Breaking into event planning with little to no experience can be a challenge. And it’s REALLY hard to get experience if no one will hire you.
Or is it?
Hey, I’ve been there. I know the challenges. But they can be overcome with a few tactics, tools, and strategies. In this article, we’ll navigate this event planning career path together and give you the kind of jumpstart to your career you’ve been looking for.
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about landing your first event planning position and making the most of an incredibly rewarding career.
Read on for:
- Job Satisfaction, Earnings and What It Is Really Like To Be An Event Planner
- 45 Tried and Tested Strategies on How to Get Into Event Planning
- 9 Tactical Ways to Use Social Media To Get The Job You Want
- 20 Surprising Organizations That Hire Event Planners (that no one told you about)
- How To Land an Event Planning Job with Little to No Experience
- Desirable Extra Skills To Be A Better Event Job Candidate
- Do You Really Need a Degree in Event Management? (a quick list of pros and cons)
- What Hirers Are ACTUALLY Looking For in Your Job Application
- Nail Your Job Interview and Get The Event Job You Want
And a whole lot more, so let’s get started.
In January 2018 we conducted one of the largest pieces of event planning research ever completed. With 2,400 contacts and over 1,000 respondents.
We asked specific questions that pertain to a career in event planning. We are happy to release the results (apply here if you want to publish the research on your site).
What do employers want? We reviewed 350 event planning job postings. Download the free report.
Event Planners Love Their Job
Passion is essential in event planning. Passion for the industry was evident in our results. Most event planners (89%) said they loved their career. Less than 10% felt indifferent and less than 2% said they didn’t love their career.
Organization and People Skills Are a Must for Event Planners
People skills and organization are the essential skills every event professional needs, 81% agreed. Around three quarters also agreed that time management, flexibility and passion were important skills.
Eventprof Salaries Unlikely to Change Much
A majority of eventprofs (51%) feel that event industry salaries will stay the same in 2018. 43% think salaries will rise and only 6% believe they will fall, indicating a generally positive outlook.
Having More Clients is Good For Your Event Planning Career
Almost half (47%) of those surveyed said having more clients would help them advance their event planning career. Almost equally important were better personal branding (47%), better technical knowledge (46%) and better use of social media (44%).
If you would like a copy of this research for publishing you can request it here: State of the Event Industry Research 2018
5 Things You Likely Don’t Know About an Event Planning Career Path (but should)
Before you run off and join the circus of event planning, it’s important to know what an event planning career path could mean. Here are five things you’ve probably never thought about.
- Event planners coordinate all sorts of undertakings, not just parties. There are tons of event planning career opportunities including convention and conference planning, festival planning, nonprofit event planning/fundraisers, corporate meeting planners, and alumni/college recruiting event planners, to name just a few. People interested in event planning could select a special interest and add it to their event planning know-how to become a niche planner.
- It’s one of the best business jobs out there according to U.S. News & World Report. Despite its above-average stress level, event planning remains in the 20th position for best business job. This ranking takes into account event planning careers salary, employment rate, growth rate and percentage growth over the past decade, future job prospects, stress level and work/life balance.
- The unemployment rate in this industry is only 4.6% (in the U.S.). The job outlook for event planning in the US as forecasted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics between 2016-2026 is expected to be a faster than average 11% growth. In 2016, there were an estimated 116,700 jobs in event and meeting planning.
- Travel can be a large part of your job. Just as there are many different types of event planners, travel can be a large part of the position or a very rare occurrence. For instance, event planners who work for a venue will likely never travel, while their corporate counterpart who handles sales meetings may travel quite a bit.
- The average salary is $47,350 per year with the highest paid event planners making just under six figures. These numbers are averages, however. Salary will be dependent on other variables such as the amount of time worked (some event planners do this on the side), experience and education/certification, type of event planning, and type of employer. For instance, an event planner who works for themselves has greater flexibility in salary but also greater risk in acquiring new clients.
If you are looking for a definitive answer for: How do I get into the Event Planning industry? You need to devour this post.
Do you feel like that uninvited guest with their nose pressed against the glass wondering how they can be part of the party? If you’re envisioning an exciting career in event planning that’s probably how you feel, like you’re standing just outside of the light and the warmth. We’re here to help you change that.
But how do you get to be a part of all the fun?
I get scores of emails a week from readers. This ranges from self-promotional messages to calls for help. In the past ten years, the most frequently asked question has consistently been: How to get into the event management business?
Follow this link to find all you need to know about what makes a good event planner and event planning resume. But it’s time the Internet has a definitive guide on how to start working in the event planning industry.
The good news is…
It’s not some mystical quest.
There are some very basic steps most of us take along the way. And guess what? For those of you looking to break into the event industry now, it’s easier than ever to learn about opportunities and get your name out there with the help of social media and the Interwebs.
Before I Begin, a Few Caveats…
- When you are done reading, if you found this post useful, share it. Wherever you like Email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest.
- If you are a student and are lost in this job market or everyone is telling you that you need experience first but you can’t get it if they won’t hire you, try to implement as many of these suggestions as possible. Not everything will work, but keep trying. When you’re talking about the internet and social media, the more people see of you, the more they’ll think of you and that’s critical when you’re starting out.
- Small details count. Some suggestions may look trivial. Do it anyway. I have tried pretty much everything, I know what works.
So you want to get into the world of event planning? Let’s rock and roll!
14 Things You Can Do to Break Into Event Planning
First and foremost, examine your readiness as a serious job prospect, the event planning career path begins with you and that means fine-tuning your event planning experience resume and polishing your online profiles until they gleam.
- Write a great LinkedIn profile. I wrote extensively on the subject. Here is a good starting point. Also, review your profile periodically and check the types of people who are looking at it. Are they people in the industry? If not, you may want to rework some of the keywords you use.
- Use Visualize Me. The hottest tool around to create an infographic from your LinkedIn profile.
- Create a video resume. Adding your face to your resume may help because event planning is all about making connections and building relationships. Someone seeing you on camera will have an easier time projecting what you might be like in front of a crowd. You can also sync your video resume to your LinkedIn Profile.
- Join the Event Planning and Event Management Group on LinkedIn. Make connections. Ask questions. Join in the discussions.
Best of all...it’s free.
- Check the jobs section of the Event Planning and Event Management LinkedIn Group. We often have entry-level openings and sometimes more advanced opportunities. Some of the roles available as I write: event manager for pharma events, assistant team leader, AV event project manager, and senior event manager.
- Search for hiring managers on LinkedIn from Event Planning Businesses in your area.
- Inspirational Pitches. When you send your resume or cover letter, add 3 ideas that would fit into the event businesses’ niche to use in an event. It shows you are creative, do your homework and can immediately fit into their culture.
- Start a blog. I remember when I started this blog I had very limited experience. Yet writing about it helped shape my opinion about events and decide on my favorite angles. You can start a blog in minutes on Tumblr.com or WordPress.com, the latter being my favorite. But there are a host of other websites and platforms that you needn’t set up your own site for such as Medium or even LinkedIn Pulse so you can choose which is best.
- Follow-up. If you apply or connect, follow up via email or a short phone call. It shows initiative, puts your resume to the top of the pile and in the forefront of their minds. Worst case, they don’t like what you have to say and you can still ask for feedback to adjust proposals in the future. They may say you have minimal experience and you then know you need to strengthen this area with either an internship or volunteering, etc (more on this later).
- Cover letter specifics. Never underestimate the power of a good cover letter and don’t just copy and paste! Do your research on the company, recent events, preferred event styles and any other notable details you can use or mention. Adjust your cover letter to match, you’ll tick a ton of boxes before you start and this type of initiative makes you stand out regardless of your experience and shows willingness to learn.
