The old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!” still rings true today.
The best place to start is through your personal network. Make a list of everyone that might be of help to you. Even if someone is in a different industry or department, don’t discount them, they may know about a position or company that you haven’t thought of. After you come up with your list of contacts, put together your elevator pitch.
Decide what type of employer and position you want and then craft a clear and concise mini-bio of sorts to share with your network. Call, email, take someone out for coffee or lunch, you need to draw upon all of your resources. Keeping up and involved with people is something you should be doing ongoing and not just when you’re looking for help. Reach out and try to be a resource to your contacts and you will be amazed at the opportunities that come up - often when you least expect it.
Tami Gilbertson, CMP, Corporate Events Director, emphasizes the importance of maintaining good relationships ALL the time and not just when you need something, “A planner should always be building, using and reciprocating with his or her network. The people a planner connects with, the relationships he or she develops, the information the connections hold, and the access to other contacts and information is extremely valuable in good times or bad.
A planner must nurture his or her network. It can’t just be used as needed and then shelved. Efforts need to be made to stay in touch and remain connected and remain valued within your community. Take inventory so you know where your value lies - This person asks me about contracts and this one asks me about site inspections – and this one, I just make him laugh! And, it’s reciprocal. What does each person bring to you - who helps you with negotiations and who knows the best properties? Who do you use as a sounding board? Know your network and use it to help others as well as yourself.“
For those unemployed job seekers, be open to contract work, you’ll gain experience, meet new contacts, and possibly find long-term employment. “Connect with all your contacts and let them know that you will work as an independent contractor for planning assignments. Obviously this requires being prepared, both from a home office and technology perspective, to do this effectively.” advises Todd M. Hanson, CRP, CPIM, President and Founder, Catalyst Performance Group, Inc.
Hanson also notes that it’s best to keep an open mind and not limit oneself to one specific function or job, “Planners should consider all options in their field of expertise. I have seen displaced planners find great work serving as on-site travel staff and have seen this assignment lead to extended planning engagements. On-site work enables a planner to really get to know a company’s culture and key personnel, both being very beneficial.”
Do some research and find some companies or groups that you’d love to work with and see if they have any volunteer opportunities. Perhaps you have your eye on your dream employer, if they don’t have existing volunteer positions, offer suggestions on how you might help and create something that offers them value and gives you exposure. Or maybe they are involved with a charity or not-for-profit group, reach out to these groups and see how you can be of best help.
LinkedIn offers a variety of groups including several for meeting professionals. If you’re new to the industry reach out and join these groups, then get involved, ask questions, get in on conversations offering advice when you can. Meeting Professionals International (MPI) as well as state chapters all have groups that offer some great learning and networking opportunities.
Twitter is a growing medium that with a little practice can be a fantastic resource. Once you register for an account you can seek out conversations and groups using the # sign and key words, for example, type in #meetingprofessionals or #meetingplannerjobs and then check out the various tweets about these topics.
2012: Meeting, Convention, and Event Planner
Best Business Jobs of 2012,
This profession should see significant growth over the next decade
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects meeting, convention, and event planner employment growth of 43.7 percent between 2010 and 2020, adding 31,300 more jobs. Favorable job prospects (as well as strong job satisfaction scores) help this profession rank in the top tier of The Best Jobs of 2012.
The Labor Department reports the median annual wage for meeting, convention, and event planners was $45,260 in 2010. The best-paid 10 percent in the field made approximately $76,840, while the bottom 10 percent made approximately $27,090. According to the BLS, the highest paid in the profession work in the metropolitan areas of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Lowell, Mass., and Kingston, N.Y.
[See our list of The Best Business Jobs.]
Meeting, Convention, and Event Planner Salary Range:
75th Percentile Wage: $59,130
Median Wage: $45,260
25th Percentile Wage: $34,800
Education and Preparation:
A bachelor’s degree is generally the preferred academic education. Some schools offer meetings management degrees, but real-world experience may be the most important factor in getting a job. In terms of job advancement, you might move from a small organization to a larger one, or gain additional certifications or credentials through continuing education that may help with finding higher-paying work. Over time and with experience, you could open your own meeting planning firm or become an independent consultant.
On Landing a Meeting, Convention, and Event Planner Job:
“Back in the day, event planners usually had degrees in communications or public relations,” says Shea, who’s been doing event planning for SXSW for 22 years. “But anyone could be a planner if they have enough brass to make spur-of-the-moment decisions that impact thousands of attendees.” Shea says certain degree programs will teach the basics of contract negotiations, scheduling, risk management, and insurance-any or all of which can help you lock down an internship.
[In Pictures: The 10 Best Jobs.]
What is a Meeting, Convention, and Event Planner Job Like?
“For 51 weeks, [event planning is] like building a bungee-jump tower out of toothpicks. Tedious and demanding,” says Shea. “On week 52, you climb to the top and tie the bungee to your ankle and hope everything holds. Then you dust yourself off and start all over again.” Shea says the job involves a lot of “tight-wire walking” because the most minute details can turn a success into a disaster (and vice-versa), all while operating in the spotlight. “I’ve seen plenty of tears over the years, but every planner deals with the stress differently,” he says. “You don’t have to be a genius to succeed in the job, but you have to thrive under pressure and actually love the challenge.”