By Guest Author, Cynthia of Wine, Woman and Travel
Like most of you reading this, I have been a huge fan of One Cool Site from the day I found it, it has been an essential resource for taking my blogging to a more professional level. But oddly, I didn’t find this article about dream blogging jobs until just recently, six months after the dream had come true. It made me think my story and strategies might be worth sharing, as it’s a bit of a modern virtual job hunt fairy tale come true.
A change in career
After some years learning about wine, in Sept 2008 I worked my first harvest, cutting grapes in Vosne Romanée, Burgundy. I had been sick to death of the financial industry after 25 years, and that experience was the tipping point; I quit the City and decided to pursue a career in the wine trade. I couldn’t have named the job I was after, but knew I wanted to be in a wine growing region, and do any kind of work that would allow me to learn more, in both vineyards and wineries. I had professional qualifications but no experience in the wine trade, except a week working the harvest and ten days behind the scenes sorting the bottles for a major wine competition.
Beginning to blog
My blog began on a bit of a fluke. Though I had been writing nearly all my life, blogging never occurred to me till a friend wrote to wish me well in the harvest and her message included the fateful words “do send us the link to your blog.” Blog? I scrambled, discovered the website package I’d bought for another purpose included a blog function, figured it out and wrote a few trial entries before I left for France. Every night after a full day’s harvest work, I wrote about what we had done, and how we’d done it, but had no internet connectivity in France, so posted the whole lot when I got home to England. I didn’t write again till the following spring, when I returned to Burgundy to job hunt. Things didn’t quite work out as planned, but I kept those disappointments and frustrations mostly out of the public eye, and instead focussed on writing about the vineyards of Burgundy and travels through France and Portugal throughout the summer and autumn of 2009.
I worked the harvest again in 2009 in Vosne Romanée, and luckily had connectivity so I could post nightly, in real time. Someone, somewhere, googled for harvest reports, found my blog, and posted the link on the chat forum of a very influential wine critic. The link was picked up on three more major wine sites. I was astounded by the hits, thousands of them, and in the back of my mind I thought, there must be some way to leverage this in my job hunt.
I returned from harvest to pack up my house and in the end, I took a flying leap and moved not to France, but to Portugal, to settle in Vila Nova de Gaia and try to find a job in the wine trade here – I love Port, the table wines of the Douro region are brilliant, and Portugal generally is up and coming in the global wine scene. My first priority when I arrived in November 2009 was to start learning Portuguese, and it took time to deal with the sheer logistics of settling into a new country. By February 2010 I felt sufficiently to grips with the basics of life and language in my new country, it was time to focus on the job hunt.
My plan was the classic strategy of research my target trade, figure out what the jobs are and where my skills could possibly fit, and then send out CVs accordingly.
But this being the 21st century, I added a bit of internet activity: I updated an old LinkedIn profile and joined Facebook. These turned out to be critical. Through LinkedIn and one of the groups there, I came across a “webinar” (loathsome word!) about using social media in your job search. The presenter was Neal Schaffer, a consultant who specialises in social networking strategies for businesses.
What struck me was the recommendation to “get them to find you” and sell yourself as a product and brand. In effect, put yourself and all your desirable and hire-able qualities out there on the internet, and get yourself found, just like a company, when someone googles for… fill in the blank with whatever you’re about. He made the point that “outbound marketing” – sending out stuff – doesn’t work well anymore. Think about it: anything in your inbox for which you don’t recognise the sender, you suspect is spam, and probably delete without opening. Instead, he recommends “inbound marketing” – get people to find you via social media, whether it’s a blog, a website, Twitter, your Facebook page or YouTube videos, and then leverage search engine optimisation to get those things found effectively.
BUT: key point: only if you are offering valuable or interesting information and insights might readers get interested in YOU. Posting your CV and begging “please hire me” is not the strategy – it’s about demonstrating the knowledge and skills you can offer, so that someone might think, “I could use some of that.”
Neal also pointed out that of all things, blogs will help you get found on the internet. He said he googled a major corporation by name, and the first half dozen links were to blogs which had mentioned the corporation in the past few days, whereas their own corporate site, being all static content not lately updated, was pretty far down the list on the search returns. Neal went on to describe how to leverage other social media, likening Twitter to a cocktail party, Facebook to the white pages (everyone’s there) and LinkedIn to the Chamber of Commerce (a bit stuffy, but all the bigwigs are there). YouTube, he said, had the second largest search engine after Google; thought provoking if your skills lend themselves to promotion by video.
So, I decided to throw myself into my blog, as a way of demonstrating all the passion and wine knowledge that couldn’t be showcased in my CV. I felt what I had written so far did that to some degree, but now it was time to get professional and deliberate. There was a major wine show in March and I wrote at length about my tastings there – making it clear I was not pretending to be a professional critic, only sharing my findings rather as a friend might say to you, “OMG I had this wine last night, it’s so good, you must try it…” I also arranged to visit a couple winemakers, and wrote at length about those visits in March and April. I hoped my writing would demonstrate a solid knowledge of both winemaking and viticulture, but also my eagerness to learn and share my knowledge about something I find fascinating. Put another way, I had a really good cake, and was now icing it and inviting my reading public to lick the spoon.
It worked, and my dream job knocked on my virtual door: I received an email through my Facebook account from one of the members of a major Port wine making family, who said he’d found my blog, loved my writing about the Douro, and his father wanted to talk to me – and I was stunned and delirious to realise I’d just been given the mobile phone number for one of the most important people in the Port trade.
The firm had begun a blog for one of their premier brands, which had had a very strong start during harvest 2009, but had languished a bit since then due to a lack of dedicated focus. They were trying to decide what to do about it, when they found my blog. The combination of the quality of my writing, my clear knowledge, interest and will to learn about wine, and the fact I was on their doorstep here in Portugal, made them think, well, maybe hiring someone free lance to write for us could be a solution. There was no defined job, no want ad, this is not a role I would ever have found via the classic job hunt methods. It was them finding my blog that suggested a possible solution to their nagging concern about what to do with their own blog, and prompted the contact.
When I first met with the joint managing director of the firm, he said, “We know this blog could be huge, but we quite don’t know how to make it huge … Do you know? Do you have ideas?” It took a few months, and I met at least three times with the marketing manager and produced plans for content, readership growth and fitting the blog into the overall marketing strategy.
During that time, I decided to move my own blog onto WordPress. I had been looking for a more robust platform, and I knew I had to learn the technical ropes thoroughly before I could start the professional job, if it were offered me, and decided to work the learning curve on my own site, not theirs! TimeThief helped me in the WordPress forums, which led me to One Cool Site Blogging Tips. I cannot tell you how many days I spent here last May, June and July reading all I could, and learning both the technicalities and larger possibilities of blogging.
The fact I was able to demonstrate technical knowledge and formulate plans for promotion and marketing through social network tools made all the difference, I think, and we came to agreement. I re-launched their blog in July 2010 and by October we had increased and stabilised readership at a level 4 times higher than it was before the re-launch.
So, I am writing (which I love) about something I love (Port wine), and my time is divided between the spectacularly beautiful vineyards of the Douro, as well as the wineries, tasting rooms, lodge and my own humble home-desk, here in Vila Nova de Gaia. Dream job.
Futher reading and photo credit: Are You Ready For Your Dream Job?
- 10 ways to use social media in your job hunt (management.fortune.cnn.com)