- Attend. Being an attendee can help you understand the event planner job role better and what you are trying to accomplish. Visit different events from small, local options to larger, highly sponsored ones to get an idea of the different aspects to be considered with various budgets. Pay attention, take photos and research what happens behind the scenes to enhance your knowledge and experience, the pinch points or issues that attendees discover and put yourself in their shoes.
- Build a portfolio. Start making a note of everything event related you have been involved in and the role you played. From volunteering and temp work to the minor roles such as wait staff or registration, you’d be surprised how much experience you can show off and quickly. Compiling it all together showcases your specific experience and can be an excellent replacement for a resume if you feel it isn’t up to scratch.
- Understand your niche. Event planners work in different sectors on ranging event types and narrowing down what you would like to work on can help you specify where to target. For example, are you interested in corporate event planning, dealing with conferences or would party planning suit you better?
- Eventify your current role. There are elements of events in many roles, whether it is organizing the company Christmas party, themed days to boost morale, company fundraisers or simply work drinks. Take on some of these responsibilities and they will not only add to your event planning experience but give you some notable examples to work with.
Improve Event Planning Career Opportunities with Networking
Most of the dream jobs in event planning are not advertised or posted. You’ll often hear recruiters refer to it as the “hidden job market.” The only way to learn about them and land them is through networking. I built my career on networking.
But beware: it is not all about that.
- Embrace LinkedIn as your new BFF. By now, you should’ve set up a nice looking, complete profile and you’ve joined the Event Planning and Management Group. If not, stop reading and get back to it and get active.
That’s more like it. Now, let’s talk about people, specifically networking. It is appropriate, and often expected, to contact group members in your Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Bear in mind no one wants to be sold to, begged, pushed around or nagged to death.
Before you send off an inquiry of any kind, check the member profile. If they indicated they are open to being contacted, for the reason you desire, go for it. For example, on my profile I’ve stated that you can contact me for speaking inquiries or visit the Event Innovation Lab™ with links to the relevant sources.
Make sure to check those and to stimulate an answer by shaping your questions on one of the items listed.
Before sending your question, ask yourself if you would say (or ask) these things to them if you met them in person? Remember social media is governed by the same social rules you would follow at a cocktail party. If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t post it online or in an email.
- Don’t join associations. There, I said it. I founded a group on LinkedIn of over 371,000 event lovers (the Event Planning & Event Management group). The group provides the same benefits of an association while being free of charge and accessible to everyone. We now have tools that we did not have in the past. LinkedIn is one of them.
- Your local association chapter isn’t the same as your national association. Some associations have very active local chapters. Ask them what they can offer should you join. Be direct and join their networking events.
- Check out Facebook.Yes, seriously. Facebook added a new job search feature that leverages what is probably your largest and closest circle of contacts.
- Identify Influencers. Find out who is making a name for themselves in the event industry and what they are doing. Use them as inspiration and regularly check their social media to see who follows them as well, it could be an excellent and unobtrusive way to make a connection and network online in an organic way.
- Small-scale practice. If you are nervous networking and approaching others, take some friends to a coffee shop, have them sit on their own or in pairs and approach them individually. Practicing making initial but engaging introductions, working out the kinks and ensuring you make a lasting impression for the right reasons. This way you’ll be more confident and likely to come across well in a proper scenario.
- Create a contact list. Every time you meet someone that is even remotely related to the event industry, ask for their business card or details. You never know when that connection might come in handy and it helps you to follow up and build relationships. It’s a smaller world than you think, and all about the people you know or have access to, so fill up your little black book.
- Focus on venues. Popular hotels, restaurants and venues with event and meeting spaces can often require an in-house planner that takes on the role of organizing and seeing needs are met. They gain experience working with third-party planners and have some of the same benefits of event planning. If you can’t find brands or businesses with available jobs then target the venues they frequent.
Get Experience: Your Best Ticket to an Event Planning Career
No matter how great your knowledge of events is, nothing counts like experience; it’s a ticket to an excellent event planning career. You can study as much as you want but your prospective employer wants proof you can perform in a stressful working environment. Hiring is an investment and no one wants to take a gamble on an unknown quantity, or in this case, candidate.
But, there’s good news for the newbie event planner.
Getting entry-level experience in events is surprisingly easy. Here are a few ways to get your event planning hustle on:
- Meetup. Start a Meetup or assist the organizer of an established Meetup in planning the next event. It’s the perfect way to get your feet wet and meet a whole new group of people, which helps you with your...wait for it...networking. Ding, ding!
- Get involved in social network-generated events. Events such as local tweet-ups and meet-up groups for local Instagram users are often looking for volunteers to help out and organize the transition from virtual friends and peers to in-person besties.
- Make a list of the largest events in your area. A few months before the date of the event, start applying for positions on a voluntary basis. Large events always need temp staff. Chambers of Commerce and political organizations also host a lot of events and are always looking for volunteers.
Your chamber is often the loudest voice for business in your community and guess who it’s connected to?
And sometimes business people host events.
Political organizations and campaigns host all sorts of events from fundraisers to rallies. You can get tons of experience in a very brief time. And you can even help out your favorite cause.
Charities host a lot of events and fundraisers at the end-of-the-year as many people are thinking about last-minute tax write-offs. With holiday parties competing at the same time, they’re often short staffed.
- Volunteering. Target charities and non-profits who will always be looking to keep their staff costs and overheads low to focus all money on their fundraising causes. It gives you great experience and helps worthy causes in the process. Register to Volunteer Match to find volunteer openings in your area.
- Make a list of all the large venues in your area known for hosting the kind of events you want to run. Ask for an appointment and offer voluntary work. Venues are desperate for support.
- Internships. Paid or unpaid internships can not only help you make initial connections and get you noticed by the right people but it gives you key experience, usually working close to high-level event planners to learn by their side. You may not be doing much but you’ll be learning and seeing first-hand what it takes.
- Obscure experience. If you can’t find volunteer work or job opportunities specifically for event planners and their business, go the long way around. Apply to a niche florist, event catering assistant or to work at a popular event venue. Another similar position is a charity fundraiser who often does their own event planning for budgetary reasons, giving you relevant experience in tangent but not directly.
- Temping. A way of getting wide-ranging experience in a short space of time can be a major benefit of temping. Plus, it gives you an introduction to businesses to show them what you’ve got and this can often lead to full-time roles or repeat work.
- Connect with the community. Contact your local council or community organization and find out if there are local government roles that you can work with. Community events, for example, at care homes or children’s centers are quite common and an excellent starting point before moving onto the larger outreach events throughout the year.
Specific advice on how to get a job in events without experience is detailed later in this post. Keep reading!
Use Knowledge To Bolster Your Event Planning Experience
Do you have a clue about what being an event professional means? Do you know what different roles are involved? Are you aware of the most discussed topics in the industry?
Following the trends and staying up to date on emerging innovations or ideas can get you ahead of the curve. If you can offer original, relevant ideas in the industry you will make an impact at interviews or on your resume.
If this is a little daunting, don’t panic.
Here are a few great resources to quickly get ahead on all of the essential topics in event planning:
- Read blogs. As well as EventMB, there are tons of blogs that offer advice, discussions and support.
- Join hashtags. You will learn a lot by following the #eventprofs hashtag on Twitter. Or get visual inspiration by searching event hashtags on Instagram to see what good and bad execution for events looks like.
- Read slides. I am a big fan of Slideshare. I have written a few slide decks myself over the years. Please feel free to flip through.
- Read more book. We have a variety of free resources on topics every event planner needs to know about. Download our ebooks for free on this website, from the resources section.
- Twitter lists. Finding event-specific Twitter lists can help you curate your newsfeed with the best event planners and their feeds so you can engage with their content easily. This can narrow down your search and make it easier to keep track of the inspirational accounts and people you are hoping to network with.
- Talk to people in the industry. Meetup usually features event planners networking events around the world. If there aren’t any in your city, start one.
