Event planning is a dynamic career in the hospitality industry that stands apart from the standard 9-to-5 job. Whether you’re beginning your career in this field or looking to take it to the next level, it is important to use all of the competencies that got you this far in your career. It takes equal measures of creativity, people skills and organizational capabilities to succeed and excel as an event planner. And just as event planning is not your typical office job, neither are the paths to advancement and success.
Here are some considerations to help you on your way.
In the event planning sector, it may not be enough to browse help wanted ads and postings on Internet job sites, sending off resume after resume in hopes that something might happen. In this field, many of the jobs that are available go unadvertised, with word of mouth and personal recommendations being the way those positions are typically filled. Because of this, how well you network and expand your presence and credentials can make a big difference.
This means more than finding an actual networking event where you engage with other industry professionals and hand out business cards. While membership and events sponsored by local business groups and professional associations can certainly be helpful, there are other ways to network, and social media is becoming one of the most essential resources to tap into.
LinkedIn is currently the premier business-to-business social network. If you don’t have a compelling resume posted there in the form of your LinkedIn user profile, then this should be one of the first things you do, particularly given LinkedIn’s popularity among recruiters. You can then enhance your profile with tools like Visualize Me, which helps you create an infographic from your profile. Shooting a video resume and syncing it to your profile can help capture your personality as mere words may not.
Explore and join relevant LinkedIn groups for event planning and management, and visit their jobs sections. Make sure to search out, connect and engage with individuals in the field who either have hiring responsibilities or are aware of positions in their organizations or the wider community.
Remember that assertiveness and blatant self-promotion are not widely accepted in this environment. You’ll establish yourself more effectively through thoughtful comments and observations in response to group posts and in your own status postings.
Hiring managers in the event management industry fully understand what is needed in a candidate to do the job successfully. While experience is often used as a hiring filter, education is also very important. In fact, education can help fill the gap when experience is lacking.
Many employers prefer applicants to have a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also, the profession requires proficiency with certain skills. Exposure to these skills can be acquired through a degree or certificate program. Many schools offer bachelor’s degree programs in hospitality, communications or public relations. Some hospitality programs may also offer event management concentrations. Among the areas of learning in these programs are event marketing, cost control strategies and facilities operations.
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Certificate programs in event planning can also be attractive, particularly for those with degrees in non-aligned fields who are seeking to enter the field. The program curriculum covers areas like risk management, event coordination and professional ethics. Some certificate programs allow students to focus on particular specialties like sporting events or conventions.
It is important to consistently demonstrate a solid grasp of the job by staying up on trends, issues and players shaping the industry. This can be gained by monitoring leading industry blogs and professional publications and watching the social media group conversations. Degree and certificate courses can teach you what you need to be aware of and where you can find the information. Whether the education you gain is formal or informal, the idea is to demonstrate to hiring executives that you’re invested in the industry and have the knowledge it takes to help their business succeed.
Getting a job interview is the first challenge. The next one is to impress the interviewers to the extent that you’re offered the position. This can take as much planning as the search itself to gain and demonstrate the kind of confidence that successful event planners possess.
It is essential to become thoroughly familiar with the company your interview is with. The better you know what they do, how they do it, what differentiates the company from its competitors and who its clients are, the better prepared you will be to position yourself for a role as a valued contributor.
“Being prepared and asking great questions about the position and the employer shows your interest during the interview. You can't just be an effective responder. You need to assert yourself, too. By the time you reach the interviewing stage, you should be clear about what you want and what you offer to the company,” according to John Kobara and Melinda Smith’s job interviewing tips on Helpguide.org.
Fortunately, this information is easier to obtain than ever before. Check out the company website for press releases outlining recent developments of note, such as client engagements or awards. See if case studies are featured that offer insights to both the company’s approach and its client relationships. See what kind of social media presence the company has, and don’t forget to do a basic Internet search to understand its broader standing and presence in the industry. Seek out information through these channels on the people who might be interviewing you. Your ability to discreetly mention personal topics as ice-breakers will help showcase your people skills.
You should also prepare for the interview by being ready to show how your personal skills align with the job requirements. Have several good examples in mind that establish you as the best candidate for the job. Don’t forget to ask questions of your own to demonstrate your interest and add to your insights. Ask about the company’s culture and other members of the team, or key accomplishments expected of you over the course of a year.
And finally, practice. Get a friend to put you through a mock interview. This will help build your confidence and poise and further help you position yourself as the best person for the job.