You Are Not Above Trash Duty

I started writing this article weeks ago and a conversation I had with a local winery owner totally validated my thoughts for the piece. It’s a pretty awesome feeling when an expert inadvertently tells you you’re on the right track.

I asked Doug Fabbioli, owner of Fabbioli Cellars, after an industry event if he had any advice for a newbie trying to break into the wine industry and go full time. His answer? “Most of the vineyards in this area are small, family operations. You might be interested in wine marketing, but you need to be willing to get involved in every aspect you can. Absolutely everything. Work the events, help manage the wine club, take out the trash at the end of the night – know that every single task you do is making an overall impact on the operations of that business. The more you do, the more you will learn.”

Dorothy, you might be thinking, what the hell am I going to learn by taking out the trash?

Well, for one thing, humility, grasshopper.

Started from the Bottom — Now We Here

In my free ebook one of the main things that I stress during a career transition is the very real possibility you will be unable to make a lateral move. When we want to move to a new industry in which we have no contextual experience, we need to remember a little ditty we all heard when we were younger: “Let’s start at the very beginning – a very good place to start.”

My suggestion, and personal option, for a successful transition without having to quit your current job (and/or take a massive pay-cut) is to get a part-time job in your ideal industry.

OK, being in your late twenties or thirties with a part time job might not appeal to your inner CEO.

Get over it, please.

You’re not going to be the only person working a second or third job, and these positions can provide way more experience than the few hours a week you might actually be in the building. We’ll talk about the extra credit you can earn outside your work hours in another article – but for today we’re focusing on the little things.

Required: The Mundane & the Magical

At my part-time winery job with Casanel Vineyards and Winery, we are a team and everyone does their part to keep the machine humming. My absolute favorite part of the job is (obviously) pouring tastings for the customers and getting lost in conversation with the chattier groups.

There are so many other things that need to happen as well: refreshing the bottles, prepping food orders, washing and restocking glasses, cleaning up vacated tables, checking the bathrooms, and (of course) taking out the trash. *dreamy sigh*

My manager, Erik, takes out the trash himself multiple times per day. If I’m asked to do it, there’s not a bit of hesitation because he is setting that example that no one is above the little stuff that needs to get done.

One of our owners, Casey, is lovingly dubbed the “Crystal Technician.” Any idea what that means at a winery? She washes the glasses. No, I’m not kidding. The owner of the winery is literally cleaning up behind us so we can focus more on customer service and putting glasses in and out of the dishwasher most of the day. If that’s not setting an example, I’m not sure what is.

Another manager I interviewed with, Jordan Harris at Tarara Winery, echoed this sentiment during a conversation we had recently. One of his biggest pet peeves is if someone on his team were to pull the “that’s not my job” card when tasked with something less than desirable.

He put in his time at the winery and has done everything there is to do from, yes, trash to sales to general operations. “It’s a small team and we all do whatever it takes to provide the best experience and products we can. That means if you’re asked to do something it is your job — and I will never ask someone to do something I haven’t already done hundreds of times myself.”

Okay, so maybe hauling around garbage bags doesn’t specifically apply to your situation; but I guarantee that if you are starting at the bottom and reaching toward a new goal you will encounter some similar sort of task for which you are responsible.

I’m here to tell you that you need to learn to not only just do it — but do it gracefully. None of the required tasks are “beneath” you. You need all the experience and good karma you can get!

Be The Best

Nelson DeSouza, the “nel” in Casanel Vineyards, is one of the coolest success stories of “starting from the bottom” I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Nelson is from Brazil and emigrated to the US in his young adulthood for new opportunities and to help support his family back home. He came with a small amount of cash, knowing very little English (if any at the time), and worked his bunda off to get where he knew he would be someday.

He worked multiple jobs, at one point moonlighting with a newspaper on Friday and Saturday nights inserting the comics section into Sunday morning’s edition prior to distribution. He said he learned early that he needed to work no less than 12 hours per day in the beginning of his career to be successful.

Nelson continued to toil away at various positions, and eventually began pouring concrete. This lead to a lucrative general contracting career, which afforded him the means to purchase 42 acres of land before retiring. He then built homes and a beautiful winery on that land which his daughters now run.

How?! This sounds like a dream! I want that! 

His advice to anyone striving for success is simple: Be the best. 

“You clean toilets? Be the best toilet cleaner. You wash windows? Be the best window washer. People saw me pouring concrete and said, ‘How much money can he really make just doing something so simple?’ I was one of the best, so while they were scratching their heads and working harder and longer trying to become successful, I was making millions because I made sure to be the best at what I did.”

Your Dedication Will Pay Off

One word of caution here, there are crummy managers out there that will take advantage of newbies. There is a difference between being a team player and being a doormat.

We millennials have gotten a bad rap for being too entitled, expecting too much too quickly, and have even been labeled as just plain lazy. It’s up to us to change the perception, but that doesn’t mean we have to compromise ourselves in an effort to overcompensate for the faults of others in our demographic.

If you suspect that you’re being walked on or treated unfairly, it’s up to you to stand up for yourself or move on to a better fit. I have to trust you to use your best judgement here, because I can’t be with you to say, “Why the hell are you letting them treat you like this?”

Just remember that at the right place your professionalism and dedication will not go unnoticed — most likely, when the time is right, it will be rewarded.

Patience, grasshopper. Patience.


Q: What’s was the worst part of a job you’ve had?

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