Friday, November 21, 2008

Sing Your Own Praises

I was settling down to work after the morning household rush, and got a call from one of the kid's carpool drivers. My first instinct was to think, "Oh no, what happened?"

I quickly called the dad, a neighborhood big wig who knows all the right people, is president of all the local boards, a lawyer, and the host of great music for the upcoming turkey trot. I of course did not want to look bad in front of such a powerful person. I went on the defensive, "So, what terrible thing did he do today?" The dad laughed and said he was calling to say how nice it is to have my son part of the carpool.

What? Someone calling to say positive things? Unheard of. And it made me think. In the work world, you are rarely told about your accomplishments. And when you are accomplishing things, don't you want people to find out about them?

I'm prepping right now for a talk at Women for Winesense. The roundtable discussion I am presenting at is about salaries. I was going over the topic with the host, and asking about the audience. Women for Winesense is an industry group that meets regularly at various wineries and discusses different topics. My presentation will be for several women winemakers. Topics that I'll be bringing up include salary surveys, salary negotiation, performance reviews, promotions and severence packages. One reason the roundtable was proposed was because several of the women wanted advice on negotiating their salaies and to make sure they were being paid what their male counterparts are.

This was an important piece of information for me in preparing my topic. I deal with salaries all day, every day--and have always been up for negotiating my own salary. But many women aren't comfortable addressing the issue, and many times leave money on the table.

What does this have to do with my carpool call this morning? It reminded me that unless you sing your own praises, most of the time no one else will. Women generally are great communicators, but not braggards. It is not ladylike. Going into salary negotiations or performance reviews women need to be ready to talk highly of themselves. When you are preparing yourself, write down your accomplishments, and be ready to speak to them. Although you may think everyone knows it was your actions that caused a great outcome, make sure you mention it. Having these items in your mind, you should feel more confident, and realize you are a major contributor to the organization. No manager wants to have you leave, or not take the job. They will want to compensate you fairly, so that you are happy and want to stay with the organization. And most likely compensate you better.

Thanks for the call Peter!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Loose Book Review of Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

I'm a bit late in reading Anthony Bourdain's best seller "Kitchen Confidential; Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly", but now I feel I'm a bit of a Bourdain groupie. I am sure he has plenty of them now, and must find it funny that even though he didn't become a punk rock star that he has hit the big time. "No Reservations" on the Travel Channel has long been a favorite show of mine, so I'm not new to Anthony's ways. But I loved the book. It only took about 5 days to finish, and I'm a very slow reader. The stories are great, accurate and often hysterical. Having only lasted in the culinary underbelly during high school as a busser, I can appreciate how hard the lifestyle of a chef must be.

And I also realized I have a one track mind. Reading this funny story about Anthony Bourdain's life in the restauraunt biz was entertaining, but led me to see many truths about the work world at large. Throughout the book Anthony talks about what he values in employees and bosses. He also talks about his hiring and firing methods at different types of establishments. And in the final chapter he gives some suggestions to those individuals who might choose to become a chef. These suggestions are applicable to lots of jobs. Here they are:

1. Be fully committed. When you decide on a career, go for it with everything you have. Whether you decide you want to be a chef, or say a wine salesperson. You need to live, eat and breath your job.
2. Learn Spanish! Maybe this isn't so true of all industries, but I think it is very helpful in the wine industry. Knowing how to speak to your vineyard crew is very important, as is being able to communiate with your cellar staff. I have to echo Anthony's sentiment that many of the Spanish speaking workers you will encounter are some of the hardest working individuals you will ever have the honor of working with. So get to know how to say hello at least. Even better, get to know as much about them and their culture as possible.
3. Don't Steal. Words to live by.
4. Always be on time.
5. Never make excuses or blame others.
6. Never call in sick. Anthony's got some great stories about the lengths he went to to always make it in to work, and the reassurance he felt when his staff did the same.
7. Lazy, sloppy and slow are bad. He goes on to say that enterprising, crafty and hyperactive are good. I agree, most of the time.
8. Be prepared to witness every variety of human folly and injustice. Ok, so you might see more of this in some professions, but as time rolls on, you see more and more of this, and not letting the bad get the best of you is very important.
9. Assume the worst. I always do. As my old boss used to say, paranoia is good. But don't let it get to you--just let it keep you on your toes. Being ahead of the game can have its advantages.
10. Try not to lie. Nothing more to say.
11. Avoid restaurants where the owner's name is over the door. This might not be as true in the wine industry where many establishments are named for the owners. Try to work at a place that is well respected and has good street cred. It will help you when you are looking for your next job, or looking for additional staff at your current employer.
12. Think about that resume. This gets to job hopping and moving around in responsibility level. Resume readers can see a lot about you from that resume--so before you make a quick decision, think about what a job change right now might look like a few years down the road.
13. Read! While Anthony is urging aspiring chefs to read cookbooks and trade magazines, I encourage you to read as much job related information as you can. Trade magazines, lifestyle magazines, cookbooks, blogs, websites, newspapers, and of course books. Keeping on top of trends and issues in your industry will keep you well positioned for changes. He also recommends knowing a little bit about the history of your chosen profession as well. Reading books about super salespeople, or the hunt for rare wines, and maybe the history of the winery owner you work for can be very helpful in the long run.
14. Have a sense of humor about things. Something everyone needs.

I encourage you to pick up the book. He has a couple of more recent books, which I'm sure will be just as good, if not better.

Monday, November 10, 2008

How Best to Make an Industry Career Change

Often I'm asked how people can make a move into the wine industry from a myriad of other industries. I've blogged about some possible ways to make the leap--and encourage people to always try to find a job that really interests them--and wine is a hobby of many people out there. I recently read a strategic piece by Chandlee Bryan from the Wall Street Journal. The article, Weighing a New Industry for a New Job Outlook, outlines a few ways to handle the leap realistically.

Key points from the article are:
1. Find an area that interests you, such as wine. Looking at hobbies or personal interests is a great way to explore new career opportunities. Using your current job skills in a related way in the new industry could be an easy transition.
2. Learn the landscape. Do your homework on what types of jobs are out there and which might use your skills. Do internet searches to find information that might shed some light on your potential career path.
3. Examine your experience: Identify your strengths and find out how you can capitalize on them in the new industry. Your previous work experience will allow you to differentiate yourself from many competitors.
4. Develop a communication strategy: After you've learned about your target industry and done your homework, develop a pitch on what makes you a highly desirable candidate for a potential employer. Ms. Bryan suggests using to help you refine your message.
5. Consider a recruitment agency: Okay, that's me.
6. Be prepared for compensation adjustments: This is very good to think about. While you may be at the top of the pay-scale in your current industry, switching to a new one may bring some small paychecks--hopefully only until you've proven yourself. But remember, you might be looking to change industries because your current one is going through some changes or having less opportunities in the future. Switching to a more vibrant industry can have a bigger upside down the road.

How Much Does that Bottle of Wine Cost?

Several months back the SacBee's Jim Downing ran a story on the true costs of producing wine. Take a look at the link for the full article: Full Bouquet on wine costs

The article gives a full run-down of what the true costs are for a bottle of wine from Lodi, Mendocino and Napa. If you've ever wondered why that Napa Cab costs you $80--take a look. Oh, and next time you pick up a bottle of Two Buck Chuck, you might notice that all costs are closely watched, allowing the company to maximize their profit for a seemingly cheap wine.