When an international conference you’ve planned gets rave reviews or a special event you’ve worked on turns out really well, you get a good feeling. You feel like you’re helping people and doing good work. At least I do. And that’s what most people want from a career; something that provides an exciting challenge, rewards their effort and gives them inspiration to achieve great things in the future.
A career as a meeting planner or special events producer ticks all of these boxes. You have lots of variety in your day, you get to work with incredible people, and you can come up with creative new ideas that are always welcome. But successful careers don’t fall into your lap. You need to work at it. So how do you get started? Here are my top tips on getting into the industry.
Be clear on your goals: Part of creating a great future for yourself is working out what you want, not just in a job but in your personal life as well. Make a strategic plan to achieve your goals and objectives and be sure to stick to it.
Join an association: Often students are able to join associations at reduced rates. The minimal annual fee is worth the cost for the education and networking opportunities. You will meet people at events doing jobs you are interested in and you’ll be able to have an “on-the-spot” information session.
Volunteer: Volunteer for a major conference or special event. This is time well spent. You will have the opportunity to work with a potential employer as well as make friends with people in the industry. And who knows, a chance meeting might lead to that once-in- a-lifetime opportunity.
Work in the hotel industry: Explore the option of working in the hotel industry first. Some hotels have individual development plans for people with initiative. In a hotel, you will develop valuable skills in customer service, multi-tasking and organization. You will also meet and work with meeting planners or have exposure to the catering department and the special events that team organizes.
Find a mentor: Develop a relationship with someone who can be your mentor in the hospitality industry. Mentors have connections and are valuable sources of information and guidance.
Be prepared to start at the beginning: Work hard and you will eventually make your way to your dream job. But be prepared to get your hands dirty and start at the bottom. So often an entry-level position leads to the job you really want. This strategy worked for me.
The big picture: Do plenty of research to get an idea of the big picture of the industry and what is involved. Read industry publications and take courses.
Find out more: Here are some websites to explore:
BC American Marketing Association: www.bcama.com
Canadian Special Events Industry: www.canadianspecialevents.com
International Special Events Society: www.ises.com
Meeting Professionals International: www.mpiweb.org
Professional Convention Management Association: www.pcma.org
Society of Incentive Travel Executives: www.site-intl.org