Friday, December 31, 2010

Getting into the Wine Industry

I frequently get inquiries from interested career changers about the best way to go about getting into the wine industry. Recently, an inquiry came in that I thought would be helpful for many of my readers, so I am publishing it along with my advice. As I always say, confidentiality is very important to me, so the following message has been edited of personal information. Hope this is helpful.

Amy,

I hope this email finds you well.

I currently work in public accounting for a large international accounting firm in the Midwest, I am a licensed CPA here. However, my love for wine is stronger than my love for public accounting, I have no plans to stay with public accounting forever and plan on making a career change within the next few years. When I'm ready for a career change, I would like to switch gears and start a long-term career in the wine industry. Whether it's an accounting role or not, I have no preference.

Having said that, my question for you is, what would you recommend that I do (keeping in mind I'm in the Midwest, there are few wineries here!) to gain the experience I would need to begin a career in the wine industry?

Kindest regards,

Interested Career Changer

Dear Interested Career Changer:

Thank you for the message. I understand your interest to make the change into the wine industry, and hope to give you some guidance. I think first of all you want to look at your strengths. Having your CPA is very important, and transferable to many industries. Accounting is something all companies need, and allows you several options within the wine industry. You are also working now, which means you can tailor your search to your time-line, and also pick up some knowledge if necessary while you are gainfully employed.

As you mentioned, you aren't working in the wine industry now, and that you are not located in a winery dense area. I would say these are your weaknesses at this point. But they can be overcome. Knowing a strength of yours is that you are presently working, we're going to think about options that you can do while working, located in the Midwest.

First of all, you are making the right steps by getting in touch with people in the industry. Asking those who know is very helpful, and something not everyone does. So ask several contacts in the wine industry about their thoughts on how to make the transition. You will get different insights, and build your wine network.

Next I would recommend learning as much as you can about wine. This includes wine tasting--the fun part for many, as well as getting a fundamental understanding of how grapes are grown, how wine is made and how it is marketed and sold. I think it is also important to look at the business side of wine, including the specific legal requirements for alcoholic beverage production, distribution and sales. With your finance background, a good understanding of these items will be very helpful in making the transition.

I also think becoming familiar with the business aspects of wine is important. Several universities offer extension courses in wine business and could be very helpful for your transition. Liz Thach, a Sonoma State University professor recently co-authored a book titled How to Launch Your Wine Career which could give you some great insights as well.

You might look at wine related industries that have locations in your area. These could include distributors that handle wine sales within your state. These companies are run just like all businesses, and need accounting professionals. And this could be a great bridge position to gain wine industry experience. Also, look into accounting firms that have beverage clients, which may include restaurants, bars, distributors and importers. Working within one of these firms may allow you exposure to the wine and spirits industries.

You mention that there are not many wineries in your area, but I am sure there are a few. And there also are plenty of retailers in your area that sell wine. I know it may sound silly, but get to know the people at your local wine shops. They are a fount of knowledge, and interact with people in the local wine industry daily. They also frequently offer wine education courses and winemaker dinners, all of which give you first hand information about the world of wine. And with wineries being in every state of the union now, I am sure there is a winery near you. Get out and find out who is in the wine industry in your area, and learn as much as you can. You might be surprised to find they need someone to look at their books from time to time. Great opportunity to get into the wine industry.

Hope this is helpful. Good Luck with your goal, and Happy New Year!

Sincerely,

Amy Gardner

WineTalent

www.winetalent.net

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Ghost of Christmas Future

Not being too much of a literature buff, I am going to be taking some poetic license with A Christmas Carol. Having read it over 25 years ago and seeing it on the screen every year I can remember, I hope I can pull this off.

Learn from Mr. Scrooge. There is more to life than money.

Too often I get questions from wine professionals about compensation. Some people cry and moan that they don't get paid enough, and that the wine industry is known for low salaries. Others say that there aren't enough opportunities for promotion and, in turn, higher salaries. Some people even consider leaving the industry to chase a bigger paycheck.

Since I've recruited people in a lot of lines of work, I generally am able to figure out what someone is making. I think this is unnerving to some of my friends--and why they don't ask me anymore. Most people don't want to talk about their salaries, except to say it is too low. Everyone thinks the other guy is making more money than they are. And it simply isn't true. I think it is important to look at the entire picture when you look at your career.

Money: Don't get caught up in dollar figures when it comes to your life. We could all use more money in the bank, a nicer car, a bigger house, but at what price? If you need to work two jobs to pay your car payment and mortgage--does your family need to be in a bigger house where you are never home? Yes, Virginia, Less can be More.

While you are counting your gold coins on Christmas Day, maybe you should think about the Cratchit family. They had the love of their family. Bob Cratchit wanted to be home with his family on Christmas day--not get a bigger bonus. Think about what you do have, and appreciate it.

Career: A job in the wine industry is nothing to laugh at. Regularly I receive inquires from people who want to make the switch into the wine biz. If you are already in it--count your blessings. This industry has a lot going for it. Often you get to work in beautiful surroundings, interact with interesting and intelligent people, and experience a truly remarkable product. Yes, wine isn't always the poetry in a bottle everyone makes it out to be--but there is still a lot to enjoy. I find the stories and the history surrounding wine to be fascinating.

