Plan Your Perfect Career: Careers in Event Planning

Gaining in popularity over the last few years, event planning is a hot career track for many students. How do you break into the field? What exactly does an event planner do? Is it the right career for you? Let’s take a look.

Event Planning Is NOT Party Planning

Event planners work with special events of all kinds. Some events are social and some are business-focused, while others fall somewhere in between: Celebrations (ex. weddings), Education (ex. conferences), Promotions (ex. fashion shows), and Commemorations (ex. memorials).

National Association of Government Labor Officials Conference

But being the event planner for any special occasion is far from just planning a good party. Some of the responsibilities that fall to an event planner are:

  • Conducting research
  • Finding a site and arranging for food, decor, and entertainment
  • Sending invitations and arranging for necessary accommodations
  • Hiring employees to work the event as well as coordinating and supervising their activities

As you can imagine, being the event planner for a huge, national convention would require a lot of work and thousands of tiny details. A small wedding, on the other hand, might not be as overwhelming. However, event planners often work with very personal events – weddings, anniversary parties, memorials – that require a sensitivity to the emotions of the clients involved.

What Makes a Good Event Planner?

As with any field, certain skills and qualities are necessary and/or desired. Event planners should:

  • Have strong organizational skills and possess excellent attention to detail.
  • Be confident, flexible, and hardy. Planners are in charge of entire events, and things can go wrong. One must be ready for last-minute changes.
  • Be able to make decisions, immediately at times.
  • Have superior communication skills. Planners are working with vendors, staff, and their clients. Sending and receiving the correct messages is integral to ensuring everyone is on the same page. Tact is also important. Sometimes event planners have to break bad news to their clients.
  • Enjoy working with people. Event planning is a very people-oriented field.
  • Possess creative talents. Events often include some element of design, so creative skills are helpful. But creative skills also help with those last-minute snafus.

How to Start Your Career as an Event Planner

Earn a degree in a related field. Some great choices are communications, public relations, marketing, and management.

Look into internships with organizations that offer events frequently. Think about convention centers and hotels/resorts. Also, consider nonprofit organizations. Many nonprofits hold events and fundraisers for their causes.

Get involved with event planning on campus. Some UW-Whitewater examples include SEAL Internships, the UWW Event Planning Organization, and the Young Auditorium. And those are just a few of many great opportunities around campus.

Check out these additional resources to learn more about or to find opportunities in event planning:

Are you trying to pursue a career in event planning? What successes or struggles are you having?

Is the Music Industry Singing Your Name?

So you love music, but what on earth are you going to do with a degree in music? Well, there are a lot more opportunities and options than you think, and many of them are right under your nose. Even if you are not specifically a major in “music” but you enjoy it as a hobby, there are still ways for you to combine your passions.

Music - an art for itself - Headphones and music notes / musical notation system

Perhaps you have decided to pursue a degree in music, you have spent countless hours in the Greenhill Center of the Arts, and now its graduation time, or close to it. There are many fields you could pursue with your degree that people often overlook. Maybe you have a passion for music, but for the law as well. You could consider becoming a Music Lawyer and protect rights of composers, artists, and copyrights. Perhaps you have a passion for media as well as music. The position of a Mix Engineer would be perfect.

Let’s say you have majored in some area of business, but you still play an instrument or like to spend your free time singing and just are not ready to let go of that interest. There are still plenty of opportunities for you.

  • Stage Design and Management
  • Tour/Road Management
  • Talent Scouting
  • Song Plugging

How do you get experience in these fields? Start off by working for the local campus radio station, volunteer for industry events, work in an audio equipment sales store to learn more about the technology, or organize song writing session with other students. Below are some websites that can help you with your music career search.

UW-Madison Music Career Services

Inside Jobs

Photo by photosteve101

Careers in Biology: Tips from Sciences Employers

BPAE cells

Each year, Career & Leadership Development compiles an Annual Report of Employment & Continuing Education, a record of where the past year’s graduates are employed or are attending graduate or professional school. Here is a sample of where some of the biology grads from the past several years were employed after graduation:

I recently contacted some of the employers that have hired UW-W science grads, and here are some selected comments from them about employment preparation.