- Online courses. Self-paced, online courses can be an excellent way to inject some current background knowledge to give you a base or starting point. From event management at various levels to planning, courses can also show future employers that you have taken some initiative to get a certification, even if it is a basic one. Plus, all knowledge can be useful or inspirational to varying degrees.
- YouTube. They say a picture paints a thousand words and videos do the same. They can relate mass information quickly, in easy to digest formats and YouTube allows you to save to a playlist so you can come back to it. From instructional set-ups and interviews to footage reels from events and advice from professionals it can give you excellent examples and boost your knowledge.
- Subscribe. To newsletters, blogs, industry-specific magazines or podcasts and have an immersive newsfeed or email inbox full of relevant information that you can use to stay current. You may also find one or two are hiring so you can be first to know and as a subscriber, you’ll already be familiar with their brand.
Get Used to It: Savvy Personal Promotion To Get That Job
Careers in event planning & management require personal promotions so get used to it. When you land your dream job in event planning, you’ll be promoting your event like crazy. If you can’t promote and brand yourself, no one will buy that you’ll be good at doing it for their event. Event planning is one of those few positions where your job hunt and interview are loosely a live audition. You need to promote yourself at every possible opportunity. By doing so, you’re showing your prospective employer that you can do the job.
Right, but how do you land that “audition”?
- Facebook Ads. Use your Facebook Profile as a resume. Direct ads to the page, targeting professionals in your industry and geographical area. Use the fantastic targeting tools Facebook has honed over the years. A targeted promotion will be less expensive and more successful. It also shows the prospective employer you know your way around social media marketing.
- LinkedIn Ads. This is becoming increasingly used by independent consultants, freelancers and speakers. Same as for Facebook, but a bit more expensive.
- Google Adwords. Target keywords relevant to the industry and test a small campaign. If you want to get an Event Coordinator role in Dallas, be specific in targeting only the above keywords and do not panic if your reach seems low. You only need ONE person to hire you. Use Google Keyword tool to test different keywords.
- UpWork (was Elance). It’s unbelievable how many candidates ignore the power of Upwork or other hiring platforms. Just set up a profile, prove your experience, and you’re done. I’ve used it so many times to find great freelancers.
- Social Media Groups. LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook all have specific groups targeted in different niches. In these, you can engage with like-minded professionals and network, showcasing your skills and get yourself noticed.
While we’re talking about killer strategies…
Social media is one of the least expensive ways to improve your event planning career opportunities. Here’s why:
There’s so much more to social media on a career level than simply using LinkedIn. You can:
1. Develop Valuable Relationships for More Event Planning Career Opportunities
Whether you are looking for a potential client, employer, or mentor, chances are good they may be found somewhere online using social media.
Social media allows us to engage with new people and develop some of those relationships online, but there’s more to it than simply following another person on Twitter or peppering a new connection with multiple comments. The best practice lies somewhere in between.
“LinkedIn is a great place to search for people who might be a good connection to you, whether it’s for mentorship or a lead on a new job or just a good new connection. But it’s a little bit hard to connect there, so I found that if you can use LinkedIn as a search tool to find the right people, and then Twitter is a really good way to actually make a connection with them. Once you find the person on LinkedIn, then [you can] search for them on Twitter,” said Liz King, CEO of Liz King Events.
Look for shared passions on which you can build connections. After all, when it comes to jobs it still is who you know. It’s just the how you know them that has changed.
2. Engage With Your Industry so People Learn Your Name
Networking happy hours aren’t always easy to come by and don’t work with a lot of people’s schedules. Social media, on the other hand, can work on your schedule and help you get more involved in the event industry. Whether you use it to learn about issues facing the industry or to connect with thought leaders, there’s a lot of value in social media social circles. Don’t forget online chats, forums, and groups.
“...Use the forums your clients or partners are engaged in. It’s a really smart way to remind others of your value.” Tahira Endean, CMP.
3. Enhance Your Thought Leadership for a Better Personal Brand
Share your expertise and help others to associate you with high-quality knowledge in your industry. One easy way to do this is to start by curating smart resources as you come across them and making sure to share those resources with others.
“Make meaningful content contributions to professional conversations. Pass on relevant content links others might not see,” said Jeffrey Cufaude, CEO of Idea Architects.
4. Expand Your Knowledge to Bring More to the Hiring Table
Today, we must stay marketable and evolve our knowledge. There are many options for learning new skills online and some Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) even provide special groups on social media channels for continuing the conversation on the lessons provided. Participating in MOOCs will not only help to expand your network, but it will also provide you with more opportunity to use what you recently learned to provide value to others.
One other note about MOOCs: Some MOOCs will issue official certificates upon course completion. These certificates are verified by prestigious universities and come ready to post to your LinkedIn profile. This is a nice, simple way to let potential employers or clients know that you are continuing to grow in your knowledge.
5. Ask More Questions to Show Interest and Curiosity
One of the easiest ways you can improve your career and life is by asking (good) questions. Strengthening your curiosity will deepen your knowledge of other people, enrich your intellect, and open up more opportunities to you.
In How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, author Michael Gelb writes:
Great minds ask great questions. The questions that “engage our thought” on a daily basis, reflect our life purpose and influence the quality of our lives.
Whether you ask more questions on Twitter or Facebook (using their polling functionality), direct a thoughtful question to an industry leader on an open online forum, or post a question on the social media site Quora; asking more questions will show you are open to learning from other people and might even offer a more natural entry to discussion that can transform your career.
6. Make Others Look Good on Social to Improve Your Likeability
Sure you can use social media to make yourself look good but the real value is in helping others. Making others look good will help them to see you as thoughtful, helpful, and someone they’d like to work with more closely.
7. Get Serious About Goals and Follow Through for Improved Chances of Getting Hired
Is getting a new job in event planning your goal this year? Social media can help you get serious about your goals and keep you accountable for accomplishing them. Apps like Coach.me, Finish, and Gratitude can help you by providing a place to check in on your goals, share your progress with your friends on social media, and will provide you with a regular status report.
Use tools like these to remind yourself to reach out to three professional contacts a week to connect, post an article to Medium, or to update your LinkedIn profile regularly.
8. Develop your Personal Brand to Make a Name for Yourself
If you want to break into event planning or make your mark on the space, you should be focused on developing your “personal brand” and using social media to advance your public face.
“The key is establishing a niche, sticking with it, attracting followers, and blooming perennially wherever you’re planted,” said Tom Spalding, public relations manager at OneAmerica.
Does that mean you need to market like a brand to your friends and family on Facebook?
you should make sure your persona online and in person are in sync and that you have thoroughly considered the way you use different social media channels. Once people can get a clearer idea of who you are and what you do, then it makes it easier for them to know how they might be able to do business with you.
People are going to expect you to do this for their event so doing it for yourself is a good example of how you’ll be able to use those skills for your client.
9. Try New Social Media Channels and Functionality to Figure Out Where Your Audience Is
Social media is constantly providing us with new channels for communication. Some will be good for professional development and some will be better for enhancing your personal life. But you won’t know for sure until you try them out.
Whether you want to try out live video for developing your thought leadership or Snapchat for their snazzy geofilters, testing them out will tell you more about them than if you just read about their capabilities. You might find a social media niche for yourself that will boost your career in unexpected ways.
Now that you know how to use social media to improve your job search potential, we want to share a list of little-known organizations that hire event planners. They just might surprise you.
Sure you can work for an event planning firm or a venue that frequently hosts events like a hotel or a conference center but there are also different event planning careers and options people don’t tell you about. There’s a whole underground of organizations that use event planners. If you’re looking for event planning opportunities or jobs similar to event planning, don’t forget to check these out:
- Amusement parks. We all know Disney has its own event department but even smaller organizations have event planners because of the large amounts of groups that want to enjoy the park as part of a special celebration.
- Chambers of Commerce.