Salaries are not that low. Yes, look at salary surveys and get to know what a market rate is. But really, I don't see a huge discrepancy between industries here. Ok, you may not be making what the winery's family members are making, but that's not the issue. Most wineries pay a good wage for all staff positions. And a lot of them have good benefits. Even outside of wine allocations.

Family: As a working woman, I know that women chronically get paid less. The latest figure I saw shows women working full-time earn 80 cents for every dollar men earn. My math says that is a 20% pay cut. Yes, this is grossly unfair. But when I think about it, I take another view. I have worked in big and small companies. At some of these jobs I have been the first person to ask for flexible hours. I have also been the first person to go out on maternity--and to return back to work at two of my employers. I have also been the first to work reduced hours to allow some work/life balance. Should I have blindly plodded along to make up that 20 cents? Or is it better that I made adjustments that allowed me to enjoy my work and my family?

I have found the wine industry to be very family friendly. This may be due to a large number of wineries being family run, but I think it is also because many of them have been around for generations. With years of dealing with the highs and lows of life, experience shows that things tend to right themselves and work goes on. With wine this is certainly true. While the last two years have been hard, a lot of great wine is in the barrel that will be ready to sell when things have turned around. And those vines that have been maturing for years are just getting ready to produce stellar grapes. These things all take time, as does life. So it seems that many wineries are in business for the long term--through the birth of babies and the deaths of loved ones. A hiccup such as a maternity leave, or a snowboarding accident is just that--a short term disturbance. So take stock in your needs and find a place where you can attain good work/family balance. You may have more of it than you think.

Happiness: Are you happy? If you are happy at home--excellent. If you are happy at work too, even better. But sometimes things need tending to, so if you need to improve your family life--do it right away. If you aren't happy at work--figure out what will make you happy, and do it. It may mean changing your responsibilities, hiring someone to help out, or possibly getting rid of a bad employee. And yes, it could mean getting a different job. So if that's the case--do it.

Health: Guess it is fitting that this is my last word of advice. New Year's is just around the corner, filled with possibilities and possibly resolutions. If yours is to improve your health--get busy. We can't be there for our family, our work, or ourselves if we aren't taking care of our health.

Here's to you and yours this holiday--and continued success in the new year.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Must Love the Outdoors

Yesterday I had a great day of spreading holiday cheer in the Napa valley. I visited many long time clients, and stopped to visit some new friends. There were a couple of interviews thrown in, so all in all, a very productive day.

I stopped by a vineyard operation that also makes olive oil on the farm. My contact has been managing the vineyards for years now, and also has overseen the olive orchards for some time, and showed me around the olive oil production facility. He didn't let me go visit the orchards because it was really muddy out there and the tractors had really mucked up the field. While I was gung-ho to still go out, we got to see some of the trees and see the picked berries go up the conveyor belt to the press.

I grew up in Northern California and my house backed up to a nature preserve. This was a favorite haunt for me; walking along the paths, picking wildflowers and breathing the fresh air. It was always surprising to hike up there and run into big groves of perfectly ordered olive trees. Looking into the history of these trees, it is believed they may have been planted during the Mission period when the Spanish friars cultivated the land. I grew up near Mission San Jose, and could see that history stood still in these groves.

Through the years volunteer trees had sprouted up--often being shaped into interesting topiaries by the cattle that grazed there. From the perfectly organized orchard to the erratic stands of younger trees I learned a lot about olives. First of all, they taste awful. This was seared into my brain at the age of 5, and never forgotten. Secondly, while they are everywhere and come ripe all at once, it isn't easy to cure them. Lastly, having lived with olive trees everywhere, I was always tracking in olive pits in the treads of my shoes. So, when I was given the chance to see how to really use those fruits, I jumped at it.

Visiting the production facility, it became evident that it takes a lot of pressure to extract the oil from those olives. While I had previously been kept out of the mud in the orchards, I learned how slippery the production floor can get. That traction flooring they use at the site was necessary--and still allowed for some slipping on my part.

It was a lot of fun to see the processing, and then to taste the finished product. I got to try some straight out of the press. I felt bad when I started to cough when the acid hit the back of my throat, but my friend said that olive oil comes in "one cough, two cough, or three cough strength". So when I was trying the finished product I wasn't as self conscious when the oil hit my throat. Tasting olive oils is something I've done infrequently, and it is always fun to swirl that viscous liquid around and then discern different flavors, and strengthes on your palate. But the protocol is a bit different because oil is oil, and hard to get out of your glass, or into the drain.

After the oil tour, I got to tour the vineyard a bit and try some experimental wines. This I have to say is always the most fun for me. I enjoy wine of course, but to me the process is even more interesting. My tour guide has worked for years on this property, and knows the soil structure and habits of the vines. He has experimented a lot with the fruit production on individual rows and varietals, making a few barrels to see how his viticulture practices affected the wine. Tasting wines that were as young as a month old, and up to two years old showed the range of variety grapes and wines can achieve. And drinking barrel samples is always a fun way to try wine.

On the way out of the property my friend was noting the continued presence of a stray Canadian goose. While this is the season that they migrate into the area, this one has been hanging around one spot of the vineyard for several days, alone. On my last visit to the vineyard we had talked about the different wildlife and about some of the river improvements he is working on to prevent flooding throughout the area and increase salmon and other wildlife habitat.

