Wine Industry Career Series: The Power of Networking

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by Karen Wetzel

Networking can be an effective tool for changing jobs or entering a new field. But the idea might seem a bit daunting, and you may not know how to start. In this article, we’ll help turn you into a networking pro to get the results you want.

“Networking is the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions.  Specifically, it’s the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business,” asserts the Mirriam-Webster dictionary.  

In reality, you’ve been networking since you were a kid. Maybe you knocked on doors to mow grass in the neighborhood, or asked family and friends to raise money for a field trip. As you got older, your friends may have turned you on to an opening at the fast-food restaurant or retail chain where they worked. Later in life, you asked your neighbor to recommend a house painter or babysitter.    

In fact, many aspects of our daily lives rely on some sort of networking activity. The same goes for employment, especially in the wine industry. Connecting with the right people takes time and commitment but can pay off significantly. Here are some recommendations to connect with people who can help you follow your passion into the world of wine.

Take a class. Learning about wine in and of itself can help you land a job in the wine industry. Taking a class will also connect you to other like-minded wine-worshipers. Every class I’ve taught, from beginner to advanced, has a sizeable number of students who are already working in the industry. Your dedication to pursuing knowledge demonstrates that you might be a good candidate for an opening at their place of employment. At the very least, they can point you in the right direction to connect with their company.

Networking at wine tasting club Taste wine. There are lots of ways to network and taste wine at the same time. You never know when you’ll meet someone that holds the keys to a connection you didn’t even know you needed a key for—as in being in the right place, at the right time.

Attend events. Check out local tastings, wine dinners, wine socials, wine-focused charity events, tasting groups and wine clubs.  The worst thing that could happen is you have a great time making friends and drinking wine. Sounds awful, right? 

Other ideas to consider:

Join a wine organization. A little internet surfing goes a long way to finding local, national, and international wine associations. Below are a few suggestions, but there are many more. As they say, “Membership has its privileges.”  

Link up on LinkedIn. Connecting with a wide range of wine industry pros on LinkedIn is a good way to network, but following and interacting with wine-related groups can be a good investment of your time. Here’s a shortcut to wine groups on LinkedIn. Click here for a shortcut to wine jobs on LinkedIn.   

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Volunteer. Local fund-raising events often feature wine to maximize attendance. They may partner with local distributors to provide and serve the wine but often rely on volunteers to help. Donating your time means you’ll get to rub elbows with wine industry insiders while supporting a good cause.

Wine Shops and Wine Bars. Whether or not you’re hoping to land a job at your local wine shop, get to know the management, and more importantly, let them get to know you! They talk to wine distributors and suppliers all day long, so be sure they know you’re interested in the wine business. A recommendation from them could be your ticket to the show.

Although this is not an exhaustive list, it’s a good start and will help you put one foot in front of the other.  Just remember, you’ve been networking in one form or another your entire life. You’ve got this.

For one-on-one career coaching with Karen Wetzel directly click here.  And be sure to check out Wine, Work & Passion, the podcast where we inspire you to make a career out of your passion for wine.  Available on the Apple Podcast app or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Karen Wetzel is an employee of the Napa Valley Wine Academy. The views expressed in this article are hers alone and may not reflect the views of the Napa Valley Wine Academy.

In Case You Missed It: Other helpful articles from Karen Wetzel:

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