- Visitors & Convention Bureaus.
- Exhibition companies.
- Large legal conglomerates.
- Stadiums and arenas.
- Alumni organizations.
- Recruiting departments in universities.
- Universities, in general.
- Nonprofits (larger ones).
- Parks/city, state, or national government that oversees them.
- Job fair companies or large-scale HR departments.
- Fashion show organizations.
- Local community organization. Local is a hot push thee days and you may have an organization in your community focused on drawing attention to local. In Saint Petersburg, Florida the organization Keep Saint Petersburg Local hosts a number of community events throughout the year.
- Outdoor play space. From ropes courses to ziplines, if there’s an outdoor space that caters to corporate team building they may be in need of an event planner.
- Personal party planner. These folks can work on their own or with a firm that specializes in those personal celebrations.
- PR or marketing firm. While this type of event planning doesn’t do things like confirm vendors, they may still be very involved in an event from a publicity side.
The first thing almost everyone wants to see is experience, but how do you get it if no one will hire you without it?
We have some ideas and tips you can start putting into practice today.
- Find an internship.
- If you’re in school, visit your career counselor and see what’s available. Often local businesses will call looking for someone. Even if they don’t have anything currently, they may have a contact that can help.
- Go to your alumni group and ask to help them run their next event.
- Seek out your local chamber of commerce. They are often looking for interns and host a lot of events. Better yet, you’re meeting business people in this role, which will help you with your networking.
- Nonprofits are always looking for people to help.
- Look at local meetups to see if there’s a group you’re interested in. Offer to help coordinate the meetings.
- Contact a local community organization (like Shop Local or a park) and ask if they need assistance.
- Take a beginning role with advancement opportunities.
- Look for companies that have an events planning department and try to get an entry-level position there. Work your way up.
- Research event planning firms. Take an administrative position to get your foot in the door.
- Look for positions that have meeting planning as part of their role but not in their job title. The employer may be more willing to hire someone without direct experience in that role.
- Fake it until you make it.
- Translate the experience you do have in other roles into skills event planners have.
- Plan events for friends and list them as referrals. Don’t fake the planning part though. Make sure you are planning something for them.
- Read everything you can about event planning. Watch videos of experts in the area. Quote these people and show off what you’ve learned.
- Find a mentor.
- If you’re in school, look to professional staff for guidance.
- Join a local event planners group/association or ask if they have a formal mentor program.
- Participate in a LinkedIn event professionals group and get to know established professionals in the industry.
- Network your way in.
- Join a networking group. Even if it’s not even industry specific, you can still make connections with business people who may need your services.
- Ask questions of established industry professionals. Show an interest in them.
- Join the chamber and meet local business people.
- Build a Blog.
- Research is essential in writing a blog. You’ll learn a lot by doing so and then formulating your opinion.
- Create a newsletter to get more traffic to your posts.
- Comment on other event profs blogs to build a larger audience.
- Find Quick Ways to Educate Yourself.
- Read blogs published by event professionals and firms. Event technology vendors may also have some interesting insights. This will help you stay on top of the issues in the industry, which you can casually drop in during your next interview.
- Look into online courses. Some colleges offer free lectures online. There’s also Udemy and Lynda.
- Search through TED talks or podcasts to find content of interest as well.
- Pick up the phone and connect.
- Reach out to individuals you respect within your niche and explain your newfound passion.
- Ask connections if they have some time to chat and explore how they got their start in the industry.
- Leave your contact information with them and let them know what types of opportunities interest you. That way if they hear of anything, they’ll hopefully think of you.
- Create an outstanding resume/CV.
- Upload your event planning experience resume to the cloud (or your website) so you can give anyone instant access.
- Make sure your resume/qualifications are up-to-date on LinkedIn.
- Consider creating a video resume. Event planning involves a good personality. Show them you have what it takes.
- Check out local job sites.
- Look for an event planning specific site or local branch of an association.
- Contact event planning firms that might have increased seasonal needs to get your foot in the door. These include wedding planners and corporate event planners (holiday parties).
- Read between the lines. Earlier in this guide, we featured employers you might not think about hiring event planners. Look for jobs similar to event planning or those that may involve aspects of event planning like marketing or HR.
- Attend events and observe.
- Take time to think about the planning and preparation that goes on behind the scenes.
- Find out who was in charge of the event and potentially use this as a way to connect with other industry professionals.
- Talk to the vendors and network with them. Many of them are plugged into the event planning industry and may have contacts who could help you or they may have opportunities in their company.
- Serve on a planning committee.
- Contact the organizations behind local events or smaller companies to see if they need members on their event planning committee.
- Social and civic groups may also be a source of good opportunities.
- Get involved in your local PTA. You don’t have to have kids in school to do this. They almost always have committees around events and welcome the help.
- Be willing to travel. Or relocate.
- Position yourself as a road warrior and make it clear you are available and willing to travel.
- If you are fluent in another language, make sure you tell potential employers this.
- Demonstrate experience with other cultures or travel on your resume and in interviews if the event planning in question includes global events.
- Sign up with an event staffing agency.
- Research what the agency specializes in before signing up. If you have a choice of agencies, select one that matches the type of work you’d like to do.
- If you’re not sure of the area in which you’d like to work, take on a variety of assignments to learn what you like best and what suits your skills. Knowing this will help you when looking for jobs.
- Perform an assessment after each job of what you think went well and what could be improved upon. Use these examples in interviews.
- Register on freelance sites.
- Register on sites such as Upwork where you can advertise yourself as a virtual events assistant to assist someone on bigger projects.
- Don’t forget about virtual assistant sites as well.
- Learn as much about the different technologies employed in these situations as possible. That type of experience can interest employers looking to do more virtual work on events.
- Create a detailed plan for your event management career.
- Map out goals you have for the long term.
- Look for easy wins. These are shorter goals you can do now like reading this guide and the many others we have here on the Event Manager Blog.
- Make note of what you love and what doesn’t suit your skill set quite as well. People who know themselves, their interests, and their skills are far more apt to be content in a job down the line.
- Start your own event planning business.
- Creating your own event planning business doesn’t necessarily require years of experience (though it helps!) but it does deserve a strong business plan. Meet with an advisor who can help you chart your way to success.
- In the U.S., contact your local branch of the Small Business Administration to understand what it takes to conduct business in your area. You should also contact your state to understand what you need to do on that end as well.
- Look into grants or tax incentives if you’re a minority-owned business.
- Read this post for specific advice if you want to start your own event planning business.
There are a lot of ways to navigate the lack of experience in event planning but whatever you do, don’t use these words….
Talk the Talk: 10 Things Eventprofs MUST NOT Say
Imposter syndrome: a term coined in the 1970s by psychologists Suzanne Imes, Ph.D., and Pauline Rose Clance, Ph.D., and made popular again in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, is a feeling that you will soon be exposed for a fraud. Strangely, this condition doesn’t plague con artists. It affects those of us who do know what we’re doing but often feel insecure about it.
We imagine someone will discover we’re not as capable as we portray. While for most of us this is an imagined fear, and not one that is or will come true, for some event professionals it just might if you use these phrases.
Literally Using Literally All The Time
Okay, so this isn’t specific to event professionals but is incredibly distracting to anyone over 35. Using the word “literally”, when you mean anything but that, might not make you sound like a noob event professional but it does discount anything you say because you obviously don’t understand the meaning of the word.
When I hear someone say “I’m so hungry, I could literally eat a horse.”, I want to literally serve them one.
Instead: State what you mean and leave the incorrect usage of “literally” to pre-teens.
Ending Your Statement on a High Note
Going out on a high note is a good thing. Ending a statement sentence in a high tone makes it sound like a question. Telling your client, “The additional AV requirements will cost $500.” is something that must be conveyed with confidence and not a question.
Try this: Reserve higher notes for questions and lower or steady ending notes for instilling confidence.
