Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Career Decisions: Break with Tradition

Greetings from Washington. I've been on a trip to the wine areas in Oregon and Washington, and am stopped for a few days in the San Juan Islands. Beautiful Site!

I'm visiting two of my dearest friends and mentors and we've been talking about career changing and career planning. As I've mentioned in past blogs, one idea remains essential--do what you love. And speaking with my friends, it is the key to both career and personal happiness. But think broader about possible career paths--what you enjoy can very well turn into a very successful career.

Growing up my good friend wasn't an academic wiz--but was extremely good with his hands and with problem solving. Restoring his own cars and constructing buildings around the neighborhood was his true love. His parents both were academics, and urged him to go to college. While attending community college he worked part-time for the electrical department of the city. This became very interesting for him and the money was quite helpful. He quickly took on more hours and his school load lightened up. Within a couple of years he was working full time for the city and had had enough of college. This wasn't his parents' wish, but he was an adult and seemed to know what he wanted. Today, he's still with the city electrical department, having seniority and a management role and making a very substantial living.

Would he have been more successful going to college and then finding a white collar job? I don't think so. He enjoyed the outdoors, working with his hands, and solving problems. Although most of those qualities can be had with a white collar job--he wouldn't have been as happy. And for most college educations today the total cost is close to $100,000 for a bachelor's degree. Coming out of school with that debt load to land an annual salary of $35,000 isn't that empowering. And having a large debt hanging over your head makes you less willing to try new jobs and take risks with your career.

Sometimes finding an interesting field that fits your needs and dreams doesn't require four, six, eight or more years of school. Many careers out there can be rewarding personally and financially and don't require a degree or specialized training. On the job experience often quickly surpasses what a traditional education brings to work.

More on this later--the flip side to education--when it makes sense.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dirty Jobs

Okay, I'll admit it, I'm a huge fan of Mike Rowe and his show Dirty Jobs. . Twice now I've seen him go to a winery and get filthy while putting in a hard day's work. Are winery jobs really that dirty? Some are and some aren't. If you're thinking about working in the wine biz, you'd better figure out which ones you'd be interested in.

Talking with my writing mentor back before this blog became a reality, he mentioned that one of my topics should be working indoors or out. At first this seemed too simple--but then again I understand the different jobs available out there--and more importantly who can make it where. It really is good to realize early on what type of work you are up for.

Growing up I had my share of dirty jobs. I've cleaned out swampy pools at the beginning of the swim season, cleaned out chicken houses, spread manure on acres of land, combed and cleaned llamas, worked at a pilot manufacturing plant for Clorox 2, fermented gallons of stinky bacterial concoctions and have lately stomped and racked and bottled my own wine. On the flip side I'm no stranger to suiting up for board meetings, laboring away for hours at a keyboard and being tortured at company retreats in stunning locales. Which one do I prefer? This is a tough question. While dirty jobs can be disgusting and very labor intensive, white collar jobs can be grueling mentally and can lack variety.

Winery production jobs, including winemaking, vineyard work and bottling all require someone who doesn't mind rolling up their sleeves and getting dirty. Many times throughout the season you can be up to your eyeballs in stinky slurries, out in the vineyard getting soaked to the bone or working out a manufacturing malfunction that is sending full wine bottles crashing to the floor. Yet many of these jobs have a lot of variety and a direct connection to wine.

Sales, marketing and hospitality positions are often seen as more glamorous jobs. While these winery professionals are frequently at their desks making calls, tracking sales figures and handling new VIP tours, often times they are also out on the road traveling 70% of the time, attending branding meetings for the umpteenth time and dealing with unruly visitors to the tasting room.

To figure out what suits you best look at jobs you've enjoyed in the past. If that position in retail where you were frequently dealing with new customers was invigorating, look in sales and hospitality positions. If you worked outside in construction, landscaping, or a similar vein, you may only feel happy doing something in the fresh air. Moving indoors to a desk job could spell disaster for your sanity. If spring rains make you think of muddy floors and destroyed shoes--a vineyard job probably wouldn't work out too well. If you have to be dressed for success--a sales, marketing or hospitality job is perfect, while you'd quickly get bored of the casual attire worn by the production crew.

Wineries offer a lot of variety both in positions and work environments. Whether you enjoy getting dirty or staying buttoned up, there should be a match for you somewhere.

Oh, and catch Dirty Jobs sometime. You'll be surprised by some of the occupations out there.