You’re at a cocktail party and someone asks you what you do for a living. You tell them that you work in the wine industry. Their eyes light up and they say, “How glamorous! How did you get started?” – Good question!
Working in the wine industry can be a lot of fun and, like any career, getting started takes patience, perseverance and passion. To help you create a plan, here are some important questions to ask yourself about pursuing a wine career.
What stirs up excitement for you when you think about a wine career? Is it working on a cruise ship as a wine steward? Maybe you have a job as a waiter and you want to move up to sommelier? Or do you want to confidently recommend wines to customers and clients? Do you write about wine for a living or want to? You may also love the idea of physical labor, either taking care of those precious grapes in the vineyards or turning grapes into wine. If you take the time to think about this, it will help you narrow down where you want to focus your job search in the very vast world of wine.
Most people will likely choose a location that will give them exposure to the most opportunities for their chosen career. This may be working in wine country, perhaps in Napa, Sonoma, Oregon, New York, Italy, France or in any wine region around the world. (We feature nearly 30 wine regions across the globe in the Certified Wine Expert® program!) Of course, you'll need to do some research before you pack up and go. Look at the cost of living, how much commuting you’re willing to do and what the local job market is like there. If all of these items “check” on your list of pros, then it would be best to head out and spend some time in the region to see what it could be like living there before you make the move. And if you prefer not to relocate, see what wine jobs are available locally so you can build up your resume with experience. To help you with this, several wine job boards are made available to you as part of the Certified Wine Expert® program.
Knowing the size of the company that you want to work for will also help you build your plan. Some people may be more comfortable working for a small company side-by-side with the owners. Others may be used to larger businesses with a bigger infrastructure. Think about the type of work environment that you work best in and consider that the size of a company may offer different types of jobs, pay and opportunities for growth.
Of course, making connections in the areas you’re looking at helps tremendously. Networking is so important to finding opportunities. Look at who you already know within your group of friends and family – and ask who they may know in the wine business. Try to make as many good connections as possible by getting out there and introducing yourself at various wine events or by joining wine groups. Let people know that you’re interested in working in the wine world (and that you’ll soon be a Certified Wine Expert®) Making face-to-face connections is the best way to make an impression. Networking may not come so easy for some people, so we have developed fun interactive assignments in the field that will help you sharpen your networking and interview skills.
There are a number of career paths you can take based on your talents and interests. Do you like interacting with people? Can you strike up a conversation with strangers? Are there certain skills you have that you can apply? Don’t forget that there are many professional talents required in the wine industry, ranging from winemakers, vineyard owners, tasting room managers, wine sales and marketing professionals, writers and educators, even administrators and book keepers. Besides your training through the Certified Wine Expert® program, what other talents do you have to offer an employer?
Are you willing to work longer days, different hours or on weekends? These are the same decisions that you'd have to make for any job change, so it’s good to think about it at this point. If you are switching from your current job, or just starting out in a wine career, are you willing to start out at a positiong that is lower on the ladder than where you are at with your current job? This change can also mean that you may need to learn a whole different skill set for the job or may require additional training. Certified Wine Expert® is here to provide you with a solid foundation.
Think about what income you need to earn based on your lifestyle. You deserve to make enough money to take care of yourself and cover your cost of living. You also need to be honest with yourself about what you are worth. If you’re just starting out with no relative experience, then you will not be making the same as a master sommelier at a five-star hotel in Palm Beach. Decide if you are willing or able to make any sacrifices to start your dream career. Be realistic with your salary expectations based on what you are seeing similar jobs go for in the industry.
If you don’t have a passion about wine, then you may want to consider a different career path. We can’t say it enough…Passion is what drives people. Passion drives us to help people learn about wine. And it’s probably what has driven you to sign up for this program!
If you're serious about getting your Certified Wine Expert® credentials and building your credibility, visibility and success in a wine career of your choice, we urge you to GET STARTED!