Showing posts with label job advice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label job advice. Show all posts

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What are Employers Looking for These Days?

Recently Nick Schulz wrote "Hard Unemployment Truths About 'Soft' Skills" in the WSJ.  While I know many people have been hard hit by the recession, I do also know that sometimes the littlest things make the biggest differences.

Non-Technies Need Not Apply? Nick Schulz reported on the struggle manufacturing companies face to find qualified applicants for open jobs.  With manufacturing becoming more high-tech, it is easy to believe that the work force needs to be more computer savvy and technically competent.  It may come as a surprise to many that the biggest challenge many employers have is finding applicants with the "soft" skills you may take for granted.  These skills include being polite, motivated, enthusiastic, and able to answer a phone professionally.  The hiring managers also noted that sometimes it is hard enough to even find applicants that can pass the drug test.

What New Skills Employers Are Looking For?  Earlier this week I was meeting with a sales executive who has worked for many prestigious wineries in California.  He asked me what skills people are looking for in their sales staff.  I paused, and thought about it for a moment and said, "Someone who does their job."  I felt a little flat-footed, but really most often the hardest thing to find is someone who actually does their job and takes pride in their work.  And when you find someone who does, you don't want to let her go.

New Skills Versus Effectiveness:  Yes, it is true that we have lots of new technology and skills that we want our employees to have.  Knowing how to update a Facebook page is important if you are doing social media and having advanced point of sale system experience will make you a hot commodity--but if you waste your time lost in social media sites or don't actually work to make a single sale using the POS system--you aren't worth anything.

A Peek Into the Entry-level Job Scene

What it is Like Out There:  Recently my college-aged son has been looking for a part-time job.  He went to an informational session at a large logistics company and felt very out of place.  As his mother instructed, he wore his nice khakis, an ironed dress shirt, a tie and his best (read only) dress shoes.  He took his resume and reference list along in a folder.  Reporting back afterwards, he said he was the only guy there that wasn't "sagging" and the only white guy who wasn't sporting dreadlocks. (Please, reader, I love dreadlocks as much as the next guy--but thought it was a very interesting remark)

Set Yourself Apart, Nicely:  Today he is going back for a real interview.  Going over his game plan yesterday, I asked if he was going to wear a tie again.  He said, "Of course, I have to set myself far apart from the mirror-foggers."  Now this is a part-time job during college loading boxes into freight trucks.  He's hoping to get a grave shift and work in a 30 degree warehouse during the holiday season.  This isn't the highlight career for most people--but my son is really looking forward to working hard, getting paid and getting lots of extra hours during the holiday shipping season. 

Learning the Ropes:  Two years ago my son went for his first interview with the parks department to help clean up garbage and pull weeds around the city during the summer.  Getting to the interview, he said he again was the only guy not "sagging" and noted that most of the girls there were wearing short shorts and were baring their midriffs.  When he sat down at the interview table, he asked the interviewer if she would like to see his resume.  While she was shocked that he brought one, she took it and conducted the interview.  He got the job and got to spend many 100+ degree days picking up garbage and fixing playgrounds around Sacramento. 

Getting the reference:  Yeah, so maybe these jobs aren't going to find my son living in a mansion and partying on a yacht--but he's a step ahead of a lot of unemployed people out there.  In his summer job he learned how to work as part of a team, a little about money management and how to do the job his supervisor wanted done.  Never missing a day of work--and only forgetting his steel-toed boots once which caused him to be 5 minutes late to work--made his supervisor happy, and she has been a great reference.  He also has a good job to put on his resume, helping him get the next job.

What Can You do to Improve Your Hireability?

Make Sure you Polish your Soft Skills:    Be polite and approachable when interacting with a potential employer.  Make sure you use good grammar in communications with them and follow-up as requested.  Be consistent in your information, especially when it comes to job history and responsibilities.  Dress appropriately for a job interview.  Don't Sag!  Act professional.  Be enthusiastic about the opportunity to meet with anyone at the company and sincere about your interest in working for them.

Know What's Relevant:  Yes, most likely you have more experience than needed to load freight trucks--so make sure you brush up on your specific experience and know what talents you bring to the role.  If you are applying for a job that requires knowledge of sales tracking software--make sure you study up on it so you can talk intelligently about your expertise on it and discover where you might need additional study.  Be honest about areas that you don't have the required experience, but if you can show how you can acquire that knowledge, you are showing you know a lot about the job.

