that they are miserable at the company. And they ask me, should they stay in their position or leave to find a better situation.

This is a very difficult question. My biggest goal wherever I am is that I'm happy. But I may not always be immediately happy, or I may have been very happy and something has changed. I've been fortunate to work for great supervisors and with great colleagues. I've also been in situations where I knew from the get go that it wasn't the right environment for me.

If you are in a job that has many qualities that you want, but lacks a true need of yours, it's time to figure out if you should go. And timing is everything. The wine industry is an agricultural one. The business cycle closely follows the growth and harvest of the grapes, and in turn the making and shipping out of the finished wine. For production positions, the timing of starting and ending a position is critical. This time of year is when wineries have a lull, where management looks at positions and when employees look for other opportunities. Up until July things are in flux and people leave for new jobs. Once harvest hits, it is almost unthinkable to leave until harvest is over. For administrative positions, the hiring cycle is less tied to the wine harvest. So those positions are tied closer to the fiscal year of the winery and with the health of the company.

So, as long as the timing is okay, should you leave? With the industry now being made up of both small boutique wineries and large corporations, there are more opportunities to change the management style that you work for. If you are unhappy, decide your exit strategy. This could be training a subordinate to take on your responsibilities. It could also be talking with your supervisor about career growth opportunities, and discussing future opportunities within the company. It could also be setting a "drop dead" date, of which you must have found a new position or you are prepared to stick with your current job until the timing is right again.

But what if you are completely miserable. If you can't face going to work in the morning, you need to do anything you can to find a new position. You need to get that resume written and be searching job boards daily. Your own happiness is much more important than anything else, so do what you need to do to help yourself.

But if you are not happy, but can stick it out, sometimes that is the best approach. Often time has a way of working things out. The cause of your unhappiness may suddenly be removed--a cranky coworker leaves, a corporate initiative is redefined, or you are finally recognized for your contributions. Having lived through all of these scenarios in the past, and finding better opportunities within the same company--I can say it was worth sticking it out.

But then I hit a brick wall at that company, and knew I had to leave. And now once again I'm happy with work--and my company is everything I had wanted.

Being half-way around the world the problems people face are the same as yours, and we're all trying to make the best decisions. Weigh the options, look at the timing, and then decide the path forward.

Next up when back in the US: Keeping things completely confidential when you are job hunting.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


My new life in the blogosphere has been quite interesting. Researching other blogs, looking at myspace and youtube sites to view possible community groups and logging onto other websites has opened my eyes to the great amount of personal interaction and information the internet has.

Back in 1999 I worked placing IT professionals. This was when personal websites were just beginning to pop-up, and the IT guys were quick to build their own site. These sites would be listed on their resumes, and they encouraged me to view their page. It must have been the rare recruiter who viewed a webpage--but something that told a lot about the candidate. Sometimes it told too much.

When you are job hunter take a good look at what the web has to say about you. Make sure any personal websites are politically correct and keep you in a positive light. If you have a myspace or similar profile, keep your friends, photos and postings confidential. Recently NPR did a piece about job hunters who have used video resumes to both help and to hurt their search. Another Wall Street Journal article talked about how careful people should be about their information.

Check out these articles at:
Wall Street Journal, subscription required: article appeared on 1/2/07 in the marketplace section

And check yourself out online--before someone else does.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Changing Perspective and Introspection

Greetings from Bangkok!

Just got into Thailand--a great place to visit. Second time here--this time will be spent on the beaches and not so much in the city. Traveling is a great way to see new things, meet new people, and learn a bit about yourself.

All of the troubles and pressures of home have slipped away, and I'm able to think about different things, and in a way get centered again. Maybe I'm a bit of a workaholic. Maybe I am always thinking about work, and what I need to do next. That's why taking time out helps me keep working smart.

Job hunting requires a lot of soul searching. Taking time out to figure it out is well worth it. Introspection allows you to find out what your true values are, and determine how to align your work life with your personal life. Introspection can also give you the information to "sell" yourself when you are writing a resume or interviewing. You've thought about what you want, and also where you've been. You can speak about your talents and accomplishments. And you can frame your comments and responses around what you really believe.

So, whether it's taking a couple of hours and sitting in a cafe and putting your thoughts down on paper, or traveling around the world, it can do wonders for your mind and your career.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

How to Dress for an Interview

Dressing for success has been a formula for years in the business world, but something I, as well as many people I talk to, struggle with when it comes to wine jobs.

