Trying to break into the event planning industry with no experience can feel like running into a brick wall at full-speed. Every time you look for a job opportunity, you’re faced with the same generic question “what kind of event planning experience do you have?.” And, that can be intimidating. But, becoming an event planner doesn’t necessarily require any experience at all. In fact, some of the worlds best event planners started from scratch (like David Tutera and Preston Bailey.)
Here’s how to score your first break through gig as an event planner before you’ve even planned your first event.
What is Event Planning
Event planners are responsible for creating an environment that supports the visions, goals, or responsibilities of their client — whether that client needs a social or corporate event.
So, an event planner may set up a wedding one day, and the next, be tasked with throwing a branded, classy evening party.
Some event planners niche into a specific vertical (e.g., wedding planners, trade show organizers, etc.) But, many target a wide range of event types. If you want to be an event planner, the more flexible with the types ofthe events you can do, the more jobs you will receive.
Here are some responsibilities event planners face on their day-to-day:
- Detail-oriented planning and execution
- Vendor communication and goal alignment
- Establishing the proper event workflows
- Taking client goals and turning them tangible
- Being a brand ambassador for the client
- Managing deals and staying within budget
- Coordinating billing and deliverables
- Assisting clients in visualizing their event
- Assisting vendors, workers, and the client in set-up and tear-down
- Inspect all elements of the venue for accuracy and brand representation
- Setting expectations with the client
- Reporting success (often using metric-based analytics) to the client
- Choosing and utilizing the correct event planning equipment
- Securing the proper permits
7 Steps to Getting Your First Event Planning Jobs
If event planning sounds like it’s right up your alley, you may be curious how you go about getting started in the industry. People like to think event planning is only open to college graduates, former marketers, or people with strong event planning experience. But, there’s no generic entryway into event planning, so lets get creative!
In fact, the event planning industry is diverse and complex. And, with so many unique skills necessary to coordinate successful events, people from all walks of life can find success in the industry.
But, being good at something and having the chance to prove that you’re good at something are two wildly different things. For many of you, trying to get your foot in the door can seem impossible.
Here are 7 ways you can inch your way into the event planning industry without a loaded resume.
1. Get some killer recommendations: A solid set of recommendations can make-or-break your application or client pitch. You want to look for those people in your life that would jump at any opportunity to recommend you eagerly. They don’t have to be former event clients. But, they should be professional in nature and incredible in value.
According to Career Tool Belt, recommendations with the most detail are often the most impactful. Get your references enough examples, and content to work with when creating your recommendation. Your resume, cover letter, what jobs you are applying for, what skills to highlight, previous event planning projects during your period of working with them, etc. If the job you are applying to is planning on calling your references directly, make sure your employers know the jobs you are targeting and are prepared for the call.
2. Work for free: After you’ve dipped your feet in the industry, knowing when to turn a client down is a key component of remaining successful so you aren't buried in work. But, when you’re first starting, you should take everything that comes your way. And, you need to be willing to work some free events to get your foot in the door. This will help you pad your resume and score some of those oh-so-important recommendations. Look for event planning internship opportunities to start building your experience at a quicker rate.
3. Flex your other experience: Sure, you may not have any event planning experience, but surely you have experience handling at least ONE of those core responsibilities we mentioned above, right? Use that! Did you order produce at your fast food job? Great! You have some experience handling vendor relationships! Customer service is important in every job, so flaunt your skills and show examples of how you’ve handled distraught customers by providing excellent customer service. It's that easy!
4. Start volunteering: This goes along with working-for-free. Think about volunteering (or even helping manage volunteers) or interning for established event planners. It will help you grow your network, and you’ll get some tips-and-tricks from industry veterans.
Some volunteer sites to help get you started include:
5. A.B.N (Always Be Networking): If you only walk away with one single tip from this entire post, it should be this — network constantly.
Don’t burn any bridges, and be personable enough to forge genuine relationships with clients, competitors, vendors, workers, and basically everyone you come in contact with as an event planner.
Only later and after forming relations, do you share your need for more experience and work; they might just know someone looking for an extra hand.
6. Get certified: There are tons of certifications out there that can easily replace formal education. Whether you get certified with ILEA as a Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) or with the Events Industry Council as a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), there are plenty of certificates that can give you an extra boost of authenticity and experience.
Certifications you can get:
Special Events Professional
Professional in Catering and Events
Government Meeting Professional
Trade Show Marketer
and so much more!
7. Be confident: Finally, just be confident. Clients are trusting you with a significant investment, and they’re giving you an incredible amount of responsibility. Radiate self-reliance and poise when interviewing for the job. Who would you want handling your event? Someone doing a job or someone confidently doing their job?