Act Like You Want to be Hired:  It may sound funny, but I can often tell when someone isn't really into the job hunt.  Statements such as, "Well, maybe it would be better if I continued to work for a friend instead of taking a full time role" or "If I take a job I will lose my unemployment benefits"  are interview killers for me. Why are we talking here?  Didn't you apply for the job?  When you are talking to a hiring manager they are listening for little clues about how likely you are to take the job, and also to keep the job.  When you put up little red flags it may give the hirer pause.  Mulling it over they may decide to keep looking, or bring in that other person who seemed to really want the job.  Don't shoot yourself in the foot--if you are interviewing you should be prepared to take the job.  Or at least seriously consider the offer. 

Crossing My Fingers:  Right now my son is in that interview.  I do hope he's been listening to his mother all these years.  And that he wore a belt!  He'd better pass that drug test.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reading Between the Lines: What a Job Description Can Tell You

Last week I was glancing through the listings, and read this in a job description, "ability to adapt to and thrive in a fast-paced, changing environment."  This made me laugh.  Often you can get a glimpse of what the potential employer's culture is like by reading the job descriptions. 

Let's take a look at some recent job descriptions:
  • Looking for an enthusiast and honest person with integrity, energy, drive and persistence, emotional intelligence and good interpersonal skills.  To me, this position outlines the perfect person.  If only it was this easy to find Mr. Right.  Maybe the last person here wasn't the right one.
  • Must be able to juggle multiple situations, and able to work independently.  Reading this one leads me to believe that this company needs someone who can work on their own and who can make decisions and has good follow-through on projects.  Additional skills that often go along with this are organization, goal setting and problem solving.  Often these qualities are needed at a company with looser corporate structures or macro-, not micro-management.
  • Strong leadership, self-starter, interpersonal skills and good communication skills. Yet again looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right. 
  • Tenacious, unflappable, not easily discouraged.  This leads me to think that the company needs someone who is able to work in a dynamic environment and someone who is self motivated to work hard.  This may not be the best environment for someone who has worked in a structured environment or has not had their ideas challenged in the past. 
  • Excellent active listening skills.  If you can't listen or follow directions, probably not the best place for you.
  • Solid business and financial acumen as it relates to operations.  Perhaps this position has not brought in strong profits in the past but needs to.  Also, you should be good at running numbers and reporting them to ownership/management. 
  • Versatile, flexible, and a willingness to work under competing priorities with enthusiasm.  This may mean you have several different supervisors.  Also could demand someone who can "grin and bear it" while working very hard.  Could be a situation where others have gotten discouraged in the past.
  • Ability to work in a fast-paced and dynamic environment.  There's that dynamic word again.  What does this really mean.  I always take it to mean an environment that is quickly changing, of shifting priorities and results oriented. 
  • Must have good organizational skills and attention to detail.  If you don't have them, don't apply.  You won't be happy pouring over spreadsheets, reviewing numbers and keeping track of things if you take this position.
  • Professional attitude and a strong work ethic.  While this should go without saying, in this role you will be required to always act professionally, no matter what is going on around you, and you will be expected to work hard.  You should have a good head on your shoulders to do well in this job.
  • Demonstrated ability in multi-tasking and prioritizing workload while keeping in check quality and time constraints.  This sounds like the mantra we should all have to get ahead in life.  Often this implies a need for self-management and someone who can get things done.  May not be an overly structured environment. 

While job descriptions can be boring, these little descriptors can let you see a little bit about the inner workings of a company.  Also, reading through this list, it makes me think sometimes what they list are the qualities previous employees lacked.  Do you have what it takes to succeed in a possibly dynamic, unstructured environment?  Do you have strong attention to detail?  Well, then go after a job with those requirements.  When you send in that resume, you may know a lot about the company from reading between the lines.

Cranky Recruiter Note:  No job descriptions were harmed in the making of this list.  This list is for illustration and entertainment purposes only.  Any similarities to actual jobs is not intentional.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cranky Recruiter: Must Have Wine Experience

Ok, back to work after battling the flu. Yes, hopped up on cold medicine, and maybe just a bit cranky because of it. But I've got something to say today, and it is about people who want to get into the wine industry and send me a resume with no applicable experience.

