The events industry is one of youth and vibrancy, an industry that has flourished in the past three decades. This has led to the development of a large number of university courses focused on providing people with the skill sets needed to thrive in such an environment.
But is the proliferation of events management degree courses a mixed blessing?
The realistic expectations
Perhaps controversially, I believe event management courses lack the ability to provide students with a realistic expectation of securing a direct route into the industry, something that is incredibly important considering the current economic climate.
Call to action: Why I think this is important
This post has stemmed from a phone call I received from one of my old event management lecturers asking me to come in and talk to her current students to discuss, “how easy it is to get into the events industry”.
Now, my first reaction was, “yes, I would love to have that opportunity”. However, it got me thinking, these students don’t need someone coming in to raise their hopes, they need someone to manage their expectations. In fact, never has it been more important to be honest with those attempting to carve out a career in the events industry.
The great expectation: It’s not just festivals and party planning
The events industry is one mired by people evangelising the glamorous side – particularly, celebrity weddings and party planners. Of course, that side does exist. Much like any industry, it has its glamorous edge, an area that many of us, myself included, would like to be involved with.
But I’ve noticed an increasing trend of students falling in love with the romantic idea of organising festivals, music gigs and parties and I think it’s unfair for young people to think this is all there is to it.
Reality: What now?
To some extent I shared this romanticised view. However, I still found myself in the same situation as a lot of post-graduates, asking myself, “what now”?
So I’ve been there. It took me six months after graduating to secure a job within the events industry after going through interview after interview, and later, despite my 10 years of experience, I landed a job in an area of the industry with which I had little or no experience.
The cliché is you need experience to get the job, but you can’t get the job to give you that experience. This is a problem a lot of students are coming up against, especially in a private sector saturated with qualified postgraduates.
To clarify, I am not attempting to disillusion anyone, as the events industry is great and I thoroughly enjoy my job. However, people need to be realistic about how to achieve their goals. A lot of people ask me how I got my job and I wholeheartedly believe it was because of my experience and not my degree. I started off as an operations assistant for a corporate events company, I have worked my way up the ladder, going out on events, assisting in the organisation and then organising my own events, and this was all before I had even set foot in a university.
Three long years: The results
I appreciate starting at the bottom always appears to be very strenuous and long winded. However, it has provided me with a much broader insight into how everything works and a lot of employers look for this kind of experience along with evidence of your work ethic. In hindsight, my degree provided me with evidence of my ability to study and to commit to something.
What to do about it all?
So you have got this far, but what should you actually do next? If you’re considering going to university to study events, I would advise you to go out and get some work experience and make sure it is what you want to do before you commit yourself to a degree. But the real issue for those who are out of university is how to make yourself stand out from the crowd.
Without the right experience and proof of your capabilities it is very hard for you to stand out. My advice is to volunteer your services. Yes, it is hard work, but when is anything worthwhile easy? It is made considerably harder by the fact that the large majority of internships within the events industry are unpaid.
Don’t just use an internship as an opportunity to showcase your capabilities to your boss in the hope of securing a full-time position, use this as an opportunity to show everyone what you are capable of and, more importantly, network and build up your contacts to help you stay one step ahead. Use an internship as an chance to get your name out there.
In the events industry everyone works with everyone so it is important that you use every occasion you can, without stepping on anyone’s toes, to meet new people – this is how opportunities arise. It may be a sad fact, but it is very much about who you know rather than what you know. Hard work will get you recognised, but it is up to you to ensure that you are spotted by the right people.
It only takes one person in the right position to recognise your hard work and potential.
Knowledge is power
The events industry is young and as a consequence is ever changing. New fashions develop at an alarming rate, some new, some revitalised. Research, find out about these new fashions and look for new ideas or inspiration. Surprise a prospective employer, impress them with your understanding of the industry and provide them with a reason to employ you – sell yourself and never undersell your capabilities.
Then and now
If someone asked me now how to get into the events industry, I would probably tell them to think long and hard about studying a degree in events. It’s a fantastic industry, one that is energising and dynamic. However, prospective students should go out and get a real taste of it first with volunteer work or a few weeks work experience here and there. Provide yourself with all the information you need to make an informed decision. This is what I have done and I am in a job I love, working for a company that I believe in.
Just remember, you’re likely to work for the next 50 years of your life so find something you love to do and, most importantly, find your passion.
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