Saying “I’m Sorry”
Are you apologizing for a mistake or is it just a space filler? If you’re late for a meeting with the client or venue, you should be sorry. If you disagree with someone, an apology is not necessary; it’s undermining your self-confidence.
Instead: Save “I’m sorry” for true errors.
Injecting “Just My Opinion”
Of course it’s your opinion, it just came out of your mouth and you didn’t credit anyone else with the idea. But using that phrase either downplays the importance of what you are saying or sounds snarky. Which would you prefer?
You should: drop it all together.
Using “I Know” When You Don’t
If your client is telling you something for the first time about their business, and a topic you don’t know much about, refrain from using the phrase “I know” as an affirmation. When taken literally the person will assume you are saying you already have that information. If they know you don’t, you simply sound like a know-it-all.
Lesson here: Seasoned event professionals are secure enough to admit they don’t know everything. Use “I know” only when you mean it or switch to “I see.”
Starting a Sentence with “Honestly”
Are you admitting that all sentences coming out of your mouth before your “honest” pronouncement were all big fat lies? Of course not, so fight the urge to throw honestly in. Honestly, we would hope that all uses of your words are genuine. An event professional doesn’t leave himself/herself open to that sort of scrutiny. They assume they will be taken for their word so they don’t feel the need to inject qualifiers into the mix.
Drop: the use of honestly. It’s a space filler that prepares people for the worst and erodes your trust.
I Can’t Pay You But…Think of the Exposure
Unless you are volunteering for a charitable organization and hoping vendors, sponsors, and speakers will do the same, telling people you can’t pay them but can give them plenty of “exposure” shows that you are fairly new to this industry. Yes, there are times when your budget is slim and yes, in some cases payment looks more like money for an ice cream cone, but if you’re looking for professional people, you had better find a little something in the budget, especially because what you’re asking of them often involves a cost on their end such as travel or a day away from their business.
Instead: If you really can’t pay even an honorarium of some sort, don’t talk about exposure. Be upfront about it on your first approach and try to figure out a more defined and mutually beneficial arrangement of additional perks or things you can do. “Exposure” is a word most professionals hate in the social media age.
Asking an Attendee “So, Is This Your First Time?”
You are the data master. You should know if it’s the attendee’s first time or not. Some event planners even find ways to designate newbies on name tags so that no one asks that awkward question to someone who’s there faithfully every year. Asking that question to a true newbie may go by without notice, but asking a return attendee those words is a good way to upset someone. Everyone wants to believe if they weren’t there, they’d be noticed, so asking if it’s their first time is akin to saying “I’ve never seen you before. You don’t matter.”
Even if it’s a big event, and you couldn’t possibly recognize everyone, asking them if it’s their first time is like asking someone if they’re a tourist. They may feel like you’re suggesting they look like a newb and that will color their perception of you. You have the data. You should know if it’s someone’s first time.
Know: If you’re simply looking to make conversation, pick another topic. If you don’t have time to discover who is new and who isn’t, use a visual designation like something on their name tag, that only you and your staff know what it means, such as a brightly colored font.
Telling a Potential Sponsor “We Can Do Anything You Want.”
While this may seem like a very flexible and appealing approach to take – why not accommodate someone who’s trying to give you money? – it’s also very lazy. It puts the onus on the potential sponsor to come up with a sponsorship package. If you’re working with a large (like Pepsi large) sponsor, this may be advantageous because they have whole departments that worry about product placements and sponsorships and they have very particular ways they want to work with others. But for the rest of the business world, you need to offer a little more direction and creativity.
Open with: It’s important to be flexible but do your research first. Learn about their goals and brainstorm ideas on how to approach a mutually beneficial arrangement. Make some suggestions on what you think would benefit both of you and then ask them for their input. This way you remain open to their suggestions but also exhibit the wherewithal to do your job.
Answering Any Inquiry as to How You’re Doing with “Well, Not So Great…”
A seasoned event professional understands that the entire event crew, vendors, attendees, and speakers take their cue from your emotional state. If you’re seen having an anxiety attack because the florist is late, this will trickle down to all facets of your event. Event professionals and professional poker players could swap stories about grace under pressure and keeping emotions at bay.
Always: Keep that game face in place. You don’t want anyone feeding off of your emotions, unless they’re positive ones.
Now that you know what it takes to become a skilled event planner and sound like a veteran, there are certain things you can add to your toolkit that will help you stand out from your peers.
As mentioned earlier, it’s not all organizational skills. In today’s digital marketing world there are a lot of other non-essential skills that can help you slay the competition even if you don’t have a huge amount of experience. Those include:
- Social media and digital marketing
- Project management
- Public relations
- Data analysis and reporting
Event planners are often charged with putting together digital strategies to market their event. Show that you:
- Have a social media footprint by engaging your own tribe and building a following.
- Understand social media by including your active platforms on your resume.
- Speak to any marketing experience you have even if it isn’t directly involved in event planning. This skill will help you “sell” your event so it’s essential these days.
There are a lot of moving pieces in event planning and knowledge of project management principles can be very helpful. Play up:
- Your organization skills. Show them checklists or brain mapping and how you work your planning process.
- Use project management vernacular.
- Read a project management book or blog to understand how to create some of those same efficiencies in your event planning.
Public relations is still alive although now everyone is involved in it. Your attendees can create PR nightmares in less time than you can take a snack break but they can also provide a lot of wonderful PR. Look for ways to:
- Find a touching special interest story about an event and write a press release as a sample in your resume. These are still done on occasion so proving that you know how to do it may give you that added edge.
- Develop relationships with reporters before you need them. This takes time so start early.
- Remember reporters aren’t the only ones involved in PR. Develop relationships with industry influencers as well. These days everyone is a publisher and some of those influencers are believed more so than the press.
You’ll never know if your event is successful or not if you don’t know how to analyze data and read reports. You should:
- Become familiar with Google Analytics and its capabilities. It will help you understand your website traffic and give you a basis for other reporting.
- Learn the reporting capabilities of the social media sites you use.
- Read up on best practices in SEO. They’re constantly changing.
Even if you don’t end up working for a non-profit in event planning, the art of fundraising is a good one to know.
- Learn copywriting. A lot of copywriting tactics can help you write a persuasive letter.
- Master the ask. Knowing how to put together a strong “ask” will also help you when it comes to sponsorships.
- Build a strong community that you give and give to. Then when it comes time to ask for their support, you’ve built a strong foundation of trust and likeability.
Getting a degree in event planning illustrates and provides the following things:
- You have interest in the industry and stuck with it long enough to earn your degree or certification.
- You have built a network around people you met during the process both students and instructors.
- You had exposure to different types of event planning and management.
- You learned best practices for event planning.
- If you received a hospitality or event management degree, you likely learned the business end of planning as well as the organizational and design side.
What an event planning degree does not guarantee:
- A job in events. In most cases, you will still be in charge of finding your own entry. Some schools/programs may have a strong alumni organization to help you but the completion of a degree is not a guarantee.
- Experience. Some programs will help or require you to have an internship, but in many cases, it is possible you could graduate with a degree and no experience.
- Passing your certification. A degree does not ensure you will pass individual event management certifications like obtaining your certified meeting professional (CMP) designation.
Wait! Read This Before Going to School for Event Planning
When deciding which route is best for you, consider:
- Time. Ask yourself:
- What personal responsibilities do you have that may impede obtaining a degree on top of your job.
- How much time can you allocate to studying, attending class, and driving to/from school?
- Do I have a support system that can help cover times when I have to decide between responsibilities and school?
- Current employment. Understand:
- Are you currently working in events? Then experience is not a problem. You’ll want to consider whether a traditional degree or event planning certification is a better value for your career path.
- How flexible is your current work schedule? Are you required to work a lot of unplanned overtime?