While I'm a big fan of people who want to make the change into the wine industry, I do preach that you need to get some knowledge behind you. How many of these posts tell you how to get experience, education, a network, etc. When you say you are a hard worker who is ready to take a pay cut to get into the winery world, great! But if I then read your resume and there is not one shred of wine information on it, it makes me read the next resume.

Crankiness aside, do look at your resume with an impartial eye. If you were an employer reading this resume, would it look like you were serious about making a move into the wine industry. If your resume came in along with several wine industry job seekers, why would they look at yours and not the others. I say you have two minutes to make your resume noticed--if that. If your resume leaves them wondering, it's going to be put to the bottom of the pile, if kept at all.

So, go get some wine education. Work in tasting rooms, retail shops, cellars, labs and restaurants. Marinate in the wine world, so to speak. Getting involved will get you knowledgeable about how things work, and about who is who in this biz. Which in turn will lead you to a better job.

They say you shouldn't operate heavy machinery when you are taking medications. Does that include a computer? Read this post quickly, it might come down soon when I'm feeling better.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sign up with the Temporary Staffing Firms Pronto

Just back from a quick vacation and company retreat, and getting through my emails. I have been noticing that a lot of people are asking for resume advice and for ideas on their job hunt. Happy to help. I was just looking at a resume of an educated scientist who has made the switch from food science to winemaking. She has very good experience at several well-known and respected wineries. Her recent positions have been harvest jobs. Her resume is very good, but I think finding a long-term position would be helpful to anchor her work in the wine world. I suggested applying to temporary agencies for hospitality roles. And then I thought that while I may know this, not everyone has worked in staffing for the last couple of decades. And now I'm telling you.

Temporary staffing companies have been doing very well during the recent economic recovery. While companies may not be hiring regular, full-time employees, they are hiring people to handle the work while they assess if the economy is really coming back. Staffing companies have seen a lot of new business and many positions are long-term temporary positions and temp-to-hire positions. When you are brought in for a temporary gig, the company can see your work style and get to know your personality--and if it is a good fit with the culture there, oftentimes will hire you on as a regular employee.

When companies start struggling to keep up with demand and need more employees, they often turn first to an agency. This flexibility allows them to stay focused on their business, and add workers quickly and as needed. While this isn't good if you are only seeking a permanent position, if you are willing to come in as a temp, you may stay on as a regular employee before you know it.

While the ideal role for the job-seeker I referenced would be more production oriented, harvest comes but once a year (or twice if you travel to the southern hemisphere), and in the meantime, a hospitality or related position could give some additional insight into how the wine industry works.

So, go, sign up for a temporary position immediately. It can give you a little cash, let you experience some different companies, and maybe lead to a long-term job down the road.

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.

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.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Working with a Recruiter or Talking with Myself

Yesterday I got a call from a recruiter who was seeking help for a friend in the wine business. This recruiter has been recruiting in a separate technical field for the last 20 years. When her friend returned from an international stint she started to think about how he could find a job in the wine industry. Talking to her on the phone yesterday was a breath of fresh air, and a bit like talking to myself. I noticed some great traits that transfer well to job hunting.

1. Leave a message with the reason for calling, your phone number, and repeat the information. Yes, I've written about it before, but there is an art to leaving a good phone message. Always give your name and reason for the call. Let the person know when you are calling. Then leave your phone number, and if necessary a good time to reach you. Then repeat your name and number. With the wide-spread use of cell phones, bluetooths and call waiting, it isn't unusual for a blank spot to hit right when you are leaving those final digits of your phone number. It might seem trivial, but your phone number is very important to get right if you expect a return call.

2. Be responsive when you get a call back. When you get your message returned, appreciate the call. My contact let me know she was doing some research on WineTalent and explained why she had reached out to me.

3. Be prepared to explain your situation. My recruiter was calling on behalf of a friend, and she quickly caught me up to speed on her search. If you are calling to find out how to work with a recruiter, let them know that. If you are following up on a resume submitted, let them know...etc. A few things that are worth mentioning is if you were referred by a colleague, if you are currently working but looking for a new position, or if you were just laid off. Make your case with the recruiter, concisely.