As that lone goose strolled across our path it hit me--this would be my dream job. Getting to be out in the fresh air, experiment with different viticulture and winemaking practices, donning rubber boots to walk through the fields. Yes, there is the flip side of the heat, dirt and hard work. But I've never shied away from that. Being able to track the seasons, learn what the land has to say to me, and deal with Mother Nature to produce wonderful fruit and exceptional products has a lot of appeal to me.

So what does this have to do with getting a job in the wine industry. Always think about what you enjoy and what you like to do. If you enjoy being outdoors--viticulture might be your game. If you enjoy experimenting with different juices and winemaking protocols in the cellar and the lab, winemaking may appeal to you. If you enjoy interacting with the public and enjoy creating a great experience for consumers, hospitality jobs are perfect. For some people, interacting with restaurateurs and retailers is a blast, and wine sales is an excellent career. Managing licensing and compliance is a great line of work for many people. Also, managing profit and loss statements, strategic planning and overseeing accounts receivable is an important role for every company. Think about what you like, how you can apply it to the wine industry, and be a great success. Good Luck.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Where in the Wine World is WineTalent


Just back from great appointments in the Napa Valley. Warm today--85 degrees. Had a wonderful lunch at this restaurant--Hacked Salad, no corkage, and my friend had the Ahi Tuna Salad. Where am I?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Where in the Wine World is WineTalent


Had a great day out and about in wine country. Many of the wineries are getting ready for First Sip, the area's wine weekend being held this Saturday and Sunday. Stopping at several wineries today, I saw familiar faces and made new acquaintances. I stopped by this winery today. With a family heritage that is now part of the largest winery companies, this winery was started back in the early 1900's. What a sight to see today--quite an impressive winemaking operation. Where in the wine world am I?

Update: Here's another image from the barrel room--a small corner of it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Explaining Resume Gaps to Employers

Explaining Resume Gaps to Employers

Make your Tax Dollars Help your Job Search: Use the BLS

With all the stimulus funds being poured into the economy, we all hope it will create more jobs, and last weeks labor report indicated it is helping. While you might not find your job in the wine industry through this stimulation, there is something the government does that you need to read. It is the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition

This handbook outlines what occupations will see an increase in hiring, and those that will shed jobs. This is very helpful when looking at your career opportunities, and when transitioning into a new industry or technical skill.

Job Front: Make your résumé stand out

Recent Sacramento Bee article about formatting your resume. Good advice about keeping your key words and skills visible to potential employers.

Job Front: Make your résumé stand out - Sacramento Business, Housing Market News | Sacramento Bee

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Managing Your Online Identity

Whether you are a former CEO looking to make a company change or a recent graduate figuring out the first step in your career, you need to actively manage your online identity. No doubt you know that this is the information age, since you did receive this message in cyberspace. Make sure others find you too.

When you are beginning to build your online profile, make sure you get a LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter account.

From my perspective, LinkedIn is the most important for your career identity, but maybe not the most fun to use. This probably is a good thing. Go on, put your profile together as if it is your resume. You don't need to put as much detail as a resume, but put your titles, companies, years of service and education on there. Major achievements are helpful too. I recommend editing it carefully so it looks professional. Use any of the option to have an online ID so that your information gets pulled up as often as possible when someone is searching for you. Now, see who you know on there, and ask them to link up. Also, join groups. You can be selective, but try to get the industry networks that would help you. Often you can build your network through people who are in your groups.

Facebook can be your best friend, or your biggest enemy when it comes to building your professional profile. So, if you are considering looking for a new job, keep any racy photos off of there. This includes anything you may have in albums. That photo of my potential candidate at the party with lots of questionable paraphenalia does not make me think he is all that innocent. Clean up your profile. For those of you with squeaky clean profiles, make sure you have important information on your Facebook profile, such as your current employer, the geographical area you live in, and your education. For all you Facebook gamers out there--maybe don't have so many games showing on your profile. If you are spending that much time building your farm or putting out hits in the mafia, are you really dedicated to your current job--let alone your next one. You can also choose to remove posts by friends on your page. While this may cause tension with those friends who want to gift you something, if they know you are looking to better your career prospects, they usually understand.

Twitter is its own beast, but I think it is great to have yourself represented on there. Get your twitter username and build a profile. While I love Twitter, I think it isn't everyone's favorite social networking vehicle. Twitter is mostly a tool for you to share your thoughts, craft an identity and build a network of people. You can keep your profile locked, but this does prevent you from building a large following--which can be good and bad. Having your profile public means anyone can follow you, and they will get your updates as quickly as you put them up there. So, say you are unhappy at work and you put a mean post about your company--a public profile could be viewed by your boss, and get you in hot water. Try to keep your tweets professional and informative. But all info and no fun makes your tweeting very dull. Try to put some light, interesting tweets in from time to time to let people know you aren't just using it as a data dump.

You get out what you put into your online identity. Careful management allows you to have a well honed, professional online personality. When that future employer checks you out on Google they will be able to find you quickly, and possibly learn a bit about you. And then send you a message to connect. Could be an exciting next step.

There are many other social media applications to explore, but I think these three are the priority when you are first getting your job hunt underway. Oh, and make sure you stay on top of your messages in these social media applications. They keep you aware of any potential opportunities, and connected with your friends.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Book Review: Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw. Or maybe my title should read, why the hardest thing about recruiting is the personality fit.

