"In 2007, I was invited by a client to a wine tasting meetup while on a business trip in Los Angeles. What I learned was a new concept where in using social media, people organized groups in their local areas and shared interests and hobbies. The concept was that anyone with an interest could join a group that was meeting by signing up on the website. While at the event in LA people found out I was a recruiter, they asked me for advice on their resumes, job hunting, and other general career advice in addition to talking about wine, sports, and the weather. I saw how useful technology in modern society was in helping people create personal networks, a common concern of many job hunters. I also saw how integrated life, work, and job hunting had become and this could be a social and career networking venue for people with similar interests.
At that time, there were very few meetup networking groups in the Bay Area, so I decided to create one in Palo Alto. I could help people with their resumes and share recruiting insights and job hunting tips. By forming this group, I felt that people could network with other jobs seekers, potential employers, and professionals in hopes to seek employment. Since the Napa Valley wine country is in our back yard and there are so many wine enthusiasts in the Bay Area, I decided to call it the Palo Alto Wine Group.
Our group provides a casual and friendly atmosphere where Bay Area professionals make new friends, meet other singles or couples, and network with business contacts through wine tasting. Events take place monthly in or near Palo Alto at upscale establishments that can accommodate over 100 attendees and serve a variety of nice wines. In my opinion it is the best place in the Bay Area for professional networking, which is critical when looking for work. The diversity of our attendees include high-tech executives, physicians, attorneys, engineers, human resources, sales people, educators, venture capitalists, private equity, accountants, software developers, real estate professionals, etc.
One of my most memorable job networking stories is when one of our members, who was looking for a job at that time, attended one of our events. He bumped into the woman who interviewed him for a job six months prior. He never heard back and always wondered what happened to the job, so after a bit of chatting he asked. The reality, she shared, was that the position was put on hold because the firm postponed the budget. However, she noted that there was now budget in place to reopen the job requisition. She invited him to re-interview for the new position - and he got the job.
Another favorite was a colleague in PR who was trying to get into a specific company that had a job opening that he felt he was a perfect fit for. He happened to bring it up in a conversation with a female executive while they were sharing a blind tasting of 2010 Napa Cabernets. She noted she knew a key executive at the firm and would forward his resume to her connection. He was flown in the following week for an interview.
Another example was a woman who just moved from Washington DC to the Bay Area. She joined the group to meet friends and also network for jobs. Her goal at one of our events was to meet people from three specific firms that she had targeted for her job search. Through mingling and chatting with people, she met people from the three firms. Not only that, but she also found out about the firms' hiring processes and inside scoop on what the firms were looking for, as well as a list of follow up contacts.
The Palo Alto Wine Group started off with just a few members who were friends and needed help with their resumes. Since then it has expanded to over 4,000+ members with subgroups for everyone, including singles, couples, wine connoisseurs, people just learning about wine, people who want to network, and those who just want to have fun while enjoying a glass of wine. It's a very friendly group and you will always see familiar faces as well as new people. I estimate each event has about 33% regulars, 33% first timers, and 33% occasional attendees. If you reside in, are planning to move to, or visit the Palo Alto area, I strongly encourage you to attend. I would be happy to critique your resume if you bring it with you."
Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti is a leading thought leader on career development. She is the author of ten books, a regular media contributor, and global speaker. She is a key advisor for recruiting and outplacement firms. Her most recent book is Women Lead: Career Perspectives from Workplace Leaders. Tracey is a visiting scholar at Stanford University's Media X program, researching the impact of technology on future careers. Find Tracey on Twitter and Facebook.