4. Ask for advice if you want it. Being in the recruitment business, this woman and I look at resumes constantly. She wanted to find out if wine industry resumes were different from other industry resumes, and we discussed it. If you have a burning question or need advice, now is the time to ask. Recruiters are in the business because we love helping people advance their careers. We know what works, and are happy to talk about it. Just ask.

5. Plan next steps. This could be sending a resume, setting up a call for later to discuss options further, or getting references to your recruiter. Make sure you know what your recruiter is looking for, and do it.

6. Schedule a time. This is when I knew I was dealing with a professional. When I advised my contact to have her friend get in touch with me, she scheduled a time with me that worked for both of us. Recruiters are experts at this--nailing down a time when a client and a candidate can interview is crucial to moving the process forward. By doing a "presumptive close" me on a time, I knew when I would be talking to her friend, I was sure to make myself available then. This helps avoid a long game of phone tag. I cannot stress enough how important and helpful this is--try it.

7. Follow up. Nothing can get accomplished if you don't follow through with your side of the equation. If you said you would send a resume, do it. If you are gathering names of references, get those sent along as soon as possible. Success has always come to people I know who are masters of following up on things--myself included.

8. Keep it personal and professional. When I was talking to my fellow recruiter, we were both interested in each others' business while maintaining a professional demeanor. Job hunting and career advancement is a very personal matter. Recruiters understand that, and knowing a bit more about you helps. While we want to know what makes you "tick", you need to make sure you present yourself in a professional light.

9. Network. Yes, I got the call from this recruiter because she had been talking to her friends about her friend's job search. This is networking 101 and crucial to a job search.

Just looked at my watch and it is time for that call that she booked. Gotta Go.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Getting Framed: Ask for Timeframes.

Currently in the throes of a busy recruitment. I've posted the position on and now am slogging through my inbox and voicemail. Also putting out all those feelers to people I know who might be interested in the position--or know someone who is.

The last couple of days I have been discussing the position with several people. I am learning about their backgrounds and interest in the job I'm working on. This allows me to make a "short list" of potential candidates. Determining who the best candidates for any job is always a learning process, and does take some time. This is where I encourage the job seekers to stay on top of their application.

When you are looking for a new job you can send your resume to black holes and never hear anything back. While I have given advice previously on how to manage this, it happens to the best of us. If you are fortunate enough to hear from a prospective employer, it indicates real interest and possibly a job down the line. Now is the time to take advantage of that contact. When you are on the phone or in an interview, ask the interviewer what the time frame is on this recruitment. Some time frames that would interest you are how long they have been looking to fill this position, when they are scheduling interviews, and when they want the position filled. This shows you how the process will unfold.

In addition to the time frame of the hiring process, try to get some time frames for YOUR process. Ask when your resume will be submitted to the hiring manager, when interviews will be going on, and when you can expect to hear back. If you hear that they are scheduling interviews next week, you know to be on top of your schedule and ready to book the meeting when that call comes. If they are waiting to finish publishing the position on the company's website before scheduling interviews--things might drag on awhile. I try to let candidates know what the timing will be on recruitments, and when they should expect to hear from me. I often let them know to contact me in case the window of time passes without hearing from me.

Here's a little secret. I get a lot of people interested in the jobs I am recruiting on. A lot of them are very viable candidates for the position. While I'm recruiting, there are a lot of people I interact with. If I haven't heard from someone in awhile, they may drop off my radar. If you are one of the people I'm considering--you should make yourself visible. A polite follow up call in a week let's me know you are thinking about the job, and interested in continuing the process. The person I don't hear from may have taken another position and is no longer in contention. Those follow-up calls keep me on my toes, and thinking about you for the job. This is what you want.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Is the Wine Industry a Growing One?

Back in 2004 I started up WineTalent after years of dreaming about it. I had always enjoyed working with winery professionals. I also believe that great talent is needed to continue to push the industry forward.

One of my first WineTalent meetings was with an industry veteran. He asked me why I was focusing solely on the wine industry, and didn't I think there wasn't much future in the industry. I started sweating bullets. What? I was thinking it was a growing industry. I wanted to focus on the wine industry because I believe a focused approach in business is the best. I also thought there was enough business to sustain a recruiting company for the unforseeable future. I stuck to my guns and expressed those thoughts to him. Luckily, he was only playing devil's advocate, and agreed that the industry was seeing a lot of growth, that there were a lot of changes coming to the industry, and that dedicated, personalized service is a very good approach in the wine industry.

