Landing a job in the wonderful world of events can be challenging. How can you give yourself the best chance of securing the event planning job of your dreams?
In this competitive industry hundreds of people can apply for every single job and so you have one opportunity to impress. If you know that event planning is in your blood, you are aware of the realities of the work and are certain your skillset is strong enough to work in events, follow these tips to successfully enter the world of event management!
1. Be Prepared
Although more and more universities and organisations offer event management courses and programs, it is not enough to have only an academic view of the event industry. Buying a diploma alone will not give you your big break - you have to get your hands dirty first. Experience is essential and shows your true commitment, as well as putting the theory into practice.
Working in events requires a range of capabilities. While some eventprofs may argue that event planners are born and not made, you need to work towards developing these skills to give you the best chance of success.
Some of the things employers may be looking for in an ideal candidate include:
- Good organisation skills
- Time management
- Working to deadlines and under pressure
- Attention to detail
- Customer service
- Dedication, commitment and passion
Think carefully about these core skills and how to develop and demonstrate them. Think critically about situations where you have shown evidence in each of these key areas and be prepared to give details on your CV or covering letter and in an interview situation.
Get as Much Experience as Possible
Get as much variety in event work experience as possible and make yourself indispensable. Try different roles, work on different types of events and events big and small. A lot of this will be unpaid initially, but it is an investment in you and you will be rewarded by how much you absorb and a richer CV. In the longer term you never know if someone you volunteered for will remember you and make you a job offer, so always give 100%
- Internships will often require you to work on a specific project, for a specific time period, developing your project management skills.
- Volunteering is the easiest and most common way to get valuable experience and it isn’t just about music festivals. Contact your local council to know if they are looking for help for local public events, contact charities for year round opportunities, approach that conference that is coming to town or your local theatre.
- Working for a staffing agency will get you some experience on a large variety of events. Working in hospitality will teach you some of the skills required to be a good event planner and give a good understanding on what happens behind the scenes.
Build a Solid Network
Maintaining a good business network is essential in our industry. From finding the best suppliers and business partners, to collaborating and exchanging knowledge and ideas, you will hear about employment opportunities first if you are part of the eventprof community.
- Make sure to discuss with your fellow colleagues when volunteering or interning at events and stay in touch after the mission is over. You never know when opportunities might arise.
- Make yourself visible online and work on developing your personal brand. There is now a plethora of online tools available to showcase your profile. Take advantage of it and watch people come to you directly.
- Update your LinkedIn profile regularly, engage in industry related groups, get in touch with interesting people and influencers from the industry.
- Get on Twitter and engage in social media conversations using #eventprofs.
Find Event Jobs
If you are visible online and let the web know that you are looking for an opportunity, work might just come to you. Increasingly, HR services have stopped writing long descriptive job posts and losing time with random candidates. They will instead use that time productively by scanning LinkedIn for the potential perfect candidates and contacting them directly. So make sure your online presence is strong and interesting. You could even ask relevant connections to share your profile stating that you are looking for a new opportunity.
Be strategic with your job search. Start by defining in which part of the industry you ideally want to work. Is it a certain type of events you are most passionate about (festivals, corporate events, exhibitions, weddings)? Are you most interested in B2B or B2C events? Is there a certain niche or industry that appeals to you (arts and culture, pharmaceutical, technology, law)? Are you tied to a specific location or willing to relocate? Start with a narrow search and then expand progressively. You will quickly get a grasp of the state of the event industry job market.
Working for a large company is likely to involve a more formal recruitment process, and being assigned to a specific department with a definite job role and hierarchy. Working for a smaller company may mean a more personal recruitment process, and a more varied role.
Some event planning roles need staff to work remotely, the traditional office base is being eroded as technology makes it possible to do the planning and coordinating from anywhere in the world. This opens up a lot of opportunities. Companies want to work with the best people and physical location is becoming less of a barrier in certain circumstances.
2. Getting Noticed
Competition is fierce and every candidate needs to have a creative and outstanding CV. Although the majority of companies will still require CVs and cover letters for applications, try to break the mold by doing things differently to get noticed. Here there are 25+ resources that can help to get into event planning.
- 100% of candidates will send their CV and cover letter by email.
- Not everyone will send applications by post. Sending your application in the mail gives you room to include goodies with your CV and cover letter. You can express your creativity by customizing the envelope for example (calligraphy is a current trend), including a USB key featuring some documentation or a short film, or send along a portfolio.
- Not everyone will make cold calls. Speaking to the correct person, at least to know more about the company, and saying you are interested in applying, will show your interest and your telephone manner.
- Not everyone will contact the right people through relevant social media. Even if you get no response, the person will most probably scan your LinkedIn profile or your Twitter feed and know that you exist!
To inspire you, here are some innovative examples of unusual job applications that broke the internet.
3. The Interview
The first thing to do, is to do your research. What is the company history, its values, how are they structured, what do they do, who works for them, who are their main competitors and how do they differentiate from them. You will be able to find most of this information on their website, but don’t forget to scan their social media as well for latest news and Google them for articles about them. It is good to see what other people say about them. Expect to be asked what you know about the company and try to think about what you have learned as you respond to the interview questions.
Once you have a general idea of what the company is about, look at the application you have sent and try to anticipate the questions that might be asked. Prepare relevant examples of experience backing up your skills and practice with several people if you can. This will allow you to step back and envision the different scenarios and tricky questions that might occur.
Dress well and make an effort to show that you really care about this opportunity to impress. If it is an important corporate company, they will expect you to be dressed formally for the interview. If it is a more laid back, creative company, still dress smartly but don’t overdo it.
Ensure it isn’t a one way conversation. Show you’re interested by conducting a real conversation, asking plenty of questions about the job, the history, the employees. Be genuine, don’t just recite your pitch.
Don’t exaggerate your experience, trust your strengths and be aware of your weaknesses. Show some confidence but also awareness about your any gaps or areas for improvement. State how you are working towards your goals and how you have demonstrated skills in other ways, perhaps in your personal life.
Don’t just leave the interview waiting for an answer. Follow up on your meeting by sending a short email right after you come home, thanking them for their time and reminding them about your main motivations and expertise again. If they have seen 10 candidates in a row, they may appreciate your enthusiasm and remember who you are more clearly when making their final decision. If the deadline passes and you haven’t heard give them a call to check the progress, rather than just presuming the worst.
Even if they choose someone else, if you are really interested to work for this particular company, try to stay in touch beyond the interview process. Engage in a conversation, ask for advice and feedback, but don’t be pushy. Try to develop a real relationship, and if by some miracle the person they chose at first doesn’t work out, they might contact you again!
Finding an event planning job can be tough but if you follow these tips you will give yourself the best chance of success. Remember to always be genuine and work towards acquiring the skills needed to be an event planner, to get your hands dirty getting as much experience as possible and to work on your online presence to give you the opportunity to shine in an interview situation.
Good luck with your search!