I am currently an assistant party and event planner, a position I have held for about two years. This position requires me to help in the planning and organizing of a variety of events, such as business outings, birthdays, weddings, and family reunions. While the company has several highly experienced planners who carry out the bulk of the work related to the conception of the events, I am asked to assist in this process on many occasions. This process involves assisting in the design of a custom event, rather than simply blowing up balloons or hanging the stereotypical decorations. In particular, I have been involved with helping multiple clients design events that are unique and specifically tailored to their company. Additionally, planning a party or event needs to fall within the established budget of clients, which requires a complete understanding of what the client needs as well as the current rates of vendors.
Part of my responsibility includes meeting with clients initially to establish a relationship as well as gaining a complete understanding of what they want. This requires a balance between listening to their needs while making sure they understand want their budget can actually buy. In several cases, I have had to let a client know that the elaborate plans they envisioned were simply not possible based on the budget they provided. This requires the ability to play the role of counselor and help them see that an excellent event or party can still be arranged, but with fewer elaborate decorations or audio/visual elements.
Also, my responsibilities include remaining at the event site throughout to make sure I am available in case there are any issues. When such occasions arise—which have happened a few times over the past two years—I find ways to solve the problems as quickly as possible without causing noticeable disruptions to the event. Once the event is over, I am also responsible for the cleanup. For this process, I supervise two other staffers, which is the only time I act in a supervisory role.
Specifically, some of the events I have personally worked on include assisting with children’s parties. My role typically includes the following: booking of selected venue, if desired – or setup at customer’s home if preferred; completed decorations; refreshments as selected by the parents (or the person that booked the party); small party gifts; entertainment, if desired at additional costs (i.e., clown, magician, etc.); music provided, if desired; invitations to party may also be included upon request. Basically, under the direction of the primary event planner, I assist with coordinating all the details required to ensure an event runs smoothly and successfully. Some of the event coordinators that I work with are independent freelancers but are hired by the company. This is something I have thought about trying at some point, but I am not sure whether or not I have the personality necessary to run my own business. My career goals are more in line with working for a larger company or organization in the same field.
Reading What Color is Your Parachute (Bolles, 2013) helped me see that the career path I envision for myself aligns with who I am as a person. One of the most important exercises that a person can undertake, as explained by Bolles, is to develop a clearer understanding of who you really are and what you expect out of life. For example, some people may have worked in a particular field for many years and then reach the point where they are burned out. In most cases, that happens because they selected a career that was not compatible with who they are. Bolles (2013) provides much more than just tips on what to say and what not to say in an interview or the best ways to get noticed by the human resources department. By understanding what you want out of life, not just today, but ten or twenty years from now, you are much more likely to make decisions—including career choices—that can help you get there. In my case, I want to work for a larger company as one of the primary meeting and event planners. A sample job description for such a company can be viewed in the Appendix.
Authors such as Gabric and McFadden (2000) determined that time management and communication skills are often more marketable skills than advanced mathematical abilities. Of course, I will certainly need excellent math and even accounting skills to operate in the field of event planning. But, since communication is an area that I have determined I need to work on, a great deal of effort may be required prior to graduation in order to improve in these skills. It is also apparent that being able to work successfully with other people is a critical skill for the event planning profession. This indicates a need to develop the ability to speak well in front of others since clients often need to be persuaded to change or adapt their original concepts. Obviously, the more self-confidence a person has, the more effective they should be in other aspects of their lives, including a career. By developing attributes and skills over the coming years of professional, social and cultural experience, the chances of having a successful career in event and meeting planning are increased.
According to an assessment by Cranmer (2006), “despite the best intentions of academics to enhance graduates’ employability, the limitations inherent within the agenda will consistently produce mixed outcomes.” Therefore, I am aware that simply obtaining a certain degree (or combination of degrees) will assure me of the career of my choice. Conversely, there are still some basic requirements that professionals in my chosen filed will look for and so I need to be prepared for that and try to meet those expectations. While there is no consensus within the industry regarding educational requirements, most major companies do expect candidates for job openings to have at least an undergraduate degree in a field, such as business, communications or in the hospitality field. More importantly, employers are unlikely to hire someone without previous experience in event planning, especially if they typically organize large events and meetings (Cardenas, N.D.).
