Getting in to the event industry has become an increasingly difficult feat, though I would argue that this is now a familiar landscape for young people across most sectors. There are various routes that are now available for those interested in pursuing a career in events with it becoming much less common for people to simply ‘fall in to’ it as in the past.
Most entry-level roles now require that candidates are educated to degree level. As such we can assume that there are three main routes for event-managers-to-be:
There has been much debate on the worth of event-specific degree courses and whether they really are the best route in to the industry. There are now 57 universities in the UK offering event management degrees, with university websites indicating over 125 various events related courses.
An obvious positive to studying a degree course is the range and aspects of event management that can be covered. Most courses have links to institutions such as the CIM, and ensure that events is studied from a business and marketing perspective. Guest speakers in the industry and the potential on some courses for internships and volunteer opportunities are more perks. Crucially, taking this degree demonstrates that the candidate is truly serious about a career in the industry.
Despite the increase of courses available and the number of those applying, there are complaints in the industry of a lack of talent, as emphasised by C&IT in their 2015 State of the Industry Report. A fifth of agencies involved in the research reported that their largest challenge was finding and keeping talent and recruitment issues. While this is partly due to demand, 86% of agencies increased their staff headcount in 2014, those in the industry report that there is a lack of talent available, suggesting that the increased participation in event management degrees is not the answer.
With the rise in tuition fees, a degree, and certainly one so specific, it certainly is an expensive route in to the industry. The perception of event management degrees is also something for candidates to work against, with many perceiving it as a ‘micky mouse’ subject. Certainly from personal experience I have worked at agencies that simply do not hire event management graduates. Right or wrong, this is the perception of many and is something to be considered by prospective students. Even in agencies more welcoming to this, those who studied event degrees remain in the minority.
The postgraduate is a route for those who have studied a ‘traditional’ or just other degree subjects but want a bridge in to the world of events. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and many offer placements and internships giving much needed work experience in the industry. This is of course another cost on top of a degree course, but it is worth noting that some programmes will allow some straight from A-levels at their discretion so this could be a good option for some.
With the above in consideration I think it’s fair to deduct that there is no correct route for getting in to our industry. Speaking to Sarah Yeats, Client Services Director, who heads up recruitment at Sledge, further cemented this idea. “Emphasis is much more on what an individual brings to the table rather than ticking a box about attending a standardised academic course”. Work experience & volunteering at events are all crucial parts of a CV that are the thing to win a prospective employer over and give candidates the edge over their peers.
My personal route in to the industry was somewhere between falling in to it and an educational course. A family friend was in the industry and through hearing about his projects I thought it seemed like something that was, quite frankly, cool. I did a ‘traditional’ English Literature course at a red brick university in order to keep my options open while deciding what I wanted to do. Finding it difficult to secure any kind of experience to make myself appealing in the events industry, I took a postgraduate diploma in event management for marketing and communication accredited by the CIM. To be brutally honest I applied because it came with a three-month internship in the industry that I knew would make the difference with applications far more than sitting in a classroom and doing some more exams.
For me, it paid off. However, for every success story there’s five more that ended with three months of working for free before ultimately discovering that there was no job at the end of the rainbow. Ultimately, it’s experience that makes a candidate stand out. For those trying to secure experience this can seem like the impossible task and it is easy to see why courses offering an inroad to placements seem appealing. However, when one volunteer role has been secured it’s all about the contacts made and how these are utilised to keep up the momentum – focus on the networking.
For those searching for volunteer roles to get them under way, it’s always worth getting in touch with charities and expressing an interest in volunteering at their next event. Volunteers are heavily relied upon and there are often countrywide events to suit everyone. Lots of volunteering roles can be found at Team London, where it is possible to search for event specific opportunities. For those based outside of the capital it’s always worth looking at job websites such as indeed which span the UK.
If there is an event on near you, go and find someone to talk to. You never know, you may find yourself with some work experience that very day!
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