Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Is that a real job posting?

As a recruiter, I am continuously searching for new candidates for openings. While I have several open positions I am working on, I also know that certain positions are soon to come open. I do my fair share of advertising for current openings. I also post common job titles that I frequently have openings for. What I don't do is post phony listings to attract job seekers.

Today's Wall Street Journal had an interesting article in the Career Journal about phony online job postings. The article, It Isn't Always a Job Behind an Online Job Posting, by Sarah Needleman, discusses some of the ploys used by job placement companies as well as of scammers.

I do advise against sending your resume out to any posting you see. Recruiting and staffing firms often post general job descriptions to lure prospective job seekers to submit a resume. Often, these resumes will be useful for current or future positions, and adds more candidates to the search firms coffers. But if you are hoping to have a confidential search, make sure you contact the company and find out as much as you can about the opportunity. If it doesn't sound real, hold off on submitting your resume. If you have skills that closely match a true opening, a good recruiter will follow up with you to find out more about you.

Also, with the tough economic times, beware of putting too much information out for scammers to see. Online job sites are reporting increased scams. Scammers use postings to get personal information, including full names, addresses and job information that they can use for identity theft. Also, career services firms may be phishing to get people who might pay for their services. If your resume submittal turns into a come-on for services--beware. A job posting should be just that--an opening for a real position.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Getting Motivated in Your Job Hunt: Goal Setting

Looking for a job can be one of the worst things to have to do. With lay-offs mounting, the wine industry is not immune to the economic crisis. More and more of my contacts are calling up to say they are looking for a job. It can be hard to get motivated to keep making calls, sending out resumes or searching job boards. But a proactive job seeker will find a job much faster than someone who throws their hands up in the air and hopes for something to turn up. When things get hard, put together some goals, and act on them.

Your goals don't have to be monumental. Sometimes putting together a list of 10 things you can actually get accomplished is the best plan. Having that list, working through it and seeing that you managed to do it will make doing it again tomorrow easier.

A job search goal list could look something like this: talk to two former colleagues, search winejobs.com and winerysite.com for any new postings, review business section to see if any companies announced any new initiatives, send out five resumes and follow up on all emails. It sounds simple, and it is. But doing routine job search activities takes time, patience and persistence. Surprisingly, you will look back on these goals and see where you are successful. Take those successes and increase the activities that are worthwhile. If your networking with colleagues is getting you insight on possible job openings, increase your networking. If you have exhausted all the places you can send a resume, search for upcoming events that might be a better use of your time.

Now just do it! Good Luck.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Avoid the Taxman

Consulting in the wine industry? Thinking about it? Well, be smart and make sure you are a true consultant in the eyes of the IRS.

When you are making a career change, or in between traditional jobs it is natural to think about consulting. It's easy to put out your own shingle and say you're a consultant. But before you venture too far into consulting, make sure you are handling your business correctly.

Companies use consultants in various areas. Wineries use consultants for winemaking, vineyard management, marketing, sales and many other areas. There are many opportunities for a skilled professional to carve out a healthy occupation being a consultant. Companies use consultants frequently to handle areas that they feel need special attention. If a winery owner doesn't know the ins and outs of a particular subject, they will hire a consultant to provide them with the information and often to provide a solution for a problem. While wineries do hire many regular, full time employees for the majority of their positions, hiring a consultant allows them some flexibility.

Okay, so you want to consult, and a winery needs you. To protect yourself and the winery from any potential IRS problems, here are some guidelines to manage your business. The IRS offers an online 12 point checklist for you to review that a client can use to make sure they are hiring a consultant. A consultant is a business person who is responsible for their own business, taxes and marketing. A winery does not have any responsibility to a consultant other than that outlined in a consulting agreement. The general rule of thumb is that a person is an independent consultant if the hiring company has the right to control or direct only the result of the work, not what the work is to be done or how the work will be done.

