Clever Carly: Event Planner Career Mapping for Whatever Stage You're In

Whether you're fresh out of college or a seasoned veteran, Carly leads the way

Hello, my expert (or novice) planners! It's Clever Carly here. 

Let's face it--working as an event planner is a pretty sweet deal. Despite its perks, however, there's also a bit of ambiguity associated with mapping a career in our industry, as no two planners' clients or days will mirror each other's exactly. And figuring out where (or how) to take the next big leap toward success can seem confusing.  

No fear, my overachieving planning gurus: I'm here to help. Whether you're fresh out of college searching for your first gig or a seasoned veteran in the event industry space, you'll find something for you in my tips for staying ahead.  

In or Fresh Out of College 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while most event planning positions require some kind of bachelor's degree in communications, business, business management or similar types of study, not all do. Your best bet is to start compiling a list of the places you'd like to work on job-hunting websites like Indeed and doing a quick scan of the "requirements" section. Various businesses and agencies might also require or prefer job-relevant certifications, like a CMP (Certified Meeting Professional). 

As a new kid on the block, your résumé will likely be sparse. Along with degrees and certifications, do your best to fill that void with as much volunteer work as possible--local charities and fundraisers are perfect for this. 

Your daily to-do list:

  • Scan job-hunting websites and take note of the requirements of each position that catches your eye
  • If you haven't already, sign up for event planning certification courses 
  • Actively seek out volunteer opportunities

Working as an Entry-Level Planner 

Congratulations on your first big-time gig, you superstar, you! Don't kick up your feet just yet, however--you're at a pivotal point in a planning career that needs continuous tending. 

Start networking like crazy. While the most obvious reason for doing so is purely to build your name and connections, it's also helpful for projecting exactly where you'd like your career path to pivot. Although the majority of us fit under the "event planner" umbrella, there are several branches that fall beneath it. Do you want to work for a boutique firm that specializes in a single type of clientele? (This could be an optimal moment to blend two passions, should you have a penchant for the arts or a particular type of business.) Alternatively, would you rather work for a larger event planning firm that spans a multitude of clients or the hotel industry? I've met a bounty of immensely talented planners and event professionals during my time here at Marriott International. The only way you'll likely be able to answer these two questions is by continuously talking to people in your industry. 

Your daily to-do list:

  • Continuously seek out networking events--plan for at least one a month
  • Connect with seasoned event planners on LinkedIn and attempt to establish a conversation
  • Seek out new certification opportunities 

In the Middle of Your Career 

By this point in your career, you're pretty much a planning rock star. But going from average midlevel to exceptional leadership will take some ingenuity and creativity on your part. 

Whether that's positioning yourself as a thought leader by starting an industry-specific blog, diversifying your knowledge base with cooking courses or leadership conferences, or even starting your own consulting position on the side, make yourself indispensable as an event planner. We all wear several hats (a tired phrase, but an astute one for planners), so ensuring that your knowledge base extends beyond the basics of organization and relationship building is crucial. 

Your daily to-do list:

  • Pinpoint your biggest on-the-job challenges and strengths 
  • Seek and sign up for a unique, maybe slightly odd, course that might pertain to your job (for example, dining etiquette courses, improv comedy classes)
  • Start a blog or seek to mentor younger staff

Seasoned Veteran

As an event planning veteran, you know menu preparation, leadership tactics and interpersonal relationships like the back of your hand. But as the steady-moving digitization of our industry continues to increase, those tried-and-true skills will need to be expanded on or modified to keep you relevant (and hirable). 

More than ever, attendees want to be engaged and not just a static audience. Several emerging technologies are catering to this attitude, including apps for polling and contests, virtual reality experiences and social media conversations. While these digital tactics dominate events today, it's unclear if they will tomorrow--so understanding digital trends holistically, rather than specifically, will help to steer you in the innovative direction. 

Your daily to-do list:

  • Continuously scan sites like MeetingsImagined.com for the latest trends and tips on digital-driven meetings
  • Chat up younger co-workers on the ways they use Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter-and any new networks that you start hearing chatter about

One important thing to note, regardless of the stage you're at in your planning career: Staying abreast of the latest event and hospitality trends and innovations (in addition to seeking fresh creative inspiration) is crucial. Check back in two weeks for more helpful tips. You can find me on meetingsimagined.com, and on Facebook and Twitter. Until then, happy planning!

Always your planning career guide,
Clever Carly