People dream of working in a winery. Look at pictures of winemakers or check out what the tasting room person is wearing and you'd think that you can go into a wine job interview wearing jeans, a polo shirt and fleece. But the day to day wardrobe isn't what you wear before your first day.

Take your cues from the type of position you are interviewing for. An executive position requires wearing a suit and tie, or suit and blouse. A position within the finance, sales, marketing and human resources departments require similar conservative attire. Production positions including winemaking, enology, viticulture and laboratory are best interviewed for in well pressed, business casual clothes. Many times when you are interviewing with the winemaking team you'll be touring the facility--and probably checking out some equipment. So the best way to handle it is to wear functional clothes, bordering on business attire.

For hospitality positions you want to wear something that puts you in a positive light. Clean, crisp clothes that are not overstated or flamboyant are preferred. You want to look approachable yet professional.

A bit of grooming before you get there is very important. Shave, style your hair and get any dog or cat hair off your clothes. I also think polishing your shoes adds importance to the meeting. And ladies, if you're going to show off your feet, make sure they are ready for their close-up. I've had clients turned-off by gnarly, ragged feet--even in the height of summer.

And one last bit of advice--stay away from colognes and perfumes. They can detract from your polished style--especially since strong scents can overpower the pleasure of wine tasting.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Black and White and Never Read: How to Make Your Resume Stand Out

My favorite riddle when I was young was "What's black and white and red (read) all over?--a newspaper of course". You want your resume to be read thoroughly by anyone who glances at it. Unfortunately, most resumes are boring and easy to pass over. I read over 20 resumes every day, so here's my tips on making a good resume that recruiters and hiring managers will read, and that will be noticed. (This morning I just read a great resume advice piece in the Wall Street Journal by Dana Mattioli. For those with a subscription, please visit

First, always put your name, address, phone number--including cell phone and voicemail numbers. And everyone should have an email address on their resume. Seems simple, but I get plenty of resumes with no contact info besides a home address.

Next, put a summary section that states what your talents, experience and accomplishments are. This should be fairly short for an entry-level individual, and 5-8 sentences long for exerienced job seekers.

Then a chronologic listing of your job history is always the best bet. Put your most recent position at the top, oldest at the bottom. If you have switched between industries or areas, put the most relevent jobs in a section defined as say, Wine Sales Experience. Then list that experience. Later put Retail Sales Experience and list those jobs. And don't list unrelated old jobs, such as Cattlemen's Bean Girl, or Parking Attendent, part-time. Everyone has had to take odd jobs, but these don't sell your current professional work self.

A resume is a sales/marketing tool. You want to represent yourself in your best light on your resume. Think like hiring managers. If they want a winery sales professional, they want to see that on the resume. If you did indeed sell in the wine industry, put it down. Always represent your dates of employment, job titles and education accurately.

Always list your education, as long as it's post high school. If you took classes, list them. If you have your Associates degree, list it. Of course list your Bachelor's, Master's and Juris Doctorate. I have known Ph.D.'s to not list that degree to prevent being rejected as over qualified, but I'm not sure if this helps them.

Now this is all pretty basic--and if everyone does this all resumes will look the same. First of all, many people don't follow these basic guidelines and their resumes are hard to understand. Second of all, within your job experience you need to list your duties. Use action words and always pay attention to verb tense. And of course, check your spelling. Attention to detail is very important in many jobs, and a resume should be the first example of your's.

So how do you "kick it up a notch"?

  • Use simple fonts and keep the size at about 11 or 12 pt. No recruiter will spend a long time squinting at a hard to read resume.
  • Make sure all your formatting is consistent--titles bold, sections underlined, etc.
  • Keep your information concise--bulleted lists of accomplishments, duties, responsibilities are very good.
  • Use color for listing websites, company names, email. Using tags in your email resume allow the reader to link to your website, email or blog
  • Keep it to 1 page for entry to 7 years of experience, 2 pages for experienced individuals.
  • Show some of your personality in your resume. If you're creative, emphasis it. If you're fascinated with Italian wine varietals, talk about it.

Consistency is key, but a few small details can make your resume the first one I choose to call.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Big Brother is watching, and reading your work email

Did you see a posting for a great job and you want to send your resume? My words of advice are, don't send an email from your current employer's system.

