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.

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