Warning: Super long post alert!
If you're a regular reader here you may already know what I do as my daily 9 - 5, but for those of you who don't, Events Co-ordination sums it up nicely. One of the most common emails I receive are from those of you who are interested in a career in events and are struggling for advice on working in this industry. I am by no means an expert on the subject, but if you've emailed me you'll know I'm always happy to help you guys out. After all, I've been there at that stage where I knew what I wanted to do and had no idea how I was going to get there. Before I crack on, a big thank you to the lovely ladies on twitter who kindly tweeted me your questions so that I can start a general FAQ for you:
01. How did you get into working in events?
In all honesty it was accidentally on purpose. I'd spent 3 years as the weekend manager for a company that ran children's parties - so I was far more into working with children and never gave events a second thought. After one massive uni rejection (over 1000 applicants and less than 200 places for my course meant even my A grades stood very little chance), I didn't know what i wanted to do and started temping for a big corporate company. My time was split between two roles, one being a graphics assistant, and one as a PA to our marketing director - I moved from setting up small meetings to conferences, department parties and then entire office moves. This kept a 3 month position extended to a year, and I found a job role that I was happy in and pretty danm good at. I also learnt a lot about marketing and branding at the same time - for the blog and furture jobs this was invaluable.
I then left to work as an events co-ordinator for stag and hen do's. Before I'd started this job, I'd met with another company, who had no vacancies in their office at the time, and after two months at my new job, I was on the move again to work with my current company for the summer. Another temporary position, but I loved them when I met them (still do now) and took a leap of faith. Needless to stay it paid off as I'm there for good now!
02. I'm starting a uni course in events management in Sept, any tips on how to prepare myself?
I never went to uni, so I can't answer from experience, but aside from working your little bum off, make sure you get lots of solid work experience alongside your degree. Qualifications are amazing, but employers like to see you already have the experience needed for your potential job role (see "05."for work experience). Work experience will also give good insight into what it's actually like to work in the industry, as i've heard some courses can make if seem more glamorous than it is (don't get me wrong it can be) but you don't want to go into your career path with rose tinted glasses on (see 03. for the daily routine).
03. What is your daily routine in the job you are in?
Put simply: there isn't one. Your role within a company will dictate your hours and your responsibilities. I'm fairly junior, as you'd expect for someone who's 21, but I still have a job role that holds a lot of responsibility - I can't always walk out the office bang on 6pm and I don't take a lunch break some days. At this time of year that's rare as long as you manage your time well, but over the summer or pre christmas - I could be in the office way past 6pm, depending on how crazy things are and occasionally I may have to work at the weekend. Lots of job roles in this industry can be very reactive, depending on what your client wants, so every day can be different, for some people that's hell, but it's one of the things I love most.
Any advice on how to start doing what you're doing?
Work your bums off! This goes for any industry, although I fell into this career and have been very luckily in the way things worked out, it would never have happened if I didn't keep myself motivated and constantly pushed myself to develop. It's easy to get comfortable in a role, but employers want to see growth both when they look at your cv, and after they've employed you. You also need to think about your location, the area within the events industry, and your preferred job role within it, before anything else (see my notes after the FAQ).
Any tips on how to gain work experience?
Another question that can be applied to more than just the events industry. Assuming you've all been taught how to write a cv and covering letter (I'm aware not all schools and colleges see covering letters as vital - god knows why! If you struggle writing a covering letter, see this link here, it helped me write a kick ass covering letter), and that you've decided on the area of events you want to work in (see below) you need to start researching those kinds of companies to see where your opportunities lie. Some companies will clearly advertise vacancies and internships, but even if they don't, there should be a contact email where you can send your covering letter.
If you find a company you can get regular work with that's great as your can build up responsibilities, but also be sure to get experience with different companies as employers like to see that you can adapt to fit different environments. Finally, don't be scared of rejection, it happens to everyone. if you're lucky you may get some feedback and if you do then take note of it!
Areas within the industry
Although "Events" takes up an industry of it's own, it actually overlaps with so many other industries, and as a result can become slightly mind boggling! There are so many ways to break it down, but this is my take on what I've experienced so far, otherwise I could just spend all day googling it:
Personal Events and Special Occasions: This isn't just parties, weddings or stag and hen do's, although they're probably the first one's you'd think of. These types of events are super rewarding when all your hard work comes together, but you need to remember you will be working with clients who are very emotionally attached to every aspect of this event, so it can become especially stressful.
Experiential Marketing and PR Events: Although I sum it up in five words, this section has a seriously wide range from promotional or sampling events that can take place either in store or in public to press days and editorial events. These kind of events are applicable to so many different companies and events.
Corporate Events: This can be anything from in house meetings to department-wide conferences. It can be demanding and sometimes scary depending on the business bods who attend, but working with big venues is a very exciting and rewarding experience.
Gigs, Festivals and Exhibitions: This category is for any kind of event that displays an artist and their work. It's probably the area I have least experience in, and I would say you'd need strong production knowledge and skills for this one.
Although there are exceptions, the events industry is far bigger in larger cities than anywhere else, London obviously being the biggest. Some types of events will be more accessible in your area than others. For example, Brighton's nightlife is pretty awesome in comparison to smaller towns, so I have a fair few friends who are steering towards party planning. However we're lacking in marketing and PR events in comparison to London. So if you're out in the countryside, you may need to think about where you'll need to move/travel to if there's nothing locally.
Looking for jobs in the industry can be tricky, not all jobs in events come under the "events co-ordination" search. You can have roles like account execs (nothing to do with accounting as I once thought!) who will take care of the running of an event. Sounds silly but just make sure you always give the job description a thorough read through!
Rome wasn't built in a day blah blah blah. As there's no hard and fast route in, the time it takes to break in to the industry is down to personal difference. Just be patient, keep yourself positive and motivated and work super hard, it will all work out in the end.
The experience you need will depend on the company you want to work for. An example of this is an agency that produces PR events for different brands, for this you will need to have good marketing/PR knowledge as well as good brand awareness. For special occasions, it's good to have experience of working with different suppliers - caterers, hotels, bars ect, and venues. For corporate events, prior experience of running business meetings is definitely a good start. There is no solid rule or 1+1 formula when it comes to getting the right experience, but you can never have too much!
Hopefully this was useful to some of you. I found some other posts that might help here and here. You can also get a fair few results by Googling "careers in the events industry". If you have any other questions please pop them below, I will answer them and they will also go into a new FAQ tab coming to the navigation bar soon *points upwards*.
Disclaimer: I by no means am an expert on this subject, this is just my advice from what I have learnt over the past two years. Different companies may have a slightly different preference for qualities and experience in potential candidates, but this occurs in most industries. A few details - company names and job titles - have been vaguely brushed over for my own personal privacy. Finally, all opinions and advice is 100% honest, I love my job and my company so much, and want to give people the right advice so they can feel the same way.