- Do you travel a lot for work? If so, virtual courses may be a better option than a traditional classroom.
- Strengths and weaknesses. Decide:
- Are you an excellent classroom student or more of a hands-on learner? If you struggle in the classroom, a traditional degree may be more stress than you need.
- Your “why” behind wanting a degree. It may be challenging so you’ll want to keep this in mind.
- Where your stumbling blocks could be before they become issues. If you’re short on time, recognize this and come up with a solution prior to enrolling.
- Money. While you may qualify for financial assistance or be lucky enough to have an employer that will cover the cost, it’s likely for most of us that getting a degree involves taking on some sort of debt or limiting the hours in which you can work while in school. There is some form of financial trade-off. Perform:
- Research into how much a degree would increase your salary. Often this depends on the type of event planning you’re interested in and who you will ultimately work for.
- A cost-benefit analysis and return on your investment. Education is an investment and you want to ensure a good return.
- Look for ways to fund your education through scholarships, grants, and/or employer assistance. Even if you work in another field, there may be classes your employer will pay for that could help you with your eventual goals of becoming an event planner. For instance, a marketing coordinator may be eligible to take additional marketing coursework or maybe even an event planning class if they organize conferences or user groups as part of their job responsibilities.
A word about event planning resumes and resume-sorting software: larger employers these days receive many applications. In order to process them more efficiently and weed out the qualified from the unqualified, many use keyword phrase sorting software. This means the software sorts through the slush pile of resumes to find those with the programmed words the employer is looking for. It’s important to note, that a degree (but not necessarily a field of study) may be something an employer sorts by.
Still undecided about whether a degree is essential in your event planning career? Consult our Event Planning Training Guide
Wouldn’t it be helpful to be able to fine-tune your resume and strategies so that you can give potential employers exactly what they want?
Luckily, we have done just that.
We asked professional event planners to share what they expect when recruiting event planners to join their team.
We are sharing what they had to say about hiring event planners - from what they look for to tips and tricks that might help you stand out. It’s time to use this feedback to make your resume industry-specific and tick all of their boxes.
Gaining The Attention Of The Professionals
- Know What You Want
“I also think the days of the standard CV are gone and personalisation is now key. If someone makes the effort to do their homework and has thought not only about would they be a good fit for the organisation but also is the organisation a good fit for them and their personal career goals and needs, and then adapts their CV to reflect this, then it will absolutely stand out for me. When you make an investment for someone to join your team, and it is an investment, then you need to know that they are also willing to put in the time and commitment for you.”
- Helen Moon - CIM certified Events & Marketing Director, Managing Director of EWL Club, Co-Founder & Director of EventWell, Programme Director of The Evolve Programme.
An organization does not want to waste time and resources on individuals who aren’t in it for the long hall. You need to know exactly what you want before you apply for jobs rather than mass sending out, hoping for a response and then finding you didn’t actually want to work with them anyway.
Do your homework:
- Research the job role. Whether that is examining the job description, looking at the job site or even doing your own research so you know what exactly will be expected of you. A corporate event planner will have different specialties than a party planner so understand what each role requires and if you have the skills to actually do the job (as well as if you want to do it!)
- Know your end game. What are your goals in 2 years, 5 years or even further in the future? Knowing and understanding this can help you show on your CV and at the interview that you are planning on sticking with them and worth the investment. Plus it helps you highlight companies that are going to help or hinder you in achieving your own goals.
- Personalize your CV. Now you have the information you need, adjust your CV to suit, adding in personalization that shows you have put the commitment in and therefore making you stand out. For example, if you have previous event experience, go into specifics about your understanding of the job role. Put in that you have planned “corporate” events or parties as well as the skills that you used specifically to make these positions a success. Remove anything from your CV that is not relevant to the job you are applying for.
- Establish Expertise
“Be active in the meetings industry, become a speaker, sit on committees, be featured in publications, be a nominee or winner for an award or simply ASK for an informational interview.”
- Desirée Knight, CMP, Director, Education & Meetings, AREMA
In school they always tell you about your extracurriculars and in some ways, this is the same for recruitment. Often a resume will blend into each other, with many highly skilled and talented professionals showing the same experiences which can leave your application up to chance. Make a difference and establish expertise in ways that others haven’t considered so that you can rise above the other applications.
- Join forums and networks. For example, join LinkedIn groups and be active, making contributions, offering suggestions and expertise so that you can make your name more memorable.
- Help others. Speaking engagements, writing blogs or publications and involvement on committees take an active role in the event community, helping others and showing you know what you are talking about. This bolsters your experience and only makes your resume stronger.
- Be proactive. Unless you are a leader in the event industry, it’s highly unlikely you will be asked to get involved because you simply won’t be heard of. This is something you can change (and should) by asking for informal interviews, offering your services or even creating your own videos showing your skills and capabilities.
- Authenticity Is Important
“I've heard of people sending a cake or cookies after a job interview or with their resume, but while I think that is memorable it feels a bit over-the-top. For me, authenticity is key. I can tell when someone has copied/pasted a cover letter. I want you to talk to me about why you are a good fit for this position and why you are excited about the organization. These days it is more about the working culture and investment from both sides.”
- Carrie Abernathy CMP, CEM, CSEP, President & Co-Founder, Association for Women in Events
Now, we all love cake, and treats would make you stand out but ultimately there’s no substance to it and it’s essentially irrelevant to what you are trying to achieve. Instead, offer real value to your resume or post interview and show them you are better than these tactics.
- Define what is important to you. It’s okay for money to be a big motivator in your career choice, or you may get more fulfillment sticking to being a fundraising event planner. But, you need to know what your values are so that you can relay them to the interviewer. There’s no point in being financially motivated and taking a lower role that doesn’t line up with your values, it’s disingenuous and you’ll be the wrong fit.
- Be YOU! If you are naturally introverted or shy, don’t feel like you have to be overly outlandish just to land the job. It doesn’t benefit you long-term when they see what you are like in the office, and they want to meet the real you and the uniqueness that brings to the role.
- Honesty. Make sure that your resume is an accurate reflection of yourself, even if that includes what your weaknesses are and never lie or deceive. Aside from a lack of authenticity, you aren’t going to be able to provide what they are looking for. It’s always better to be honest and work your way up than disappoint.
- Be Concise
“Get to the point by being succinct. Save the fluff and focus more on why you want the job and the value you’ll add to the team.”
- Shawn E. Boynes, FASAE, CAE, Executive Director, American Association of Anatomists
One of the banes of finding a new event planner is the excessive reading, interviewing and conversations that simply don’t go anywhere. You may feel like adding extra information is doing you a favor but make it too long and you’re only going to switch them off!
Cut it down:
- Copy edit your resume and cover letter. Trim down any unnecessary information so if it’s not relevant, get rid of it. This could be your work experience, boring hobbies (sorry!) and keep your summary a few sentences long. If you have a lot of older entries in your experience, simply add them as a list instead and take out any additional information. Try to trim your resume to one or two pages MAXIMUM, any more and they hirers aren’t going to bother.
- Perfect the first two sentences. Whether it’s your resume or cover letter, everything you want to get across should be in the first two sentences to draw them into reading more. Focus your time and effort by making this section engaging and you’ll be on to a winner.
- Get a second opinion. Is your cover letter conveying what you are saying? Ask someone to read your letter and tell you what they think you are getting across.
- Avoid interview rambling. Pre-prepare stories and examples, take supporting documents with you to the interview to cut down the talking time and make sure that what you are saying has a purpose. You don’t want to waste your time and theirs with a story that isn’t going to do you any favors.
- Think About Results
“I want something that will jump out of the page and grab my attention when looking at a CV. Gone are the days to be simply listing your daily duties and responsibilities, you can chat about that in your interview. Event Planners need to be thinking about achievements and impacts they have made not only on the events but on ROI.”