Online Image

  • Facebook is fine, but control access and privacy, and pay attention to what’s on your page. If you’d be embarrassed for your mother to see it, it is most likely not going to make a good impression on an employer.
  • LinkedIn – Use it! This is where you can really refine your professional online presence. Highlight your education, publications, accomplishments, and get recommendations from reputable sources (professors, respected researchers) as appropriate. Read LinkedIn profiles of recent grads from your major/profession to get an idea of what should be present on your page.
  • Twitter is good too, but tweets should be relevant. Tweeting every weekend about how awesome the latest party was won’t help you in the long run.

Resumes

  • Creative resume formats are not rewarded in science professions. Your resume should be professional, clean, and very easy to read.
  • Highlight your research topics and skills along with your talents and accomplishments.
  • Be succinct. Writing should be short and to the point. Run-on sentences or entire paragraphs will just get glossed over by a hiring manager.
  • Employers don’t care about anything from your high school unless you are an undergraduate looking for internships.

References

  • Be sure to contact your references to verify that their contact information is correct and to inform them that they may be contacted to serve as a reference. It is always most professional to ask permission of each person you desire to use as a reference. You want your references to be prepared to speak to your strengths.
  • Once a person agrees to serve as a reference, you should help them understand the company and type of role you are pursuing. This will allow the referee to tailor their comments accordingly.

Interviews

  • Go through mock interviews. Ask a career counselor, professor, or science professional to interview you as if they might hire you. Ask for honest feedback after the fact about your interview performance and demeanor. Make sure you do not have any nervous habits that can be distracting to a potential employer.
  • It’s difficult to overcome an unfavorable first impression. Portraying yourself in a professional manner is crucial for a successful interview. A significant part of a hiring decision is based on grooming, clothing, accessories, body language, eye contact and listening skills. It is important to carefully plan the professional image you want to project. Campus clothing and work clothing are two completely different worlds. Unfortunately, many recent grads underestimate the importance of conservative, professional clothing when interviewing.
  • Get a suit or other appropriate business attire. This is especially important when trying to get a job in industry. Showing up in jeans and your “nice” shirt will not send the message that you are serious. Consider the money for a good interview outfit to be an investment in your future.

Several science employers have scheduled recruitment visits to UW-Whitewater in April, and several others are in the process of scheduling. Watch for announcements for those events, and be prepared to impress the employers based upon the tips that they’ve provided.

Photo by Joseph Elsbernd.

I Study Psychology, But What Should I Do With My Life?

What do William James and Sigmund Freud have in common with Natalie Portman and Hugh Hefner? Strangely enough, they all majored in psychology. People with a degree in psychology find work in various fields. The American Psychological Association has almost 60 internal divisions that represent topics ranging from environmentalism to consumerism.

Carl Jung Quote

Students who study psychology have a wide range of skills that can be applied to several fields. These skills include understanding individual differences, writing skills, research methods and analysis, interpersonal skills, gathering information, and problem solving, among several others.

Several different fields of work employ students who study psychology. Even Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, employs doctorate graduates in psychology. Here is a list of some areas of work for students who study psychology to consider:

  • Human Services (Direct care, Administration): Examples – psychotherapy, advocacy, grant writing
  • Research: Examples – market research, experimental psychology
  • Education: Examples – teaching, higher education administration and student support services
  • Human Resources: Examples – employment and recruitment, labor relations
  • Business and Industry: Examples – sales, public relations, insurance, real estate

With all of these career options, one of the major factors to consider is whether or not you desire to pursue a bachelor degree in psychology or various types of advanced degrees (i.e. master, doctorate) in psychology.

For example, if you desire to work as a therapist, an advanced degree will be required.

Additionally, you will have to consider ways to gain certain skills and experiences that will make a psychology degree more valuable in different fields. For example, if you are studying psychology and aspire to work in business and industry or human resources, it is essential that you pursue related internships and employment opportunities prior to graduating.

It is important to consider the level of your degree and the career you desire to pursue in order to make the best decisions about graduate school and about opportunities you seek while in college.

Here are a few resources for students majoring in psychology:

And as always, if you are considering graduate school options in psychology or thinking about you can gain experience, such as internships or employment, contact Career and Leadership Development to make an appointment.

