How a Dream Blogging Job Found Me

dream ladderBy 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.

Job hunting

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.

Better blogging

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.

Dream job

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.

It can be done, and good luck to all of you who are going for it!
My own blog about wine, food and travel, can be found at
Wine, Woman and Travel
See also: Graham’s Port blog

Futher reading and photo credit: Are You Ready For Your Dream Job?

47 thoughts on “How a Dream Blogging Job Found Me

  1. Brilliant writing. I am currently at a crossroads, much like you were when leaving the financial industry! My passion lies in travel and experiences in new locations. I am at the beginning of my journey, learning, like you, on my own site. I hope to soon incorporate my passion for travel into a new found career – but I know I am not alone! There are many who would love to do it. I hope, like you, I can figure out how to combine the world of travel and the career, and hope a large part of this can be accomplished through blogging and writing. Thanks for giving me the hope that this is possible!

    1. Anything is possible – anything! Beryl Markham’s parting advice from her father was “Work and hope, but never hope more than you work.” That thought has steadied me many times the past few years. Best of luck!

  2. This is what it’s all about, and I’m glad you had great success in your life by blogging. I think many of us would love to have our writing get us gigs like this. You’ve proven it can be done; congrats!

    1. Mitch, thank you for your good wishes – and you hit the nail on the head in your own blog with your comment “I plan on continuing to learn and all it takes is getting the right break”. That’s exactly how I felt last March when I committed to my blog – to learning more about wine and more about blogging and working towards being ready for the break when it came. Best of luck to you too.

    1. Yup, that’s me, Raincoaster! Hello and thank you for making me chuckle when I found this. And for all your help on WP forums. And I STILL think of that Derbyshire fairy mummy now and again and chuckle over that too…

  3. Wishing you lots of success Cynthia. I’m set to release a 4th blog, that does have a specific purpose to promote an international conference.

    And it is about my favourite topics, cycling, Vancouver sights, etc. Problem is that it’s tough to do this when I also have a full-time job. So my life after work will become more blog-focused way more.

    1. Wow! Good luck to you Jean – I am so impressed with your energy (all that cycling AND all that writing!) and commitment. Thank you for pausing to write here too! Take care.

  4. Fantastic news Cynthia! Parabens! And it also just drives home the point that starting a business or finding a job in this day and age is a completely different ball game a few years ago, and those who still deny the usefulness of social media and connectivity are very quickly going to be left behind. I’m glad your hard work payed off, you inspire me to just keep at it. beijinhos.

    1. Kerry, I was thinking of you – spent a day in the Douro recently speaking only Portuguese – good practice, but boy was I tired at the end of the day! Thank you for the encouragement and kind words! beijinhos

  5. A great story that illustrates the positive outcomes of social web sites and the power and influence they can have when leveraged properly. How wonderful for you to be in your dream job!

    1. Thank you, Photodiction, and you hit the nail on the head with that phrase ” when leveraged properly.” They can be a great help, but you have to be careful – I’m always astonished when someone drops in something mindbogglingly unprofessional, apparently forgetting the world is watching and – rightly or wrongly – judging you by the content you put out there. Love your photos, by the way. Best wishes.

  6. What a fantastic story you have! I think following something you’re passionate about, and putting in the hard work, people will eventually gravitate towards that energy and good things will come about. Interestingly enough I am in the midst of a career transition, from information technology to winemaking, currently at California State at Fresno training in Enology. Your story is quite inspiring and makes a lot of sense to me as to why and how things happen. Not to be nosy, but what do you think the best route for an aspiring american winemaker to get a job in Vosne Romanee?

    1. Agree fully with your comments about following your passion attracting good things, Sean! Positive energy and passion seem to snowball. Re Vosne Romanée – Anne Gros will hire wine lovers to work her harvest – it’s how I started (see my blog – Sept 2008 and Sept 2009, there are links to her websites) or contact the CFPPA in Beaune (the enological school) for further contacts. Best of luck with your course and career in wine.

  7. This is awesome. I’m not sure I could ever find a dream job in my niche, with no real fine tuned subject matter, but stories like this still give me hope :)

    1. Always hope, Justus. Always! My experiences have confirmed my optimism, which the financial industry had pretty nearly killed. I think the key is being open minded, think outside the niche – I started with an idea of viticulture in Burgundy and ended up a writer in Vila Nova de Gaia. Not what I expected, but now I can’t imagine anything better or more suited to my skills and interest. Best of luck!

  8. Thank you to all of you – Nothing Profound, Lori, Tershbango, Steve and Janene – for the kind words. I am glad this has been encouraging and helpful to others, heck, I’m still in a slight daze and feeling thrilled and encouraged and curious what-next myself!

    1. Thank you Margaret – I’m thrilled to sort-of meet you and find your blog – loved the one about denim, looking forward to settling down with the rest. Best part of all this… finding other blogs I might not have thought to find otherwise. Take care.

      1. Thanks, Cynthia. That denim post is enjoying its second “five minutes in the spotlight.” :-)

        I’d like to invite you and anyone else interested to stop by my blog this weekend. I’m giving away three signed copies of my novel The Benefactor. It’ll go well with a nice glass of wine…from Portugal of course. ;-)

  9. What an inspirational dream job story. One of the things I gleaned from your experience is: Be flexible within the field of your dreams. I think it’s true the more specific expectations are, the more likely you wont recognize other possible opportunities when they come knocking. –Thanks for sharing.

