How do you become an event planner with no experience? It’s one of those circular logic puzzles. You need experience to land a job but no job will hire without experience. But is that really the case? Not entirely. There are some things you can do to overcome the experience dilemma.
Hosting parties and events for a living sounds like a blast but it’s a lot of work. If you want to become an event planner but don’t have any experience that hard work begins immediately. The first thing you’ll have to do is convince someone to hire you with no portfolio or client testimonials. Here’s how you can go about becoming an event planner with no experience.
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5 Steps to Becoming an Event Planner with No Experience
- Get some experience. Unless you’re related, very few people will hire you to plan their event without some form of experience in event planning or management. But before you worry about how to do that, remember it doesn’t have to be a paid position.
- Network. In event planning, it really is who you know and who knows you.
- Rework your social profiles and resume. If you want to go into event planning, you need to start showcasing the skills that relate to event planning, and not your previous profession.
- Learn from others. Join online industry groups for event planners and talk to others who are already doing what you’re dreaming of.
- Show up and do what others can’t or won’t. Consistency, dependability, and a niche can help you go far in event planning. Until you are established in the field you will need to learn how to market yourself. For event planning newbies, you are the product.
1. Navigating the Inexperience Issue in Event Planning
How do you get a job in event planning if you’ve never done it and how do you get experience if no one will hire you without it? That’s the age-old dilemma facing most newbies, regardless of industry. But the truth is no one wants to take a gamble on an unknown. Your client is likely writing a very large check for the event and they don’t want it turning into a party with no return.
That’s why most people hire who they know or they hire through referrals. But how do you get on that list? You need experience.
How to Get Experience If No One Will Hire Without It
- Volunteer. There are many non-profits and organizations that need help planning events. You can also approach your local chamber of commerce to offer your services. Even planning a sorority formal can give you the experience you need if you can prove things like you sold more tickets than the previous year and you increased return on investment.
- Take a junior position to learn the ropes. Instead of looking to be the only event manager or planner on an event, look at assistant and coordinator positions until you can learn the basics. Then decide whether you want to go out on your own or remain under someone.
- Reframe your experience to show how it applies to event planning. Okay, so maybe you’ve never worked in event planning but maybe your role as a marketing assistant meant you helped plan the ‘User’s Conference’ every year. Guess what? That’s experience. If you don’t have anything that direct, look at what you have done in other roles and apply those skills to event planning.
- Use your personal life. If you’ve planned events for friends and family, use that experience and create a portfolio around it.
2. Making the Most of Networking as a Would-be Event Planner
One of the most crucial elements of success as an event planner - besides organization - is your ability to make connections. You absolutely must excel in this area to prove to people that you can do the job.
Join organizations that cater to the type of event planner you want to be. For instance, if you want to do corporate events, you need to get to know people who throw them. On the other hand, if you want to do weddings, you need to be around soon-to-be brides. If small business meetings are your ideal niche, join an organization that hosts networking events for small business people like the chamber of commerce or a business professionals’ group.
It’s relatively easy to meet the people you need to meet but in order to have a successful meeting with them, you need to show how you can improve what they already have in place. If they’re busy and doing it all themselves, show them how you can coordinate it for them, freeing up their day. If they currently work with an event planner, what makes you better? Whip out that portfolio that you assembled in the last step and start talking about what makes you unique.
3. Convince the World of Who You Want to Be
As Dorie Clark, author of the book Reinventing You writes in an article Brand Yourself for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “...Think about how you tell your own story. Many people assume that they don’t have to spell out their narrative, that others will ‘just get it.’ But people are busy and rarely bother to think about your professional brand. So it’s useful to devise a succinct way of describing your professional trajectory.”
This means taking a look at how you are currently presenting yourself to the world. Are you an event planner wanna-be with administrative assistant qualifications and job titles that don’t appear to have any event planning relevance? Then it’s time to rework them.
How to Restructure Your Resume and Social Media Profiles
In order to become an event planner, you need to start thinking and presenting yourself like one. You can do this by:
- Making a list of important skills to have as an event planner.
- Matching your experience to those skills. What role required you to be organized, for instance? Play that up.
- Making event planning a major part of your resume by molding experience where you can. If you planned your trade show participation, highlight that.
- Starting to use the title. In order to get found on social media as an event planner, you need to start calling yourself one and playing up your abilities.
- Using data whenever possible. If you sold tickets as a volunteer quantify how many you sold and what percentage that was. Give it context and compare that to others’ actions when noteworthy.
4. Learn from People Online
Online industry groups for event planners can help you get a full view of the industry before you enter it. You may even find a mentor online. You’ll likely hear of hiring opportunities and talk to others who are already doing what you’re dreaming of.