I just finished Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain. For my slow, read every single word reading style, I was thrilled to finish it in 5 days. For many people, including the USA Today reviewer quoted on the dust cover, this book is a read in one-sitting. Tony, I gotta say, thanks for making this a great, quick read.

So a couple of years back I read Kitchen Confidential, and blogged about my workaholic take on the book. I was surprised to find myself following his commandments--about working. Reading someone's memoirs and taking away how to be a great employee isn't what I think Bourdain was going for--but even in this book, he still points out his strong work ethic. He may have stumbled through drug-induced years, perhaps decades, but he still showed up for work, on time, and gave it his all. Maybe not so much when he was a fry-cook at some greasy spoons--but once he figured himself out, he did work very hard. Then when he decided to start blogging about the restaurant world, he pulled himself out of bed at the crack of dawn to write before putting in a long day at work. So, thank you to all who get up everyday, do their best, and try to improve on it the following day.

But what surprised me about this book was why I enjoy it. I'm not in the restaurant world, or am I the Travel Channel's host for dining and learning about the world's food cultures. I don't swear constantly, chain smoke, or ever have. Luckily while I write this I am not looking to score any illicit drugs, and have never been haunted by them. I do enjoy a nice glass of wine, and probably am a bit more geeky about it than Anthony will ever let himself be. And I love food. LOVE. So Tony's whole "food porn" section was actually quite fun to read.

What is it about Tony's personality or interests that draw me in. Well first, he's a great writer--which isn't something I run into too much. Secondly, he's witty--which I can never get enough of. Third, he likes good music, and as I have mentioned on my Facebook posts, I really enjoy his Rhapsody playlist. Not all my heroes like punk bands, and sometimes I'm in the minority in my social circle for liking what they consider noise.

Now the laundry list of further reasons.
  • He likes simple food but enjoys a good dinner. He comments about what some people will never say. While I have never gotten to eat dinner at The French Laundry, I haven't actually pursued it for the very reasons he points out in the book. I like to enjoy food, but I like to be able to function after eating a great meal. Food should improve your life, not make you pay for it later.
  • He wears cowboy boots. Simple thing, but odd for a New Jersey native.
  • He appreciates good cooking, and makes sure his host knows it. This is something I drill into those children of mine.
  • He finds his own beliefs odd. This is evident in his take on Alice Waters. I have no beef with Alice Waters, and really appreciate what she has done for people's knowledge about local food and healthy eating. I love her push for school gardens, and have benefited from this for my local school gardens. His description of his interaction with her is hilarious, and has been often recited to my friends and family this weekend. He doesn't like Alice, but he shares many of her beliefs, and can't work up the nerve to confront her in public.
  • And the last on the list, he thinks Jim Harrison is a hero. Now if you don't know who Jim Harrison is, I'm not surprised. I didn't even know anyone else knew who he was. And there in Tony's "Heroes and Villians" section, Jim's mentioned. And for the same reasons, albeit only from my distant connection to Jim, that I think Jim Harrison is great. FYI: Jim Harrison is an author, and I guess somewhat of a celebrity in France. I have read his novels throughout my adult life, and always really enjoy them. Reading Bourdain's take on him, I know now Jim Harrison, and Tony are kindred spirits.

And this is where my career advice comes in. One of the most important aspects of recruiting is finding the right personality match for a company. While it may seem on the outside that you want skills and experience, most people in various fields have the basics. Selling wine is selling wine. Making wine is making wine. Managing a winery is managing a winery. Oh, but the personalities involved in these different areas are all over the map. If I could simply follow the job description and put in people like they were widgets, I'd be retired by now. To recruit on a job, it is much more important to know what type of people work there, their hopes and dreams, and their demons. A young sales superstar who can take on the world might step on the other employee's toes--and crash and burn in the wrong setting. But put that star candidate in the right environment, and she will create their own gravitational pull.

Who would have thought I would enjoy Anthony Bourdain's takes on the food world, and surprisingly, the world in general. I don't think our paths would ever cross--no matter how many speaking engagements he is at near me. Jeez, he won't even let me be a lowly facebook friend--and isn't his facebook account for publicity purposes anyways--or is it truly only for friends. 2,100 of his closest pals.

Go out and read it. Fast or slow, laughing, crying or dreading it. Hey, if you don't like it, don't read the whole thing. But if you find it funny--ENJOY.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

2010 Salary Survey

In this month's Wine Business Monthly the 2010 Salary Survey Report was presented. To summarize, the data showed that salaries declined for key positions, but that bonuses increased, leading to an overall increase in total compensation.

If you are working in the wine industry, or thinking about making a change, you need to read the report. For a summary, visit the preview . You can also find the entire article in the current issue. Click on subscriptions to get your own copy.

Dissatisfaction Among Psychology Majors - WSJ.com

Dissatisfaction Among Psychology Majors - WSJ.com

Friday, September 17, 2010

Does the Millionaire Matchmaker Know Anything about Dating?

On those rare occassions that I get to watch reality TV, it seems that the Millionaire Matchmaker is often on. Patti Stanger is the Millionaire Matchmaker on Bravo, helping her wealthy, single clients find the love of their life. I love matchmaking, and while I haven't had much success setting up friends, I never give up the quest for helping others find love. I think that being a recruiter is very similar to matchmaking, I am finding the right person for a given job, and the most important element in a successful placement is getting the right personality match for the client and employee.