Photo by David Webb/Psychology Pictures.

From the Archives: Soar with a Major in Health, Human Performance and Recreation Major

This post was originally posted on January 25, 2010 by Ellen Hatfield. 

The Winter Olympics are just a few short weeks away (the Opening Ceremony is February 12th!). All eyes from around the world will be on Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada. I thought it would be fitting to explore career paths in the field of sports and recreation.

On the UW-Whitewater campus, the department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Coaching has a major (Health, Human Performance and Recreation) for those individuals who don’t necessarily want to teach physical education. With this major, students can choose from several different pathways for their career development. Fields include exercise science, health behavior science, sports management, coaching, and athletic training to name a few. The field is quite competitive, and if you open yourself up to the potential of pursuing different career paths within the sports and recreation fields, you’ll probably have greater success of establishing yourself professionally.

In exercise science there are a variety of areas to look at including: physical fitness, athletic training, physical or occupational therapies, education, business, or sports medicine. Sports managment areas include: amateur athletics, facilities and event management, professional teams and leagues, sports merchandising, and leisure and fitness. Also check out athletics & sport and recreation & leisure studies from University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

Employers in the sports and recreation fields are as varied as the areas of focus. Employers include: colleges and universities, national/state governing bodies, International Olympic Committee (IOC), training centers, YMCA, sports camps, stadiums, golf courses, city parks and recreation departments, professional teams, health clinics, retirement centers, resorts, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and health clubs and fitness centers, to name just a few.

As I said before, the field of sports and recreation is competitive. You have to prepare yourself to work hard. There are some things you can do while you are still college. Join professional organizations, often there are student rates that get you all or most of the same benefits as the professionals. Get involved with athletic teams, intramurals, or other recreation programs on campus. Do one or more internships. Professional teams and leagues will often have internship opportunties in multiple areas.

Other resources online to check out:

Whatever career path you decide to choose to coordinate with your Health, Human Performance and Recreation major, do what interests you and find the career that you love.

To all, enjoy watching the Olympics in February as athletes follow their dreams and compete on snow and ice!

Photo by: t a k k  (http://www.flickr.com/photos/abphoto/ / CC BY 2.0)

From the Archives: Event Planning

This post was orginially posted on Feburary 14, 2011 by Kathy Craney.

This morning as I was getting ready for work, I was watching a Milwaukee news program and saw an interview from the Milwaukee NARI Spring Home Improvement Show. They have over 330 exhibitors and more than 700 booth spaces as well as speakers, competitions, etc. Home improvement may not be your particular interest, but have you ever thought about what goes into planning an event and who coordinates all those people/spaces/etc? An Event Planner, also known as a Meeting or Convention Planner.

Other Titles:

  • Corporate Planner
  • Government Meeting Planner
  • Convention Services Manager
  • Conference Coordinator
  • Education Planner
  • Manager of Registration
  • Education Seminar Coordinator
  • Conference Services Director

Qualifications:

1. Many employers prefer applicants who have a bachelor’s degree:

  • Marketing
  • Public Relations
  • Communications
  • Business
  • Hotel or Hospitality Management

2. Experience planning meetings for a university organization or club (Also think Internships!)

3. Useful Skills:

  • Excellent written and verbal communications
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Good at establishing and maintaining relationships
  • Detail-oriented
  • Ability to multi-task
  • Meet tight deadlines
  • Maintain composure under pressure
  • Quantitative and analytical skills
  • Computer skills
  • Speaking multiple languages may be a plus

Job Prospects: Employment of meeting and convention planners is expected to grow 16 percent over the 2008-18 decade, which is faster than the average for all occupations.  Opportunities will be best for individuals with a bachelor’s degree and some meeting planning experience.