Fast forward to 2009. The US and world economy is reeling from the meltdown of 2008. Wine companies are feeling the squeeze from people not eating out as often, and from people trading down to lower priced wine. But the bright spot is that wine consumption is up. For decades the US consumed more beer than other alcoholic beverages, and only about three years ago did wine consumption eclipse that of other alcoholic beverages. Wine has also been embraced by the millenial generation--those coming of adulthood in 2000 or later. The Millenials are a large generation, second to the baby boomers I believe. Much of the snobbery of wine is being replaced by enjoyment of wine with family and friends in a social atmosphere. This is all good news for wineries, wine employees, and related services, such as me.

With the rising tide of lay-offs I am getting more calls than ever from people hoping to make the move from another industy into wine. Are they just looking to do it because they are drinking more wine--hopefully not. I do believe that most of these people enjoy learning about and drinking wine, and would like to combine that interest with a career in an expanding industry.

I counsel people regularly about switching industries. While many positions require previous wine and spirits experience, there are several positions that can easily allow a career transition. Another point that I mention to people is that many of the people in the wine industry have themselves made a career path move to get into the wine industry. These career-switchers are somewhat more open to looking at people with diverse job experience, and will take the time to discuss possible areas of employment. It isn't that far off that a highly successful person has decided to take some of her earnings and start up a winery. This leap is celebrated often--and can be duplicated on a smaller scale in lots of winery jobs.

So, I do see that there are many areas of growth in the wine industry, and that it is a business with some transition possibilities. It is never a snap to make a industry change, but it is better to look to go into a growing industry than a stagnant or shrinking one.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Praise for the Beer Truck Mentality

In my old corporate life we were always talking about databases and personal knowledge. The company was trying to get employees to put all of their client and candidate information into the database, instead of in files, on scraps of paper, or in their memory. The idea was to make all the information readily available in the event an employee was not available. As was commonly said, "What happens to the company if one of our top salespeople gets hit by a beer truck?". As a manager, I understood the desire to have all of the information available and not held captive in a person's head. But as an employee, I also understood the power to be had by keeping the information to myself.

If you are an invaluable employee, you most likely have some valuable information and skills that you alone possess. In a company without any databases or free information sharing, you can become quite powerful. This is often the case when you are working independently, have a lot of interaction with people outside the company, and are a hard worker. While companies work to get systems in place to prevent this from happening, frequently the systems are cumbersome and slow. If you are out there doing business, making sales, putting together successful projects, growing excellent grapes or making stellar wine, many managers will turn a blind eye on your failure to document.

I say this half-jokingly. No one wants you to be hit by a beer truck. But being irreplaceable to your employer helps keep you fully employed. While I hammered the importance of using the database, I knew that a great performer was worth far more than a completely executed data file. Surprisingly, many of my best performers through the years have also been highly motivated to keep their information up to date. Knowing all you can about your work is helpful in moving forward and finding new successes, which was probably why those good employees were interested in keeping current with their data.

My take-away for you. Become irreplaceable. Being great at what you do will pay off today and tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Performance Reviews: Make them Count

Last week I presented at the Women for Winesense's Winemakers Roundtable on salary negotiations. I hope it was a worthwhile presentation, and felt that it was well received. One topic we discussed was performance reviews. Going into the end of the year, many companies conduct their annual reviews now. I suggest that you make them a positive experience for yourself. Here are some steps to take to do that.

Go over your last review: If you have a performance review from last year, take a look at it. Often companies list areas for improvement. What were your's? What did you do in the last year to address that? Also, advancement opportunities or goals may have been addressed. How have these been implemented, and where have you gotten on these.

Do a self assessment: Objectively look at your work performance. Although it can be hard to see the forest from the trees, take a step back and think about how you did. Were you a major contributor? Was their a personality conflict that caused you to perform below your abilities? There are plenty of other things that you might see if you take the time to look. Now how would you grade yourself.

Know your accomplishments: Now is the time you want to know what you accomplished in the last year. If you don't bring them up, they may never be talked about. If your reviewer is a distant supervisor, she may not know much about your contributions. You want to have this information readily available when you are in your review.