Often I talk to people and offer them career advice. I am happy to help people maximize the marketing of their skills to land a good job. Recently I was speaking to a few people who seemed to want a job, but weren't really doing the things needed to get a job. Is this like when the Millionaire Matchmaker recommends for the dates to dress appropriately and really take an active role in the conversation of the evening?

As a matchmaker, these are some of the qualities I look for in future employees:
  1. A desire to work
  2. A track record of work
  3. A commitment to making a career change
  4. Being receptive to advice
  5. Improving things that need improvement

Let me elaborate:
  1. A desire to work. What do I mean by a desire to work? Well, that's kind of easy. I want someone who is interested in getting up every day, getting themselves ready for work, going to work--consistently, and wanting to contribute to their company. Yes, may seem simple. And it is. But when I talk to several people, they are looking for a job that will work into their schedule. The ability to work flexible hours, telecommute, or part-time schedules all are relevant requests--but they do put a monkey wrench into some placements. It can be hard for a client to allow a wine club salesperson to work from home--since the wine club members are usually signed up at the winery. If someone has other responsibilities that require only part-time employment, that significantly reduces the amount of jobs that they will be able to apply for.
  2. A track record of work. A track record is work history. While I often talk to people hoping to make a change into the wine industry, I always want to know where they worked before. If someone is hoping to make a career change, but hasn't been working for several years, I'm going to question how serious they are about taking a job. Have they had trouble holding down a job? Have they been out of work for personal or health reasons? Have they been in prison? All of these questions come up--and until I can substantiate things, I'm dubious.
  3. A commitment to making a career change. This can be either a complete change from one industry to another, or simply taking a new job. Until I feel that this person really wants to make a change, I'm not confident they are a good candidate to work with. If I find a great opportunity for them, they interview and are offered the job--will they really make the change and accept the position. Or are they window shopping--seeing what jobs are out there and finding out if they are being compensated correctly.
  4. Being receptive to advice. Oh, this is always the toughest one. Getting calls from all over the world from wine professionals who want the next big break is fun--but often I have to have "the talk" with my candidates. Yes, your resume looks great, you have great experience, but............... I always start this dialogue with trepidation. Who wants me telling them they need to stick with their current employer for another year to show some tenure, cut their hair, lose the fancy typefaces on their resume, or put up with that difficult boss until they land the next job. Where do I come off telling people these things. Well, I do have a bit of experience in this area, so I keep talking--and see how people take it. Some people say, "Yeah, I'll look at that."--and don't do anything differently. Other people say, "Thanks--I hadn't realized that, and I think you have a point."
  5. Improving things that need improvement. The next step is very telling. If they take my advice, I know they truly want to make a change. If I hear from them again in a month or so, and nothing has changed and they are still dealing with the same issue, I don't keep up a dialogue with them. I think this is a bit like the Millionaire Matchmaker who has to turn down wealthy clients because they just can't seem to make a change. I am more than happy to keep considering those candidates who put some time and thought into what we talked about, and are improving on deficiencies.
So as I sit at my coffee meetings and phone interviews dispensing advice, I sometimes feel like I'm giving dating advice. I sometimes have to make very personal comments, and the job seeker than has to take that advice and work to improve their chances in the job market. Might just have to put together a book of rules! Coming back to the Millionaire Matchmaker, I think she does know a few things about dating, and while she may have to say some very personal things to her clients, she probably is hoping to help their chances of finding their partner.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What Certifications Make Sense in the Wine Industry

Frequently I get asked about what Certifications make sense for people in the wine industry. While I see a lot of different programs out there, I recently posed the question to my Facebook Friends. Here's the feedback I got.

WSET is a good foundation for Masters of Wine, which is a good background for writers or wine shop owners. The Master Sommelier certification is best for people working in restaurants and similar settings. As my FB friend wrote, the MS Certification is good so you can dance on a dining room floor, open all sizes of wine bottles, open a wine bottle with a saber, and talk the talk of food flavors, terroir and wine flavors.

As a sales person to restaurant and hotel client, the MS is appropriate in the fine dining world. It gives you a good working knowledge of wine, regions and service needs.

It looks like the WSET is a more rounded industry curriculum, while the MS is more specific for the restaurant wine professional.

Hope this is helpful. There are many wine education programs out there--if anyone has some feedback, I'd love to hear it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Where's WineTalent


Been out and about today visiting several wineries. It is a bit hotter here than in Oregon--with a rushing river nearby and a lot of agriculture--apples, berries, cherries and of course grapes. Just visited this winery that is organic, one of the top 15 in the state in terms of production, and the largest organic producer. They make a nice line of boxed wines too. Where am I?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Where's WineTalent


Had a wonderful meeting with the new winemaker and his wife yesterday on the patio. Got to try some wonderful Pinot Gris and locally baked dumplings and berry pie. Nice sunny day and a light wind at lunch time. Where am I in the wine world?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

When in Wine Country!

My last blog post was about preparing for an interview. I mentioned that I was prepping myself for my upcoming radio interview, and that my family was asking me mock interview questions. One of them was "What is it like to work in the wine industry?". While many people think the wine world is very glamorous, what I like most about the industry is the people--a good interest when you are in the people business.