For Further Information:

  1. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition Meeting and Convention Planners
  2. For information about meeting planner certification, contact: Convention Industry Council, 700 N. Fairfax St., Suite 510, Alexandria, VA 22314
  3. For information about the Certified Government Meeting Professional designation, contact: Society of Government Meeting Professionals, 908 King St., Lower Level, Alexandria, VA 22314
  4. For information about internships and on-campus student meeting planning organizations, contact: Professional Convention Management Association, 2301 S. Lake Shore Dr., Suite 1001, Chicago, IL 60616-1419
  5. For information about meeting planning education, entering the profession, and career paths, contact: Meeting Professionals International, 3030 Lyndon B Johnson Fwy., Suite 1700, Dallas, TX 75234-2759
  6. Additional career information about meeting and convention planners

Nonprofit Organizations

Years ago I was working with a student looking for a job. As we were discussing areas where he could look, I mentioned non-profit organizations (NPOs). He told me he couldn’t consider them – his parents didn’t want him to work for a non-profit. It occurred to me at that point people don’t understand what non-profit organizations are and are not.

Service intern Gwen Casebeer works with a stream insect beside Natioonal Park Service staff and volunteers

First, a definition: A nonprofit organization (abbreviated as NPO, also known as a not-for-profit organization) is an organization that does not distribute its surplus funds to owners or shareholders, but instead uses them to help pursue its goals. Nonprofit organizations may generate revenue, but this revenue cannot be distributed to owners or employees as they might be in a for-profit business. Nonprofits include, but are not limited to, hospitals, churches, educational institutions, social welfare organizations, and charitable organizations.

Salary information: You may be surprised at some of the salaries in non-profit organizations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2007:

    • The average hourly earnings of full-time workers in nonprofits were $21.68.
    • Managers in nonprofits averaged $34.24 per hour.
    • Business and financial operations occupations at nonprofit establishments earned an average of $26.49 per hour.
    • Computer and mathematical science occupations average wages of those employed by nonprofits was $32.00 per hour.
    • The average hourly earnings of legal occupations at nonprofits were $33.53.
    • Office and administrative support occupations include secretaries and administrative assistants as well as tellers, dispatchers, and various types of clerks. The average hourly wages of nonprofit office and administrative support workers were similar for those in state government, $15.92.

Sample Job Titles in Non-Profits:

    • Marketing Director
    • Assistant Marketing Director
    • Director of Development/Fund Raising
    • Event Coordinator
    • Publication Specialist

For Further Information:

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

Event Planning

This morning as I was getting ready for work, I was watching a Milwaukee news program and watched an interview from the Milwaukee NARI Spring Home Improvement Show. They have over 330 exhibitors and more than 700 booth spaces as well as speakers, competitions, etc.

Home improvement may not be your particular interest, but have you ever thought about what goes into planning an event and who coordinates all those people/spaces/etc? An event planner – also known as a meeting or convention planner.

Other Titles:

  • Corporate Planner
  • Government Meeting Planner
  • Convention Services Manager
  • Conference Coordinator
  • Education Planner
  • Manager of Registration
  • Education Seminar Coordinator
  • Conference Services Director

The core components

Qualifications:

1. Many employers prefer applicants who have a bachelor’s degree in:

  • Marketing
  • Public Relations
  • Communications
  • Business
  • Hotel or Hospitality Management

2. Experience planning meetings for a university organization or club (Also think internships!)

3. Useful Skills:

  • Excellent written and verbal communications
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Good at establishing and maintaining relationships
  • Detail-oriented
  • Ability to multi-task
  • Meet tight deadlines
  • Maintain composure under pressure
  • Quantitative and analytical skills
  • Computer skills
  • Speaking multiple languages may be a plus

Job Prospects: Employment of meeting and convention planners is expected to grow 16 percent over the 2008-18 decade, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Opportunities will be best for individuals with a bachelor’s degree and some meeting planning experience.

For Further Information:

  1. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition Meeting and Convention Planners
  2. For information about meeting planner certification, contact: Convention Industry Council, 700 N. Fairfax St., Suite 510, Alexandria, VA 22314
  3. For information about the Certified Government Meeting Professional designation, contact: Society of Government Meeting Professionals, 908 King St., Lower Level, Alexandria, VA 22314
  4. For information about internships and on-campus student meeting planning organizations, contact: Professional Convention Management Association, 2301 S. Lake Shore Dr., Suite 1001, Chicago, IL 60616-1419
  5. For information about meeting planning education, entering the profession, and career paths, contact: Meeting Professionals International, 3030 Lyndon B Johnson Fwy., Suite 1700, Dallas, TX 75234-2759
  6. Additional career information about meeting and convention planners

Photo by mpclemens.