The basic items the IRS checklist covers are:
  • Behavioral Control: An independent consultant is not directed and controlled by the client. The client can only direct and control the work.
  • Financial control: As a contractor, you have a financial stake in the work, and will incur expenses that the client does not need to reimburse for. Also, if you can show a profit or incur a loss you are more likely to be an independt contractor.
  • Relationship of the Parties: As a contractor, you need to seperate your company as much as possible from your client company. You must maintain your own benefits, insurance and business. You are not an employee, and so you aren't entitled to the same benefits an employee is.
Why is this important? First of all you want to make sure you are handling your taxes correctly. Second, there have been rulings in the past where independent consultants did not meet these requirements, and were eligible to receive the benefits of a regular employee. Microsoft and several other large companies were found to be misclassifying regular employees as independent consultants. These were landmark rulings, and have caused independent consultants to come under scrutiny with the IRS. Clients can be leery of hiring an independent consultant. To see if you can really call yourself an independent consultant, employment lawyers have a 20 question checklist that you can review:

For the following questions, a "yes" answer means the worker is an employee.
1. Does the principal provide instructions to the worker about when, where, and how he or she is to perform the work?
2. Does the principal provide training to the worker?
3. Are the services provided by the worker integrated into the principal's business operations?
4. Must the services be rendered personally by the worker?
5. Does the principal hire, supervise and pay assistants to the worker?
6. Is there a continuing relationship between the principal and the worker?
7. Does the principal set the work hours and schedule?
8. Does the worker devote substantially full time to the business of the principal?
9. Is the work performed on the principal's premises?
10. Is the worker required to perform the services in an order or sequence set by the principal?
11. Is the worker required to submit oral or written reports to the principal?
12. Is the worker paid by the hour, week, or month?
13. Does the principal have the right to discharge the worker at will?
14. Can the worker terminate his or her relationship with the principal any time he or she wishes without incurring liability to the principal?
15. Does the principal pay the business or traveling expenses of the worker?

For the following questions, a "yes" answer means the worker is an independent contractor.
16. Does the worker furnish significant tools, materials and equipment?
17. Does the worker have a significant investment in facilities?
18. Can the worker realize a profit or loss as a result of his or her services?
19. Does the worker provide services for more than one firm at a time?
20. Does the worker make his or her services available to the general public?
(from TaxProphet.com, http://www.taxprophet.com/apps/active2/indep-mm.html).

I know it is a lot to review, but it is good to know what is required, so that you can call yourself a true consultant. I am not a lawyer, but think the information is helpful. Let me know if I'm on or off base.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Social Networking

At Unified last week the Thursday session involved the future of the wine industry, and some of the marketing opportunities available. One of the speakers was Courtney Cochran of Your Personal Sommelier and Hip Tastes. She discussed some of the networking trends for the Millenial Generation. The Millenials are people who were born between 1978 and 1996 and are becoming adults at the beginning of the new millenium. The Millenials are the first generation who are choosing wine over other alcoholic beverages when they socialize. This is a great opportunity for wineries to attract a loyal following of customers.

Courtney Cochran brought up social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Generation Xers (of which I'm a proud member) and Millenials are using these sites to stay connected with a large spectrum of friends. Although I've written before about LinkedIn, I have finally dove into Facebook and Twitter. Getting my profile, and that of WineTalent's, complete takes some time, and then you have to figure out who you might know on these sites. It's always fun to connect with some friends you haven't heard from in awhile. Luckily some of my friends are techy, and I linked up to them very quickly. Now I'm searching the sites, seeing what else I can link to on them.

So, did I get much work done today? Questionable. I did get through a lot of emails after being gone last week, and have updated my database. I also connected with some old friends who were on Facebook. I also inadvertently got all of my contacts in my yahoo address book contacted by Tagged. I was signing up after someone linked to me, and before I even finished signing on, hundreds of my contacts were contacted on my behalf. While it is always great to connect, I like to know who is being contacted, and Tagged overpowered me. I now have tons of emails sitting in in-boxes due to a slip of the enter key. Looking over the contacts on Tagged, I quickly discovered it isn't the site I'm going to network on, and canceled my account. Hopefully I haven't done any irreparable harm.

So, get yourself out there on these sites, but don't forget to manage your contacts wisely. And always keep an eye on the content on your pages. Employers and colleagues can look you up and you want to make sure you know what they are seeing.