I have always found the vast majority of winery professionals to be intelligent, good conversationalists, well traveled and that they enjoy good food and wine. Whether they made their millions in computers, paint, intellectual property, real estate or garbage, they all enjoy working the soil and creating a mercurial product. The fruit they grow and the wines they craft are their pride and joy. The professionals who bring the wine to market, create a brand entity, pour over spreadsheets and manage the personnel all share a common love of wine, and that interest is evident in their business dealings.

One of my most memorable business visits in wine recruiting came when I was working at my former company. I was tasked with touring the CEO and Regional President to some of my clients. I have done this in every office and industry I've worked in, but for some reason I had a lot of executives come out to the Sacramento office to visit the winery contacts. It gave my backwater office some clout--which was very helpful starting out. But I digress....

The first appointment of the day was at Beaulieu Vineyards in Rutherford. Like clockwork, the three of us were standing at the tasting room doors at 10:00 am. Our gracious hostess handed us all a flute of sparkling wine and toasted the start of our tour. Being the local, and only female of my company's group, everyone looked to me to take the first sip.

What to do? You never drink at work, and here it is early in the day and I have the CEO and President. I asked the CEO for his advice, and he said, "When in Rome", and raised the glass to his lips. What a way to break the ice on this client tour. The tour was spectacular, and we were treated very well, including a special bottle of wine being presented to us during our lunch next door at Rutherford Grill.

The rest of the day was completely upbeat, capped off by a wonderful dinner at the Culinary Institute of America's Greystone restaurant. The ability to work in an industry with a great product, excellent people and such hospitality seemed like a dream to me.

From that day forward I worked to make WineTalent a reality. I have created my own company providing search services to the wine industry. Six years have flown by and I am loving every minute. Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way, and I look forward to raising a glass with you in the near future. When in wine country!

Interviewing, In all Shapes and Forms

Last week I was interviewed on WineBizRadio. Prior to my on-air moment, I was running through some potential questions and answers so that I'd be ready for anything, and could talk intelligently. My family threw out some easy ones, and a few tough questions. It was good to get some ideas about what WineTalent does, how I perform searches, and what the status of the wine industry is. There were a few fun questions, and also some that I bombed out on. When it came time to be interviewed by those fact-finding radio personalities, I felt confident that I could hold my own.

Being interviewed got me thinking about what it is like to prepare for a job interview. I think it is very important to get your "game face on". Find out all you can about the company you will be talking to, who you are interviewing with, and the job itself. Google those interviewers, read everything you can about the company on the web, and read over the job description. If you can talk to colleagues who know the company, do so and find out insights about the job, why they are hiring, and future opportunities.

Recently I was placing a sales and marketing person for a newer winery. Many of the candidates went out and bought the wines, tasted them, and formed their own ideas about the wines. While this is often not considered research, for this position it was very insightful for the candidates, and allowed them to understand the position and future capabilities of the winery. While this might be odd outside of the wine industry, it isn't a bad gig for those in it!

So do a mock interview before you sit down in front of the interviewers. Your family and friends questions can help put you at ease when it is the real deal at your potential employer. Oh, and if you do try the wines, go easy on them so you are at the top of your game come interview time.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Negotiation Technique #1: Going Out on the Balcony

Salary negotiations are always nerve-racking, nail-biting and perhaps exhilarating. Being a recruiter, I've probably been involved in more salary negotiations than the average Joe. Negotiating your salary is always stressful because you are down to the final step, you most likely are very interested in the position, and don't want to sound too greedy or too needy. So once you are at the final stage, and most likely have at least addressed potential salary ranges and compensation models, you may want to have one last weapon in your negotiation arsenal. One of the best techniques to employ is the "going out on the balcony" tactic.

What is this technique you ask. One of the best ways to get a little breathing room once a true offer is on the table is to take a moment before accepting the position. At this point, the company wants you, and you want the job. Now you need to see if the salary is in line. Upon getting the offer, tell your contact that you want to look it over and think about it. Next you can do a few different things. 1. Go out on the balcony and scream "woo-hoo" at the top of your lungs, 2. talk over the position with your family, or 3. completely disregard it because it is so out of the realm of possibility for you in terms of salary.

By taking this moment to consider it, you are telling the company that you want to carefully weigh the opportunity and the salary that accompanies it. You are able to discuss the new role with your family to make sure it fits in with your needs and lifestyle choices. This break during the negotiation also puts the situation in your hands, perhaps making the company realize how much they want you. If you come back from your break on the balcony to tell them that while you are interested in the position, you need $X to really make the necessary sacrifices to your personal life, etc, it will be received understanding that you really considered all elements of the offer.

Now how long you need to hang out "on the balcony" is your call--there really are no rules. If you are sure the offer is fair and what you are looking for, tell them you are accepting the offer as soon as you can. If you are really struggling with an element of the offer, you can take several hours, or a day or two. But you want to keep the negotiations alive, and as you take longer to decide, the potential employer starts feeling that you may not be as committed to the company as they would like. So taking your time can help but taking too long can possibly hurt your negotiations.

