July 18, 2019

A mediocre event just doesn’t cut it

You are drawn to a career that is fun, dynamic, and exhilarating; you want to avoid the 9-5 and find a job where no two days are the same so you have embarked on a degree in events management.  You want to join an exciting and creative industry, where the only limit is your imagination. You want to join an industry that is influential and innovative. So how do you break into in the 24/7 multi-billion pound event organising industry?  Where do you start your job search, how do you embark on this adventure, this exhilarating career where you will create a lifetime of memories?

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix to help you get a job tomorrow, unless you know someone or are very lucky (even then nothing is guaranteed).  Take any opportunities that come your way and gain varied experience to make your skill set as versatile as possible.  There is rarely a neat career structure in events management; lots of jobs involve unsociable hours and possibly freelance or short-term contracts.  Graduates need to find a foothold and progress from there; there will be strong competition with those who have degrees in other subjects combined with substantial experience of running events.

If you ask around the industry “How did you get into events?”  The answer won’t necessarily include “a degree in events management”.  You are more likely to hear the words “hard work” “no sleep for 2 weeks before /during an event”, “perseverance”, “knowing the right contacts” and “luck”.  But you will also hear “bringing brand stories to life is challenging and rewarding, there is a brief and a goal; it’s such a rewarding career”.

Feeling motivated? I hope so; well you are studying the right course, a degree in events management, a course that covers all aspects of the subject from operations to strategy management, human resources to finance so it’s going to give you a head start right? Maybe…It’s going to give you the academic knowledge of the subject but with zero experience you are unlikely to get a job.

Catch 22? Yes. The reality is that employers will struggle to find the time or the resources to train you.  This means that you have to take it upon yourself to learn about the industry and how to plan events, to become the type of person that an employer wants to hire.  Commercial awareness and experience are essential; your studies help you build knowledge of the sector but you need to be able to apply this to the real world.  More employable candidates will be proactive and engage with industry professionals through work experience; events, talks, conferences, exhibitions and open days; they will network, network, network – they will make the all-important connections that every Events Manager needs.

You can subscribe to updates about the events industry at http://www.seoevent.co.uk/ and find out more at http://www.eventmagazine.co.uk/, http://www.eventindustrynews.co.uk/, www.evcom.org.uk, www.aeo.org.uk and www.abpco.org.uk but don’t  forget the importance of face-to-face business and networking. Meeting other event industry professionals not only helps to build relationships, but it gives you the chance to learn and be inspired by others.

The event planning industry is very competitive, it’s comparatively new and there are few graduate schemes so where do you start? Start by getting experience (get paid to organise events – great but possibly easier said than done), experience (anything in the world of work – think transferable skills, think organising anything) and more experience (extra-curricular activities – sport, volunteering – think team work, commitment etc. – and again organising)… and offer lots (and lots) of enthusiasm. Yes you will probably need more hours in the day to do all this but you need to stay ahead of the game – operating at a fast pace will probably be essential but think of the immense satisfaction when an event that you have been involved in is underway.

A variety of organisations offer internships (paid or unpaid), but it’s worth trying to generate and build up experience in as many ways as possible – get involved in organising and delivering events while you are studying whenever you can.  You may also look for part-time work in corporate hospitality or a temporary job at a major sporting occasion or at a big exhibition venue.  You may have a relatively humble role but you will learn how the system works and pick up inside information on what makes the event successful. In terms of experience, take what you can and see the benefits of looking from the inside out.  You may need to think outside the box to get experience.   It’s essential to make sure your services stand out above everybody else’s.  Expect the unexpected, get to know the sector and keep up to date with what is happening – stay ahead of the game.

So an event planner is a person who organises and coordinates all the elements that are required for an event and then manages the actual event, what skills and attributes do you need to do this? Event planners need to be flexible and sometimes go out of their way to build and retain customer loyalty, remember these qualities when you are looking for work. Think about what skills have you gained on your degree course? Communication, team work, leadership, commercial awareness, decision making, organisation, customer service, time management.  Can you demonstrate these to employers?  They want them all plus creative problem solving abilities, confidence, efficiency, motivation, intelligence and proven ability to work.  Positive attitude and willingness to learn, integrity and confidence. The list goes on so be prepared.

Use your university careers service – do you know how they can help you?  GSM Careers offers careers advice, practice interviews, employability seminars, skills development, information resources CV & application checking etc. An experienced careers team will help you take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. You will receive personalised career coaching on your events management degree to develop your personal, as well your professional, skills. Assistance in finding work experience will also be made available, enabling you to work towards that dream career.

And so to finish, I will repeat myself – experience, experience, experience, enthusiasm (lots of it), commitment, determination, flexibility and a willingness to do (almost?!) anything and lots of hard work topped with a sprinkling (or more) of good luck.  Remember we spend a lot of time at work, do your best to make it a place you are happy and fulfilled. Do not organise a mediocre event – do it right, do it well, do not take a job you cannot commit to – can you get there on time every single day?

Good luck entering the world of events management!


Sarah Boxall founded Saffron Thomas Career Management Services


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