Education, General Tips, Your Event Career
How to Get Real Experience During Your Event Planner Training
We’ve all been there when breaking into a new career: you need experience to get a job, but you need a job to gain experience. This can be especially tricky if you’re planning on launching your event planner business straight out of school.
But there are ways to get real-life experience during your event planner training! Let’s go over them now.
Take your Assignments Seriously
You’re taking an event and wedding planning course because you want to get the training you need to start a successful career, right? That means you should also want to get the most out of both your studies and your assignments.
During your event planner training, you’ll complete a number of case study-type assignments. These will require you to practice being a real event planner. Treat these as real-world scenarios! Call local vendors to get actual pricing lists. Connect with venues and ask to tour their facilities. The more real-life experience you give yourself during your training, the better!
If you treat your assignments as though you’re working with a real live client, you’ll gain actual experience out of your event planner training. What’s more, the feedback you receive from your tutor will be invaluable!
Connect with Your Peers
It’s never too early to start networking.
While you’re completing your studies, start connecting with other event planners in your area. Join associations, if you can. Most offer student memberships! If that’s not an option, look for event planner groups on social media and take the time to participate. Local groups will always be more useful – but ANY networking is worth it!
Most planners you meet will be happy to talk to you about your journey toward your new career! If you find a like-minded professional event planner who won’t be a competitor once you launch your business, she might be willing to mentor you! The best way to do this would be to connect with a planner in a neighboring town, or with someone who has a different target audience than what you’re planning to target.
Once you have a good relationship, ask if you can shadow her during one of her events. Pitch in where you can. It likely won’t be the most glamorous work, but trading a bit of labor in exchange for a mentor-ship opportunity is usually well worth the effort!
Find an Internship
Some professional event planners offer formal internships to event planning students and soon-to-be graduates. Unlike an informal mentor-ship like we mentioned above, an internship is more akin to a real job in the industry, except it’s usually unpaid.
To get an internship, you’ll apply formally and interview for the job. You’ll have a set schedule that you’re expected to work. Instead of being paid for your work, the business will provide you with opportunities to gain experience.
When looking for an internship, watch out for businesses who are looking to exploit you for free work. Unpaid internships are only legal if you’re receiving actual experience that’s beneficial to your future career. If you find an internship that appears to only want to exploit you for free work, run for the hills!
Plan a Charity Event
Here’s a little secret: most local charities would fall to their knees in gratitude if you offered to help them plan an event.
If you’re close to graduation, and you’re working on building your brand, planning a charity’s event pro bono is an excellent way to gain real-world experience. Charities rely on volunteers to help with these kinds of things. This is your opportunity to support a good cause, gain clients who will happily be a glowing reference, and gain experience for your resume.
Charity events are usually not elaborate, so you’re not looking at hours upon hours of work. You could donate a few hours to help plan and organize the charity’s annual general meeting (AGM), or even just one fundraising event (such as a trivia night or sponsored race).
Normally, we recommend against giving away your services for free. However, charities are an exception to this, since donating your time would be the equivalent of you donating directly to the charity’s cause. Future clients will look at your work and see your good will.
The key is to look for small, local charities instead of the large, national ones. Bigger charities have the staff and budget to plan events on their own, or hire an established event planner. Local charities with 1 or 2 employees and a large volunteer base don’t have that luxury. Sadly, they’re often overlooked because of this.
So, start with a cause that you already support, and look for charities within your city who work for the cause. Animal shelters, centers for abused women, environmental groups, etc. are great examples!
Complete a Stylized Shoot
As you’re going through your online event planner training, you’ll learn new skills every day. After the first few units, you should have enough knowledge and skills to start working with professionals in related industries. If you’re able to connect with a few local vendors – including a professional photographer, designer, and makeup artist, for example – you should be able to start putting together a stylized photo shoot for your portfolio.
As we’ve discussed in the past, styled shoots are an excellent way to gain portfolio-quality photos without planning a full event. Working with fellow industry professionals, you’ll organize a photo shoot where everyone gets to walk away with copies of the professional images.
Not only is this useful experience that will look GREAT in your portfolio; you’ll also get to expand your network to professionals who will work with you once your business is launched!
Breaking into a new industry isn’t easy. You’re already ahead of the curve by completing formal event planner training! By using even one of the suggested methods above to gain a bit of extra experience, you’ll graduate with a huge leg up on your competition!