I think the best rule of thumb is to let the employer know how long you need to think it over. That way they know when they will hear back from you, and can start planning accordingly.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

And You Can Also Trust Your Winemaker

Yesterday I wrote about how I buy wine--and to trust your wine shop clerk. Over the weekend I was talking to a wine lover outside of the wine biz, and he asked me how I buy wine. While I told him I like the local shops, I also revealed my new way to buy wine--call up my friendly winemaker and have them send me a case. No, this isn't bribery--I always pay and am happy to keep small labels going and give fledgling labels a boost. I enjoy knowing who made my wine, and often can try new varietals and blends. It is a bit of the eat local, buy local trend that is going on right now--but for me it is a bit like the artwork in my house--all originals and by or from friends. Drink Local!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Take Their Advice: Why you can Trust your Wine Shop Staff

Recently one of the discussions threads in my LinkedIn group was asking how people decide to try a new wine. It was asking how people take the plunge with a high priced bottle of wine. Having traveled Northern California's wine country extensively, and having seen a good deal of the European wine country, I know there is a lot I don't know. I also know there are so many wines, I could never get to know a tiny fraction of them. So how can a consumer wade through the wine section and make a good decision, let along sink some major cash into 750 mls of a perishable product.

Well, for many people, wine scores help. I am perfectly happy to read my Wine Spectator and see how wines are doing. When I get a fancy bottle at an auction or as a gift, I steal away to my computer to see how it fared with the palates of those who taste a lot of wine. While I keep my own tasting notes, it is fun to look at those of the experts and see if I detected the same characteristics.

But I'm a big fan of trying the road less traveled, and there are a lot of wines out there that never make it in front of the wine critics. So when I go into a wine shop to try some new wines, what do I do? I ask the wine shop staff what I should try. Yes, I use some sage advice I gleaned from the Wall Street Journal's former wine writers, and tell the clerk what my budget is--which is often $20, $15 or $10 and lower. When I have a good clerk they don't see these price points as a problem, but more as a challenge. I've had some great $8 wines that to this day I want more of.

So why the heck would I trust a clerk at a wine shop? Because they often get to taste the wines, and at a good shop, have tasted all the wines they recommend, and know my palate. Dick's Picks at Taylor's market seem to be perfect for my tastes--and are often unusual wines I wouldn't have tried otherwise.

I also encourage people to go to wine shops where they can try before they buy. Getting to have a taste of the $50 Napa Cab before you buy it makes you know you are going to like it, and maybe even buy an extra bottle for a friend. Here locally Selland's market does a great job of letting you have several nice wines to try that are also for sale in the small wine shop. Too often I walk out of there with a mixed case running the gamut of bottle prices.

So, next time that nice person at the wine shop asks you if you need help--say yes. Don't be afraid to tell them your budget, and say what your preferences are. I've even made friends this way--Corti Bros has been a great wine buying venue for me for years now.

And whether the wine shops like it or not, I do like to know when a wine scores well with the critics. But they themselves are some of my favorite critics.

And one last thing. Don't think you know nothing about wine, but only what you like. You know something already--what you like. Go out and see what else you might like, and enjoy yourself.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Resumes and Winery Marketing--not that much different

Yes indeedy, wine industry recruiting is seasonal. Got a new slew of requirements to work on, and plenty of work to keep me busy.

As I slog through my resumes this morning, I noticed how some resumes tell a good story about someone's career, and others leave me wondering. When I started thinking about it, it reminded me about recent wine industry events I've attended. Several meetings have called attention to the need for wineries to tell a compelling story, and then weave that story through their marketing materials, their branding, and sometimes most importantly, into their label. When you see that dancing coyote on the bottle, it makes you wonder what the brand is about, and then you read the marketing material and have a sense of the winery. And if all gels, you buy the wine, often.

Looking at resumes I sometimes become that Cranky Recruiter. Please, not another objective statement to overlook. But when I see a great resume, I totally understand the person's career history and motivation for looking for a new job. I see their career progression, and possibly career tangents, but understand where they have been and where they want to go. That resume conveys their personal brand, and quickly tunes me into roles they would excel in.

Generic resumes leave me wondering what they really want to do, and why they are contacting me.

So take the time to weave that personal story into your resume. While there most likely won't be a crazy critter on your resume, your personality may just make me call you, often.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Look for Information Everywhere

Last night I plowed through my pile of wine industry magazines. This morning I woke up a bit early, and thought, I'll read some fun magazines. Reading through the May 2010 issue of Vogue I was enjoying the fashion, current events, socialite news, etc. Then I read about the COO of Facebook. It was quite an interesting article about Sheryl Sandberg, and chronicled her career path and explained how she has been so successful. Prior to Facebook, Sheryl was involved in turning Google profitable, bringing in revenues instead of being a free portal for information.

I have noted here my recent Women for Winesense presentation, and one of the points I stressed was the need for people to get information, learn new things, and be aware. While I was just skimming through a fashion mag, I came upon a great article about a female executive that was very interesting and informative. Learning about Sheryl Sandberg's knack for personal interactions was enlightening and thought provoking. What are you good at, how can you use that talent to excel, and how can learn more about it? Look for information everywhere.

And the piece on Sarah Jessica Parker was very good too!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Adding Value as an Employee

I am in the middle of interviewing wine industry executives who have made the career move from winemaking to management. I am putting together a presentation for Women for Winesense's Winemaker's Roundtable coming up in May. A common theme I am coming across when talking to these executives is the idea of making yourself indispensable. Some managers have learned that by getting involved in many different areas within a winery you learn a lot, discover areas you can contribute to, and when needed you can fill in in many different areas--sometimes that just happens to be in upper level management positions.