    “TimeThief helped me in the WordPress forums, which led me to One Cool Site Blogging Tips.”
    Me too! I doubt there is a WP user who hasn’t been helped by her informative blog and replies =)

    1. Jay.me, thanks! Re flexibility – I remember early on – when I was letting go of the idea of France and trying to figure out what if… Portugal, a friend said something about “your five year plan”. I nearly choked! All I could think was, my plan is to get through the next couple weeks learning about xxx and then hope I would be in a position to decide what to do the following couple days or weeks… For an ex-project manager who was frequently nick-named the Project Dominatrix for her controlling ways, this was probably the greatest life-change! Letting go of my attempted strangle hold on the future and letting it just wash over me as and when…

      And yes, I’ve often noticed that “TT helped me and here I am…” kind of message all over the internet! The woman is amazing and inspirational. Huge thank you to her, once again, for all the support, both her blogs, and for this opportunity.

  10. You never know just when the break you need will come through.

    It can take time but success lurks somewhere on the other side of all the obstacles you have to wrestle with along the way.

  11. Incredible …
    In Indonesia, “there are many roads leading to Rome” idiom is very popular. Success (which may be different meaning for each person) can be achieved in many ways.
    Yes, I love blogging, and it has made me as a “master of the world’s birds. ” And everything I start from a hobby. My hobby is to keep the bird. All things I know about birds, I wrote on the blog. Finally, when many keepers of birds began to see the Internet as a source of information on their hobby, I got a lot of questions. I tried to answer them one by one. Studying and learning, that’s what I do.

    And also through my facebook fans page, I get fans nearly 14,000 people here today. I was more excited when I found that visiting of my blog is increasing from day to day. The highest acquisition is yesterday, with 21,772 pageviews a day. Based blogstat, the average visit this month as many as 17,242 a day.

    I think that it is a success, which perhaps may not be meaningful to other people.
    I love your story Cynthia…
    Best wishes.

    1. Om, thank you for your kind words. I am impressed by your statistics, well done you! I see I still have some work to do! Best wishes to you too.

  12. Great story. Exactly the kind of story I’ve been trying to teach at the Burbank Inbound Marketing Club. I guess the simplicity of expressing what you love in a blog escapes those who’ve been pounded into submission by marketing and advertising. Perhaps somehow people feel that if they aren’t paying for huge marketing and advetising campaigns, they just aren’t doing anything.

    Yet, networking at a cocktail party or a golf game is so much more effective and less expensive (well, depends on where you golf…). With all these online tools like Facebook and LinkedIn it’s easy to mimic the natural state of affairs, with the added bonus of 24/7 promotion and no country club fees. I bet 2011 is going to be the Year of the Online Networker. I’m told the number 11 means “enlightenment.” I think it will be that kind of year for many businesses who discover how easy it is to get new customers through referrals by way of Facebook and other social sites. Looking forward to see what happens.

    Trevor Eisenman
    @keepitsocial

    1. Thank you, Trevor. Your site looks like a great resource – heaven knows I still have so much more to learn! Looking forward to seeing what happens this year too, best of luck to us all!

  13. You write beautifully Cynthia, thanks to timethief for sharing this post with us. I have looked at your other sites too and although wine is not an interest of mine, I enjoyed your writing and your insights into your working life. Thank you!

    1. Thank you Joanna, and I see something in your blog which exactly expresses what I am thinking right now reading these comments – hope you don’t mind my quoting you so others can see – “One of the outstanding learning experiences from doing this is how very kind people are, how willing to share and help and encourage, and encouragement is so important when you embark on new learning. ” So true, and the people I’ve met (both real and virtual) have been the best part of this whole wine and blog adventure.

  14. Great piece, really worth reading, simply and naturally written.
    Self-belief and luck got you where you wanted to be. Self-belief to put yourself in the world that attracted you, taking any role just to be there, moving on from France to Portugal rather than saying ‘this isn’t working’ and then of course luck that you caught interest of port grandee. But that is the sort of luck that does happen, that almost can be relied on to turn up, if you stay in the pool and have ability.

    1. Am trying to remember the pithy and elegant version of a quote which boiled down to something like “I have the best luck when I work the hardest”. I’m glad you enjoyed this article – I’m enjoying the profiles of craftspeople in your blog. Thank you!

  15. ” 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.” ”

    I totally agree with above –just throwing out a resume in the open Internet is not going to grab alot of people unless one can show connectivity to the potential employer’s industry. It helps to write a blog or create Facebook that is well-composed as a platform to demonstrate one’s unique expertise and knowledge.

    Best of luck in your biz blogging and wine tasting blogging forays!

    1. Jean – couldn’t agree with you more – I know people have strong feelings against Facebook, but for me, on a professional level, it has been an incredible resource to make human connections within the Portuguese and global wine trade. Wine producers, sommeliers, restaurateurs, are trading an incredible amount of information and insight there, and I know of one extremely successful delicatessen which has done no traditional marketing or PR – only used a website with blog and Facebook to promote themselves. In well under a year they were “discovered” and featured in many newspapers and magazines. Thank you for the kind wishes. I was thinking of you recently, was in Denmark which is probably cyclists’ heaven. Take care!

  16. What a wonderful story! You completely reinvented yourself, and you did it thru tenacity, research, and hard work. You’re an inspiration, and you’ve given me a lot to think about. Thank you, and all the best to you!

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