- Helen Moon - CIM certified Events & Marketing Director, Managing Director of EWL Club, Co-Founder & Director of EventWell, Programme Director of The Evolve Programme.
The bottom line, even as an event planner, is important for all businesses, brands and organizations so showing that this is something you consider alongside your own job satisfaction can go a long way. Much of larger events is sponsorship too so understanding ROI and how it relates to your role can definitely get hirers on your side.
- Use figures. Whether that is in your cover letter or even specific examples for event contracts on your resume, it can draw the eye and offer genuine analytics. You should be able to access some of the data of previous events to give examples but don’t try to overwhelm and get too technical otherwise you’ll have the opposite effect. Use figures wisely.
- Consider your long-term impact. Think about how what you do in your role as an event planner can help the business’ bottom line. Understanding the part you have to play as well as the reach (and limitations) that the job role affords shows interviewers that you are going to utilize your resources and be a real asset.
- Talk Money. It’s ok to discuss the finances, it’s not a taboo subject as everyone suggests and can actually make you appear more professional and confident. If you can’t discuss costs, money, and financing in an interview, you’re going to struggle when talking to clients about what their dreams and ideas cost!
- Show Personality
“[Event planners should] be themselves and, through that, show they are listening and really enjoy being in this industry and want to build a career.”
- Cindy Y. Lo, DMCP, Owner & Chief Event Strategist, Red Velvet Events, a Global DMC Partner
When hiring for an event planner, they are hiring you. Your personality, skills, flaws, and process so this is something you should let loose because it will come out eventually so they might as well know now! Personality is not necessarily a bad thing, particularly in a creative industry such as this, because it can highlight the passion and a love for what you do, which ultimately translates to excellent work ethic and results!
- Write in 1st person. There is a strange trend of writing your resume or cover letter in the third person as if you would an online bio at the moment and honestly, it’s weird and should be avoided. YOU are applying for the position and using 3rd person creates a disconnect between you, your application and interviewer that you don’t want!
- Keep it light. You may have many passions but in many instances, these will not be relevant or help you get the job so it’s best to avoid anything too hard-hitting, for example, politics, sex, religion. Bringing them up at an interview when it has no bearing on the job role may be more of a turn-off.
- Add specific company information. Do a little online stalking so that you can include some core information and values that will appeal to the business you are applying to. This could be some feedback on a recent event, initiatives they are involved in or simply some of their own styles and tastes that you take inspiration from.
- Bring Cover Letters To Life
“Cover letters should not be missed as an opportunity to expand upon the skills demonstrated by the CV. Candidates can use this to offer examples of how they have applied knowledge that they have and to make themselves stand out from the competition. At interview stage candidates should demonstrate confidence as they will be dealing with a range of people. It is also good to see examples of what they think they can offer to the role rather than just saying why they want the role.”
- Amanda Thurlow, Event Planner, and Event Blogger
“Get your cover letter noticed by telling me about an event you recently went to and what attracted your attention or what you would have improved to make the experience better - If you go to events and are distracted by the details then this could be the job for you!”
- Bianca Dragan, Events & Marketing Manager AltFi
“Take the time to do the research and write a cover letter where you interweave your direct qualifications to the important goals of the organization.
- Tamela Blalock, MBA, CMP, DES
When you are offered to write a cover letter along with your submission, you should rejoice because it is the perfect opportunity to show what you’re made of. A cover letter can literally include anything and gives them a peek at personality before getting down to the statistics and qualifications (particularly if these are lacking!)
Make it shine:
- It’s not your resume. A cover letter does not need to repeat your skills and qualifications, consider it as a blank sheet that allows you to say anything! Personalize it, make it quirky, make it pop and stand out but you’re better off not using it at all than copy and pasting your resume in there.
- Frame it positively. There are plenty out there with low confidence which means they take the opportunity to pre-apologise for lack of skills or experience. Don’t. You have nothing to apologize for and you are bringing something to the table so find what it is and frame it to a positive. This is also excellent when you are going for a role that you don’t necessarily meet the criteria but really want because you can focus on your strengths here, not your weaknesses.
- Use storytelling. We use it in events, so why not use it in your applications too? Do you have a story about your connection to the company or perhaps it’s one you have been inspired by and following since you were little? Keep it concise but don’t be afraid to tell them exactly what the job means to you.
- Change The Layout
“Do something different. Add a graphic, photo or just make things a little bit more visually appealing. Unusual formatting isn’t every employer’s preference, and it can be really difficult to be creative with your CV or Resume, but if yours’ looks a little different to everyone else’s, in my opinion, you’re already a step ahead of the crowd. Remember to keep it short and concise though, no-one has time to read pages and pages of experience, that’s what an interview is for.”
- Helen Brady, Event Manager, Events Northern Ltd
This is a tricky element to get right because you can look too business-like, boring and corporate (not great for your creative side) but then you can come across to flamboyant and not professional enough (not great for the business side.) Finding the right balance for your resume and cover letter is the key to success.
Finding the balance:
- Pick your font carefully. You may be tempted to opt for something flash and script-like because that makes a statement right? Nope. Most of the time, different fonts are hard to read and garish on a page, particularly when being read on a screen so if you really want to make an impact stay in the typeface fonts e.g. Arial, Times New Roman, Calibri. Leave the fancy font to other communication.
- Add a touch of color. Don’t be afraid to add colored headings, a sidebar or different headed paper to bring a bit of life to the page. While you don’t want to go overboard it can still be fun but professional.
- Remember structure. Your resume is not an essay, and contrary to popular belief, neither is your cover letter. Make it easy to read with bold headings, subtitles, correct grammar, and extra structure. Add a table if it suits your information, anything that makes it easier to read and digest, making you more likely to get selected. Just make sure you include all the information you need to, you still need the substance behind the formatting.
- Combine Tradition And Technology
“Standing out is challenging. With the proliferation of online applications, all resumes look the same. Software screens out talented applications if their resume is not an exact fit for the posting. You'll get far more attention by using traditional tools like:
- Broadcast letters (consult Executive Jobs Unlimited, an out of print book by Carl R. Boll that is still available on Amazon)
- Briefs (described in Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill)
Always send broadcast letters to the CEO or a VP who will pass them on to the hiring director or manager with their comments. If you are then asked for a resume, send a brief. Applicants who come to interviews with beautifully bound briefs including their broadcast letter, resume, work samples, and, if relevant, press clippings always get the attention of recruiters and hiring managers and directors”
- Anne Thornley – Brown, MBA, President at Executive Oasis International
Technology has made recruitment a streamlined and easier process in some respects; with one-click applications, online stored CVs and email communication cutting down the hiring processing time. However, this can create a problem for those applying because it bundles you together and uses algorithms that might otherwise count you out of the running. To avoid this happening and make sure you are heard, use the best of both worlds and find a balance between technology and traditional recruitment.
Stay in the running:
- Connect via LinkedIn. It shouldn’t take much time (unless you are applying through an agency) to find the head of department or recruitment for the organization you are looking to join. If you can, connect via LinkedIn, or email them directly with your CV and cover letter to make it to the front of the queue.
- The follow-up. Whether email or phone, don’t forget to follow up. This traditional technique still works and shows you aren’t just throwing your resume out there, you are being intentional.
- Market yourself. Use broadcast letters as inspiration and use other tools to market yourself without a job description, you never know who will be looking for a new event planner and just hasn’t gotten around to putting an ad out yet. Check social media, email contacts and tailor your searches to the organizations or areas you want to work with or for.
- Remember To Network
“I look for familiar names. Names of those applicants who I may have known or met at either an MPI or ILEA function. These are people I know have a vested interest in the industry and that is who I want to work with.”
- Shawn Barrie, President, and Owner at Evntdsgn
We all know the importance of networking for events, that’s why some events have that sole purpose, so why not integrate this into your strategy. Making yourself known in the event industry is half of the battle and the more recommendations you can get, the more likely you will get the job. Plus, word-of-mouth marketing is still one of the most effective!