Brag: As I've said before, you need to be able to talk about your accomplishments. Make them known, so you can be adequately rewarded with a salary increase, a promotion, or a new role with the company.

Find out how to excel: Aside from the "report card" aspect of a review, this is also a time when you have the undivided attention of one of your superiors. You can use this time to find out future opportunities with the company, areas that your boss might need help with, and possibly get some good grooming for upper level positions.

Prepare a career wish list: When you are getting ready for your review, think of some areas within the company that you might be interested in working. You also can take some time to reflect on how close of a match your position, and your company are with your own goals and values. By taking the time to dream about your career, you might open your eyes to some great new opportunities.

(a note: Sarah Needleman first ran an article in the Wall Street Journal on November 4, 2008 exploring this topic. Her points were very good, and I have included them in the above article. Please link to her article for the full version)

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.

Friday, October 3, 2008

How to get into the biz

Recently a job seeker wrote to me for advice on how to get into the CA wine scene. As this advice seemed helpful to many readers, I got permission to post it here.

Subject: advice?

Hi Amy,
I am very interested in getting into the wine industry but I have a lot of questions about how to do so. I have had experience selling wine in restaurants as a server. I have done many blind tastings and know a little bit about French and Spanish wines but not so much about American wines. So, I guess my first question would be where do I start? How should I frame my experience in a resume in order to maximize my abilities in order to get a job? Should I try to get a job in a tasting room or a wine store? Do I need to take some classes in order to even begin this process? Any advice that you might be able to pass on to me would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Dear Job Seeker,
Thanks for the message. Hopefully I can help out a bit. Not knowing your professional background, I can only give thoughts on how to gain exposure to the US wine world. I do think working in a tasting room is helpful. Wineries often offer some education about the wines and region that you would be working in, and learning on the job is very helpful. It also gives you some contacts in the wine industry and fodder for your resume. Working in a wine store is also helpful, especially if you are interested in getting into wine sales. Working in retail gives you exposure to distributors, and also you gain knowledge about wineries, wine styles and customer interest. If you are near a wine growing region, several local colleges give sensory, winemaking, marketing and related courses. Many times they are taught by big wigs in the wine industry, yet more contacts for you. If you would like to send along a resume and keep me posted on your wine experience, I would be happy to consider you for openings.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Comedic Tips on Job Hunting

And now for a little humor. I'm a huge fan of Stephen Colbert and "The Colbert Report" Two days ago Colbert did a piece on effective job hunting. Take a look at it, but take it with a grain of salt! The Colbert Report

Monday, May 19, 2008

Managing Your Job Search

I've been working on several job orders, some that have filled quickly, and others that have been in the works for months now. I have been working with candidates who are experienced in the job search and those who aren't. Thinking about the job search from the candidates perspective, here are some things to do to keep you moving forward in the job search process.

-Get your resume in order
-Get your references picked out, contact them, and have their current contact information at the ready
-Send your resume to open positions and follow up with a phone call
-Contact recruiters and let them know you are looking for a new opening
-Start networking with your colleagues
-If you are in the process of being put up for a position by a recruiter, follow up with them every few days. The people who keep contacting me are more likely to be put up for additional positions
-When you get an offer, keep your recruiter involved. Your recruiter helps navigate the offer process, and can find out information for you so you can make an educated decision. If you have questions, ask--that's what we're here for.
-Of course, as the recruiter, we always want you to take the job--but make a decision that will further your career--not just get you out of a bad situation today
-Once you start your new job--keep in contact with your recruiter. We like to know how you are doing at the new employer--and enjoy keeping the relationship alive
-And of course--do a good job--the best way to get a good job next time too!

Gotta run, lots of phone calls to return from candidates who are checking in on the status of their job search

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Never Say Never

Those of you who know me know that the last few months have been extremely hectic. Now I'm settling into my newly remodeled office with some new additions and am getting back in the groove. I was delighted to have one of my mentors stop by yesterday to see the new digs and new additions. He has been the number one reason I started this blog, and as I mentioned to him yesterday, the blog has been very helpful for my business. Being a wine writer, he seems to know a thing or two about this publishing business. So as a good protege I am doing what he said and blogging away.