As a job hunter, you want to respond quickly to job postings. Many of us are on our emails first thing when we get to work, and check it regularly throughout the day. Friends send us jokes, family checks in with us, and colleagues shoot out quick messages that need our attention. It's easy to forget that the email system is legally the company's property.

A company has the legal right at anytime to review an employee's emails. Another fact is that email is a written document that can be used in a court of law. So, when you send off your resume to the competition for a job and your employer finds out they can terminate your employment based on improper use of company equipment and systems.

That email you sent with your resume had better be a good one if it means losing your job.

So, when looking for a job, only use personal email accounts for correspondence. Personal email accounts are confidential and cannot be searched by your employer. I also recommend not looking for a job on the company internet because your website visits can also be tracked by your employer.

Having your own email account is simple, and probably takes as long as 3 minutes to set up. I recommend anyone who is actively looking for a job to set up a gmail, hotmail or yahoo account immediately. These email accounts are free for the bare bones features, but all you truly need is an email address where companies can contact you.

So send off those resumes and contact hiring managers or human resource managers all you want through your personal email address. And remember to check your email daily to make sure you are on top of any messages you might have.

Oh, and a personal cell phone or voicemail system is a high priority. Just remember to keep your message professional.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Mentors: Always Ask For Advice and See Where it Leads

This last weekend was a balmy 62 degrees and sunny. I couldn't stay in the house and needed to get outside. So I drove up to Williams with the family, had a picnic lunch from Granzella's deli, and headed to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex ( My family was awed by the sight of hundreds of Snow geese and White Fronted Geese, several Shoveler Ducks, lots of coots and egrets, dozens of Great Blue Herons and many singing Red Wing Blackbirds. We also saw some birds we've never seen before, including a grouse that flew up in front of the car. It was a beautiful Sunday trip, and something that made me think about how I got there. I have one of my wine industry mentors to thank.

All the career advice books say to look for a mentor. The books advise how to find potential mentors, how to contact them, and then how to have them become your mentor. I think this is very good advice, and something anyone should do without giving it a second thought.

I've been fortunate to have had great mentoring experience. But I don't sit down with a mentor and say, "Okay, now that we're having our mentoring meeting, what is on the agenda?". I think that mentors can come from a wide variety of relationships and backgrounds.

My first mentor was my neighbor who traveled the world, was a scientist and loved to invite me over to her house. She taught me about microbiology, genetics, stained glass, different cultures and a myriad of other things. She also employed me to assist with managing her house and property. This job was the most important thing to me, because I always wanted to do a great job for her. The pay was a nice incentive, but the responsibility she gave me was even more important.

After moving away, another mentor was a woman I worked for as a temporary employee. She gave me career advice, showed me the ropes in the insurance sales/underwriting world, and more importantly, on how the work world worked. I often think about how I deal with an issue, and how Annette would have handled it.

Now, always choose your mentors wisely. Back in my IT staffing days, I had the privilege of working with a very articulate Harvard MBA computer programmer who was helping me break into the government IT project world. He was smart, had great advice, told me how to do things I had never done before, and always had a great story to illustrate a point. But when I went to put him on one of my first IT government projects and had to check his educational background, it came back empty. Upon asking him about it, he said it was due to his being in a Top Secret mission involving Noriega, and that after completing the mission, his education, military and work experience was erased to protect him and his family. This made me question his advice, his stories, and of course, who the heck he was. But I don't shy away from mentoring.

My current mentors include my husband, a wine writer, a professor, an employment lawyer, a salesperson and a winemaker. These people have great ideas, an understanding of how to approach situations and personal stories about what has worked and what has failed. I always ask them for advice and use their advice to better myself. Their insight helps keep me from working in a vacuum and allows me to move quicker on ideas.

As a job seeker, my advice to you is this:
1. Talk to experienced professionals in your industry of choice.
2. Digest their comments and glean what you can use.
3. Put those ideas to work.
4. Don't get injured by their criticisms, use them to improve.
5. Follow up with your mentors to let them know how things are going, what's working, what's not, and ask for any additional help or ideas.
6. Always take the opportunity to help others who need it. Mentors often have been proteges themselves, and know the power of experience.

Oh, and take time to look at the birds--always a nice escape. Thanks George!