I have also been working with a lot of consultants recently who provide their expertise to companies that are starting-up new operations, revamping companies or turning around troubled enterprises. Consultants tend to be multi-taskers, and experts in their field. Something that I'm hearing a lot is that while they may be an expert in sales, they also can help with administrative development or financial reporting, or similar disciplines. I think the successful consultants are quick to point out other areas they can help their clients in, making them indispensable as well.

So, after talking to these industry experts, I have also been talking with many job seekers with several years of experience under their belts. While they may be very skilled at what they do, I am hearing many of them say what else they can offer. Some winemakers have mentioned their sales savvy and direct to consumer activities. Some sales people have made sure I understand that they have been working with luxury goods companies on movie and television product placement programs. And many wine professionals demonstrate their wine education and hospitality savvy.

Perhaps, in a down economy the need for adding value to your current or future employer is more important than ever. So think about what you can offer. Do you have tasting room experience, hospitality industry knowledge, cross-selling experience, wine education certification, a lengthy list of buyers who will go with you anywhere, or exceptional people skills. Let people know, and then deliver these skills whenever and wherever they are needed.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Where in the Wine World is WineTalent


Had some great visits in Lodi, Lockeford and one other place this past Friday. This winery collective has been resurrected from a sweet factory by the river. It is a true brick and mortar business model. Several wineries have tasting rooms there, and there is a custom crush facility. While I may beet around the bush, can you tell me where I was? There were quite a few people milling around, and I have to thank an innocent bystander for this great photo. Try the syrah and chenin blanc when you visit.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Take Their Advice: Why to Trust your Wine Shop Staff

Recently one of the discussions threads in my LinkedIn group was asking how people decide to try a new wine. It was asking how people take the plunge with a high priced bottle of wine. Having traveled Northern California's wine country extensively, and having seen a good deal of the European wine country, I know there is a lot I don't know. I also know there are so many wines, I could never get to know a tiny fraction of them. So how can a consumer wade through the wine section and make a good decision, let along sink some major cash into 750 mls of a perishable product.

Well, for many people, wine scores help. I am perfectly happy to read my Wine Spectator and see how wines are doing. When I get a fancy bottle at an auction or as a gift, I steal away to my computer to see how it fared with the palates of those who taste a lot of wine. While I keep my own tasting notes, it is fun to look at those of the experts and see if I detected the same characteristics.

But I'm a big fan of trying the road less traveled, and there are a lot of wines out there that never make it in front of the wine critics. So when I go into a wine shop to try some new wines, what do I do? I ask the wine shop staff what I should try. Yes, I use some sage advice I gleaned from the Wall Street Journal's former wine writers, and tell the clerk what my budget is--which is often $20, $15 or $10 and lower. When I have a good clerk they don't see these price points as a problem, but more as a challenge. I've had some great $8 wines that to this day I want more of.

So why the heck would I trust a clerk at a wine shop? Because they often get to taste the wines, and at a good shop, have tasted all the wines they recommend, and know my palate. Dick's Picks at Taylor's market seem to be perfect for my tastes--and are often unusual wines I wouldn't have tried otherwise.

I also encourage people to go to wine shops where they can try before they buy. Getting to have a taste of the $50 Napa Cab before you buy it makes you know you are going to like it, and maybe even buy an extra bottle for a friend. Here locally Selland's market does a great job of letting you have several nice wines to try that are also for sale in the small wine shop. Too often I walk out of there with a mixed case running the gamut of bottle prices.

So, next time that nice person at the wine shop asks you if you need help--say yes. Don't be afraid to tell them your budget, and say what your preferences are. I've even made friends this way--Corti Bros has been a great wine buying venue for me for years now.

And whether the wine shops like it or not, I do like to know when a wine scores well with the critics. But they themselves are some of my favorite critics.

And one last thing. Don't think you know nothing about wine, but only what you like. You know something already--what you like. Go out and see what else you might like, and enjoy yourself.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Remembering a Friend: Nancy Tibbitts

Last month I attended the UC Davis Internship and Career Fair, an event I have participated in for many years. I missed a familiar face, and was very sad to hear that one of the career center staff, Nancy Tibbitts, a friend and mentor of mine, had passed away late last year. This revelation rocked me to the core. This woman had been so helpful in my career; helping me get my first on-campus research job, guiding me in my first few job decisions, suggesting career moves when I was relocating, and then as a colleague during my years in recruiting. I often called her to let her know about new positions I was recruiting for, and asked her to spread the word during a search.

Not only did Nancy assist me in my professional life, but we both shared stories about being working mothers of young children--from finding time to balance the needs of work with the real life needs of a crying, hungry baby or the juggling required of an active family. It was refreshing to check in with her, first to find out how she and the family was doing, and then to get to work on something I was needing her assistance with.

It is very sad for me that she passed away. I know I was only one of many people she helped, and in my mind she was and is indispensable. She was always happy and fun to deal with. I remember her telling me, "oh you have to take that job" and "of course you need to sign-up for an internship". Luckily I followed her advice which I often echo back to young, soon-to-graduate and recent-graduates who are figuring out their career path.

I have had a lot of great mentors in my life, and I truly count Nancy Tibbitts as one of them. I will always think of her fondly, and hope to help others in their careers like she helped me.

For others who worked with Nancy, visit her guest book on the UCD site. I send my heartfelt condolences to her family and friends.