Live the Life of a Colored Stone Professional


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Doug Hucker engaged students and attendees during his presentation at the opening panel of GIA's Carlsbad Career Fair. Photo by Kevin Schumacher/GIA
Doug Hucker, CEO of the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), gave real-world, practical tips to attendees at the 2009 Career Fair in Carlsbad.

“Guys, it is tough out there,” said Hucker, an industry leader in the efforts to promote the ethical and professional sales of natural color gemstones, who struck at the heart of most job seekers fears with his opening remarks. “You are entering probably one of the most exciting and wonderful businesses that you could possibly get involved in – at probably the worst possible time you could.”

Promising he wouldn’t sugar-coat it, he told attendees he was going to concentrate on the wholesale colored gemstone business and anyone interested in it needed to focus on getting a job first. “Your passion and excitement is not going to carry you far,” he said. “You must have a practical approach to getting a job – and you’re competing with hundreds of people who are out of work.”

He offered the following advice:

Update your resume every week. Make sure it doesn’t sound like it was written by a professional resume preparer. Get it out to everyone. Go to AGTA.org, click on membership and download the source directory, which has 1,250 firms interested in colored gemstones. There’s also a Gem Industry Guide that lists thousands of jewelry businesses involved in colored gemstones. “You benefit from the fact that it’s an electronic age; people are very willing to look at electronic resumes.”

Your cover letter is critical. “Give me 2-3 paragraphs that tell me what you think you can do in my business to make my business better.” You need to think about your skills – do you like taking to people, do you understand customer service, do you know how you’re going to get out there and build that business for them. “You can talk colored gemstones, now you need to think about how you can push those colored gemstones. What the motivations that make our retail customers buy those stones and what makes the consumer buy them? That’s got to be the focus of your cover letter.”  

Take advantage of electronic tools. Everyone in the industry is getting a Facebook page and going on Twitter. “You guys are hardwired [to use social networking]. You grew up learning that stuff. That is something that is valuable.” Start to think about how you would use that to promote your business.

Network. “Networking is critical. You cannot and will not be a success unless you network.” You have to put yourself in front of successful industry leaders and let them know what you can do to improve their business.

You need to become a colored gemstone professional. You take what you’ve learned and get paid for using it. You need to know what the issues are and how they can affect your employer’s business. You need to start thinking globally; subscribe to every newsletter you can. “You have to know what’s happening in the world. You have to start living the colored gemstone business.”

He also offered specific advice for those with dreams of becoming a colored gemstone buyer. “The only way you can become a buyer as an entry-level person, is to have a whole bunch of money and hope it holds out until you know how to buy properly,” he said.

“The way you become a buyer is by learning how to sell. What is romantic about the product, what drives the product, what excites people about colored gemstones, what are the particular needs of the retail jeweler that you’re working with who are your customers?

“If you can get that and learn that, then you can become a buyer,” he said.  

Amanda J. Luke is a senior communications manager at GIA. She is the editor of the GIA Insider and Alum Connect and was the editor of The Loupe magazine.