Here are some of the best online groups to join if you want to be an event planner:
- Event Manager Blog Facebook Page. Sorry, we just had to. And while we’re at the shameless self-promotion, don’t forget...
- Event Planning & Event Management for Event Professionals - the largest community for event professionals on LinkedIn.
- Career Advice for Event Planning and Management
- Sales and Marketing Tips and Strategies for Event Planners
- Plus there are many country-specific and regional groups aimed at event planners, such as USA Networking and Professional Development for Event Professionals and Meeting Planners and the Event Planners Network - Western Europe
Event planning groups will help you make industry connections, and you might even find work there, but while you’re networking online don’t forget to look at professional organizations of the types of people you want to work with. For instance, a small business group if you want to manage meetings or even a bridal social network if you want to be a wedding planner.
This post covers 12 tips for getting more business through LinkedIn.
5. Show Up and Do What Others Can’t or Won’t Do
Event planning is a stressful job and many people burn out from doing it year after year. But those who stick it out love it. It becomes a way of life and a badge of honor much the same way that marathoners pride themselves on their races.
To be successful in event planning you need to consistently show up even when every ounce of your being screams at you to hit the snooze button again. Dependability is essential to success in this industry.
Finding Your Niche
Another part that’s critical to finding success and setting yourself apart from other event planners is finding a niche. A niche is a specified audience that you serve really well or it can be a particular activity that you do better than anyone else, for example, last-minute party planning.
A niche allows you to specialize and speak specifically to the audience, knowing what they need. You become a professional at whatever you specialize in and people perceive you to be the expert. Being the expert positions you well to command top dollar even with little experience in event planning. If you can personalize your service and attention to a niche, you will differentiate yourself from the crowd.
The best part about finding a niche is that you can use your past experience to carve one out for yourself. For instance, if you worked for an association and you understand the complexities of their types of annual conferences, you can translate that into event planning and become an event planner who specializes in association conferences.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Getting Into the Event Planning Business without Experience
Becoming an event planner is difficult without experience but it can be done by doing, and alternatively not doing, the following things:
- Gain experience wherever you can: as a volunteer, through a personal event, or by asking your close network for an opportunity.
- Reevaluate skills you have in another field that translate to event planning.
- Reach out to your network to see if anyone needs help planning a meeting, party, or gathering of any kind.
- Pay attention to data because that’s what your first clients will want to know. How many tickets did you sell compared to the year before? What did you make? Was it a sellout?
- Get testimonials/reviews of your work, even if it’s only in a volunteer capacity. Clients will want to know what it’s like to work with you.
- Secure references. Again, clients will want to know how well you did on the event and they’ll want to hear it from someone other than you.
- Build a portfolio of the things you’ve been involved with. Create it on a dream board, on paper, on Pinterest, or in some other electronic space.
- Give up because you lack experience. You can break into the industry.
- Join networking groups and sell yourself hard. You need to be valuable, not salesy. No one wants a commercial and hard sell at a networking event or in an online networking group.
- Forget follow-through. If someone is nice enough to refer you to a contact who may be in need of your services, don’t forget to follow up.
- Give up on yourself. If you want this, you can make it happen.
- Assume your network isn’t looking for an event planner. You might be surprised the connections you have so talk about this new path in your career. Someone you know may need your services right now.
- Be shy about asking for referrals. Yes, tell your network what you’re doing but also ask them if they know anyone looking for your skill set who needs an event planner. Again, you might be surprised who may bite.
Is a Degree in Event Planning or Hospitality Necessary?
You don’t need a degree in event planning if you have experience. If you don’t, a degree can help you travel that route faster because at least clients know you’ve been trained in the field. However, event planning is extremely results-focused so if a client is going to take a risk on an unknown, they will likely choose limited experience (even if it’s in a volunteer capacity) over a degree.
A degree isn’t your only option. You can receive certifications from a number of organizations, such as TISOH and CMP certifications, as well. These are less costly and can be achieved in a shorter amount of time.
If you want to become an event planner but you have little experience, don’t worry. The doors aren’t shut to you. It just might appear that way at first glance. There are easy ways to get experience and make connections. These two things and a few others will help you make the transition from your current occupation to event planner extraordinaire!
Additional Reading on Event Planning as a Career
13 Reasons Why Every Kid Should Become an Event Planner
Want to Make a Career Change? What You Need to Know About Working in Events.
10 Ways to Use Social Media to Take Your Events Career to the Next Level
5 Ways for Women to Boost Their Event Careers