- Don’t forget to check locally. There are a range of resources available to you locally and you may be overlooking an excellent event management company right on your doorstep. Always keep an eye on networking events local to you so that you can not only make excellent connections to employers but suppliers and potential sponsors too.
- Build a testimonial base. Whenever you complete an event successfully, ask for a testimonial or review during follow up so that you can prove your worth in the future with happy customers who have seen your work first hand. This feedback works both ways, so if you get negative feedback, use it to grow and improve for the future which would be an excellent story or example at an interview. If you can, try to work with influencers or amazing industry leaders to build your experience, knowledge and also references on your resume which will really stand out. If you can get them to give you a statement reference, that’s even better.
- Make the most of events. A networking event is there for you to do just that so utilize them to their fullest. Work on icebreakers, starting questions and your own body language so you make a good impression (you never know who you might meet and when the next opportunity is around the corner.)
Congrats, you’ve made it to the interview stage so you’re over the main hurdle.
Or are you?
You’ve managed to stand out against a sea of applicants to get to this point so don’t throw it all away now by making a bad move during your interview. Of course, a first impression is important (we’ll get to that) but what happens after that? You still need to nail the interview and you usually have a short window of opportunity to remain in the running for the job.
People tend to form an opinion in under 7 seconds so here are some ways to ensure you win over your interviewers with the perfect interview strategy:
Use Body Language Insight
Your subconscious behavior is just as telling as what you say during an interview, and this works both ways. You want to be able to understand what your interviewer is thinking as well as how well they are responding to your interview. But, you also want to project the right image onto them as well. Everyone knows that crossed arms can show that a person is uncomfortable so use this as a starting point for your own body language as well as deciphering theirs.
Analyze Subtle Cues:
- Avoid slouching, sit up in your chair and tuck yourself into the table rather than away from it if necessary. This shows you are interested in what the other person has to say and come across more confident.
- Eye contact is a sign of focus and trust, if an employer is keeping engaged then you have their attention. If you see them look away, try to mix it up, ask them a question instead and shorten up your responses as they may be getting bored. Just don’t stare, it can be intimidating and you’ll look like a crazy person!
- Mirroring. When two people subconsciously mirror each other, it can be a sign you are in agreement and on the same level. Pay attention to whether there are any mimicking signs and try to align yourself in a similar position to your interviewer.
SHOW Your Skills
It’s one thing to say you’re organized, well-presented and knowledgeable but actions speak louder than words! Anyone can go to an interview and say they can do anything, but proving proof there and then removes any doubt and puts you a cut above the rest.
- Take a clean, well-organized proposal and binder with you that holds all of your paperwork and is easily accessible throughout the interview to show you have fully prepared.
- Bring proof. If you have photos of previous events you helped organize, examples of blog posts or written content you have produced or even statistics of your reach and expertise in the industry, bring them. Show them that you have the knowledge and expertise that they need and you understand how this relates to them. Plus, it’s a unique twist on giving stories and telling them about examples.
- Pre-work. Prepare suggestions based on your research. For example, ways you could help their business and your feedback on previous or upcoming events. Taking initiative and doing something that benefits them at the interview stage shows you are keen and ready to get down to work.
Do Your Research
While you could view the interview as a test, it’s one that you can pass if you prepare for it! Doing research can give you a lot of leverage and advantages to utilize or draw on which prepares you for anything they ask.
- Understand the culture. Each organization runs differently and has a different dynamic which you will have to gel with and fit into. It’s important that you research the type of company, retention rates, bonus schemes, community outreach or events and other important aspects to get a sense of who they are so you can make sure you will fit with them. Many event companies will overlook missing skills if they know you will integrate seamlessly into the team because you can learn new things but you will either get on or you won’t.
- Review the role before you go. Make sure you have the full, up-to-date job description so that you can mention the desirable and essential skills that they want when asking questions. For example, if they ask for someone who can work independently or part of a team, ensure you weave “I have worked individually or as part of a team when [insert example here].” It shows you’ve been paying attention.
- Know the key players. Find out as much as you can about who is in charge of the organization as a whole as well as the department or areas you will be involved with. It is better to know who you need to pay special attention to and avoids any blunders where you’ve not taken someone seriously and they’re the CEO!
- Prepare real-world stories that showcase your skills. Although you won’t be able to tell exactly what they are going to ask you, judging by your research you’ll know the general areas and this can help you greatly when preparing examples. The key ones to watch out for is “What challenges have you faced when planning an event and how did you overcome these?” or “Have you ever had to deal with a difficult client and how did you cope?”
Consider how many interviewees that the company will have seen, had phone conversations with or looked through their CVs so do something different that makes you stand out. At events, personalization makes attendees feel special so why not adapt this to work at an interview so you’re more memorable.
Make an impression:
- Find common interests. You will know who you are going to meet and be interviewed by so do a little research on different social platforms. Pay particular attention to LinkedIn where you may find some common ground to draw on to be seen as more personable and create a connection. Just be aware that LinkedIn lets someone know when you have viewed their profile!
- Bring something new. The interviewers will already have your experience, skills and resume in front of them (even if they don’t you’ll have one to give them when you arrive in your organized portfolio) so bring something new to the table. This could be something simple like video examples, testimonials or even your own set of personalized questions for the interviewers.
- Be proud of your caveat. Everyone has a particular skill or talent that sets them apart and makes them unique. It could be that you are an excellent negotiator, write fantastic copy or can close the deal when it comes to sales increases so you need to sell that at the interview and highlight your skill that no-one else can do as well. Do this confidently and tell them why they can’t do without you.
Present Yourself Well
This sounds fairly simple but actually encompasses a range of things from dressing appropriately to your own behavior. How you present yourself is the lasting impression that you will leave on them so make sure it’s a good one.
The lasting impression:
- Don’t be early. Aim to be on time, not early because being TOO early can actually be a bad thing. It can lead to awkward confrontations if the interviewer is not ready and means they will rush, starting off on a bad foot. From a negotiation point of view, you don’t want to appear over-eager either so the sweet spot is between 10 and 15 minutes before your interview
- First, first impressions. Contrary to popular belief, your first impression isn’t meeting the interviewers, it’s walking through the door. When you arrive, greet the receptionist and wait confidently in the lobby or waiting area. Again, don’t slouch, play on your phone or throw your belongings down everywhere, simply look through your proposal, keep going over your research and preparation until they arrive. You never know if there is a viewing gallery or cameras so assume you are officially on display.
- Dress appropriately. It is better to be overdressed than underdressed for an interview and more often than not, shows you take it seriously and care about your appearance. Consider the little details like ensuring your shoes are shiny and not dirty, wear accessories such as cufflinks or simple earrings and keep bold choices to a minimum (these can be memorable but sometimes for the wrong reasons.)
- Avoid food. Unless you are having a second or third stage interview over lunch, avoid bringing or eating food at the interview. It can add a level of formality that can sometimes work against you and you don’t want to take coffee or gum into an interview and find you have nowhere to put it!
Last, but not least, work on your handshake. It’s an excellent way to break the first barrier and always try to be the person who extends first as a sign of confidence. Although you may be nervous, try to avoid sweaty palms and if necessary, go to the bathroom to wash them before your interview which may help. Plus, make sure it is firm and steady, just avoid the vice-like grip!
If you’re dreaming of becoming an event planner, it’s time you start working that dream. They are many avenues outside of merely reading the classifieds and applying cold. I’ve been there and these things helped me. They will you too.
Now onto you:
- Follow my suggestions and then let me know how it’s going in the comments.
- Do you have a tip to make this page better or want to use any of the statistics? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Do you have more tips and advice to add about how to get your dream job in event planning? Comment below.
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