It is funny for me to write something for the public to read. I was never a great writer in school. I had to take bone-head english in college because I never learned how to write effectively. Luckily I aced my 5 paragraph essay and tested out of a second quarter of it. Upon reflecting on my life, there are several things I thought I wasn't skilled at that proved to be easily mastered, and some things I never thought I'd do that have turned out to be very beneficial to me and my career.

In college I was a botany major. This required me to take lots of different science classes. One of my most challenging classes was biochemistry. I just couldn't understand some of it. I struggled and studied and got a passing grade. Afterwards I applied for an internship in one of the laboratories on campus. It turned out to be one of the top biochemistry groups there, and I was helping a Ph.D. candidate do highly technical protein chemistry work. When I was able to apply what I learned in class the whole year of coursework made sense. Having previously thought I would never "get" biochemistry it was quite satisfying to be a model biochemist in the application of it.

Growing up I was one of the shyest kids in school. I always thought it was so hard to go up to someone and talk to them, let alone have an extended conversation. Pushing myself I started to go up to new people and speak to them. I also took on speaking assignments in class--including a keynote address at 8th grade graduation. I learned that I really enjoyed public speaking, and that conversations were a fun thing--not something to dread. To this day I take on speaking engagements and relish learning new things about people that I've had to break the ice with. It was quite ironic to me that I ended up being a skilled salesperson--not the shy little mouse who didn't speak at all in school.

And my move to Sacramento is one of the most memorable never say never moments. Prior to moving to Sacramento my boss had offered me to open up a new office in Sacramento. I told him I would never move to Sacramento. Well, looking for a new house in 1998 in the Bay Area was a wake-up call. Six months later I asked my boss if I could take him up on the offer of moving to Sacramento. He said yes. Moving my family and opening up a new office was quite daunting--but turned out to be very important for my career and for my family. It gave me an opportunity to buy a house for a song, and start up a very successful business operation. My family has come to love the neighborhood, and we have strong ties to the community. This in turn has allowed me to open up my own business--a dream come true for me.

So, although I've questioned my abilities in the past, sometimes my biggest weaknesses have turned into my biggest strengths. Also, I never say never when a new opportunity comes up--too often opportunity has knocked very loudly and I've had to retract a previous refusal.

So, when you are going about your job search--turn some of your weaknesses to your advantage, and keep your options open. It seems like everything has a way of falling into place, usually for the better.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

When You Receive a Promotion

Years ago I received a highly coveted promotion that required me to oversee a branch that I had left years before. Although I felt a bit like General Douglas MacArthur returning to the Philippines, I wondered what was expected of me in the new post. Recently I read a very insightful article by James E. Challenger of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, Inc. Mr. Challenger is President of one of the top executive search firms in the country, and an industry expert. He had some very useful advice.

When you are given a promotion, your company has certain reasons why they chose you over other employees. And when you are put in the position, it is up to you to figure out what needs to be done, and execute quickly. Some questions you should consider are:
Is there a problem to be fixed?
Am I maintaining a department or region?
Do they expect me to completely recreate the operation or start from scratch?
How will success be defined?

When you are given the promotion, people who will be reporting to you will be anxious about what changes will occur. As Mr. Challenger points out, until these people find out what is in store their performance will suffer. So it is advisable to quickly let everyone know what your expectations are. This will allow you to set course quickly, and avoid having to refute rumors that get started. Be quick and clear with your leadership plans to avoid problems.

Once you are working on making your changes, support your staff and get them working on your side. Support risk-taking. If you have staff members who are willing to try something new, even if it doesn't work--you will have staff who are willing to support you. Also give your staff a chance to get to know you through informal gatherings where they are able to ask questions and learn from you. If you nurture an environment of learning and change, your staff will help you realize your goals.

If you have been promoted up through the ranks you face a unique challenge. While your role changed, so did the dynamics of the relationships you had with your colleagues. People you used to work side by side with are now reporting to you. You have to decide if they will be your allies or your adversaries. Although you may not think so, you do not need to be liked by everyone. You want to build trust and respect, and show your employees that you value their contributions. This will give you a hard working staff.

Now the tough part. If anyone on your team can't support your transition, you may have to let them go. It's never fun, but part of the job.

And don't apologize for getting the promotion. Your hard work and talents got you there, now put your experience and commitment to work to bring you more success.

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!