Many organizations require event coordinators to possess a Bachelor’s degree in a field applicable to the industry, such as business, communication, hospitality management, or public relations (Cardenas, N.D.). Moreover, some companies take into consideration the work-related experience of an individual and this is often valued even more highly than a degree. Since part of the duties of assistant planners (or administrative assistants) is to perform alongside a trained professional, this experience cannot be underestimated. In addition, organizations that serve the event planning community are offering certification programs that may also provide potential event planners with additional valuable credentials. For example, the Connected International Meeting Professionals Association (CIMPA) and the Convention Industry Council are two such organizations offering certifications.
I understand that, since I am interested in event and meeting planning, relevant work experience is invaluable. In order to move forward within the career, I need to seize any available opportunities that come my way. I have learned as much as I can about everyone else in my workplace and how they handle their responsibilities. Additionally, I put myself forward by offering to take on extra work and got involved with innovative projects. I expect this to help me in my career since I realize that event planners need a good imagination, an eye for detail, and sound business sense. These are skills I am practicing now, even as an assistant event planner, so that I can demonstrate these capabilities to a future employer. Since event planners need to be creative and organized, I am working on these traits as I handle each assignment. Based on the realization that good communication skills are critical for event planners, my education thus far has emphasized this skill, which will assist me in working with a wide variety of people in the business (Cardenas, N.D.).
As an event coordinator, I will need to be detail-oriented and organized, since most events require the balancing of multiple details at one time. As discussed in more detail in the next section, I understand the value of good communication skills and anticipate that the type of company I want to work for will place an extremely high value on this skill. Therefore, my current degree, as well as the one I am currently working toward, emphasizes business trends in communication. It will be especially critical when I am working for a major company to be able to communicate with vendors, clients, management, and all other stakeholders. I also accept the reality of working longs hours whenever required and apply for overtime now to prepare for that.
It is certainly important when planning for a long-term career to understand what potential employers are looking for in an employee. By applying the information learned by means of researching literature on career goals in general and the event planning industry in particular, I believe I am able to direct my efforts in the proper direction, rather than focus on areas that will not really benefit me or help me attain my goals for the future. However, this certainly does not mean that I can neglect the technical areas of education that are still critical and that I have worked so hard to achieve. However, I also appreciate that a future employer will also place value on the experience I am gaining now in the field of event planning and that will augment what I accomplish related to my education.
The type of organization I want to work for in the next five or ten years is similar to the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Asia Pacific. Not only do I envision working for a major organization with the responsibility of planning and organizing large events, but I would also like to have the opportunity to work overseas. The type of events scheduled would include conferences, workshops, conventions, and other large gatherings related to company activities.
Currently, I have an AA degree in liberal arts, with an emphasis on communication. The necessary steps required to reach my ultimate career goal are included here (See also Table 1). I am working toward earning a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Studies (BAS), with a minor in communication. Once I complete the BAS (one year from now), I plan on attending CSUS to obtain a certificate in meeting and event planning (ME). Earning a ME takes an estimated one and a half years to complete. In addition, my goal is to obtain certification by the Connected International Meeting Professionals Association (CIMPA). This will likely occur following the completion of my ME certificate and is approximately a six-month process. Also, while I am completing my education, I will continue to work hard and apply myself at my current place of employment with the goal of earning promotions and gaining experience in the event planning industry. This will occur over the next four to five years. If my career strategic plan works out to my expectations, I will be employed with a major company (hopefully overseas) as an event and meeting planner.
(Table 1 omitted for preview. Available via download)
Bolles, R. N. (2013). What Color is Your Parachute? New York: Crown Publishing. Print.
Cardenas, H. (N.D.). What Qualifications Do You Need to Be an Event Planner? The HoustonChronicle. Web. Retrieved from http://work.chron.com/qualifications-need-event-planner-3143.html.
Cranmer, S., (2006). Enhancing graduate employability: best intentions and mixed outcomes.Studies in Higher Education 31(2), 169-184. Print.
Gabric, D., & McFadden, K. (2000). Student and employer perceptions of desirable entry-leveloperations management skills. Mid-American Journal of Business 16, 51-59. Print.
Society of Petroleum Engineers. (2011). Event Coordinator. SPE Asia Pacific. Web. Retrievedfrom http://www.jobstreet.com.my/jobs/2011/12/s/10/1501107.htm?
(Appendix omitted for preview. Available via download)