Over a third of recruiters who took part in the research done by Hifghfliers repeated their warnings from previous years – that graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process and have little to no chance of receiving a job offer for their organisations’ graduate programs.
One of the most crucial points my students learn is it’s vital to find some volunteer or paid work in the event industry while they study. It will certainly give them an advantage over those who are only qualified thanks to a course or degree.
When I am hiring and read two similar resumes – both have a diploma in event management yet only one has a volunteering experience – I would be more inclined to choose the person who was a volunteer.
Volunteering tells me a lot about a person. It tells me that that person is willing to work in the industry despite not getting paid. The event industry can be brutal at times; I am always on the lookout for people who are dedicated to the industry and have an in-depth knowledge of events – the goal is to provide patrons with a wonderful experience.
There are many factors why students do not volunteer. It could be that they do not have the time; they must work at a job to maintain their lifestyle; studying is enough for them, or they must look after their family. The list goes on. While all these reasons are valid, it should not stop anyone.
As an event manager, I can say one of the qualities you need to develop if you want to enter the events industry is resourcefulness. You must dig deeper within yourself to know what you can do to create opportunities for yourself. There are times when we need to make short-term sacrifices in life, so we can achieve our long-term career goals.
Here are some ways to help you get into the event industry and gain experience. I hope this list would expand your perspective on what is possible, so you can get the experience you need as you do and fulfil your other responsibilities.
You might already have a job while you study. I strongly encourage you to keep it especially if it helps you pay bills and support you in your education; however, ask yourself. Does it help you progress in your pursuit to be in the event industry? If not, I recommend you consider finding a job that can.
My career in the event industry started when I worked as a dishwasher. It was on Christmas Eve in 1993 when we needed to cover an event coordinator, who’d called in sick. She needed a coordinator who would run the function for a night. She convinced me that it was for the best, not to mention she was already desperate. It was my first big break in the industry, but I did not realise it at first. I still wanted to be an accountant at that time, but I experienced so much joy providing service and ensuring that the patrons’ night was a success. It is very addictive to bring joy to others; I love the dopamine rush. What began as a simple dishwashing job for extra Europe cash was a watershed moment in my career. That would not have been possible if I were working in a place where I could not move forward.
I highly recommend working for big hotel chains; 5-star hotels in major cities. They provide exceptional training and customer service; thus, that means you will get excellent training and gain customer service skills – and even launch your career. They have an event department that you can move into one day if you pipe up to your manager. 5-star hotels may not be for everyone, but I suggest finding a company that does regular events – be it in a nightclub, a wedding reception venue, wineries, local councils, non-profit organisations or charity groups.
Who would have thought that your teachers could find you work experience? I find it astonishing that many students do not ask for help when it comes to getting a job. Personally, I do not assist everyone to get a job as I feel that some students will not respect my support and might make me look bad in front of my colleagues and friends.
Understand that most teachers become teachers because they are passionate and connected to the people in the industry of their expertise. They have already achieved what you want to achieve, so listen to their advice as much as possible. Also, remember that you are the customer; make use of the fees you pay. In class, always put your best foot forward, turn up on time, submit your assessments when they’re due, ask for help when you have questions or doubts, and communicate in advance if you have any pressing problems. Do not forget to help other students who might be behind or struggling. I feel a hypocritical saying this, but dress well too. It has a major impact on some of the sectors in the event industry. I am not saying that you need to wear a business suit, but if you want to work in corporate events, it is suitable to dress in a way that represents the industry you are a part of.
Nearly all schools have a job board that displays job vacancies. Companies advertise on university job boards since they are looking for people without any job experience to groom, train, and mould in their way. Contact such companies; you are who they want to hire.
Make a note of the organisations that advertise in the job boards. Contact them directly if there are no suitable jobs. Not many companies are open to hiring students, but you can find a few. When they are open to accepting students on board, you must contact them and start a conversation about an internship.
Ask your teacher to write a letter of recommendation to the company you have contacted. Some teachers will send emails on your behalf, giving you an edge to land the position you prefer. Just remember, they will only do such a task if you are deserving. Your teacher must be able to trust that you will do the right thing in the company they would recommend you to. It is their reputation on the line.
The beautiful thing about events is that it offers an incredible amount of volunteering experiences. It is financially impossible for most events to run without volunteers. Your goal is to seek out those events and apply for them.
Not all Volunteering roles are the same. Some days you will be standing in a single spot for four hours handing out flyers; some days you could be walking around with the event manager, dealing with artists, and picking up and dropping off VIPs as you ride in a stretch limo.
Regardless of what role you land, it is important that you do networking and share your enthusiasm with your colleagues. If you happen to get a terrible position and you still show massive amounts of energy, that’s when you will get noticed. People will start talking about how they love your attitude and that they need you on their team.
Set a goal when you volunteer and share them with the people you work with. Gain 10 LinkedIn connections whenever you volunteer to build your network of influence. After 10 volunteering gigs, you should have 100 new contacts in the event industry. They might not get you to work for them immediately, but one day they might as they remember you as that person who is enthusiastic, keen, reliable, friendly, and most of all, professional.
There are many places where you can volunteer. Usually, I would start off browsing websites of event organisations to see if they have a volunteering section. You can also send a simple email or send something via a contact form that says,
“Hello Event Team,
I am Garth Lategan. I was wondering who could I talk to about volunteering at your event?
Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.
Keep the letter short and simple since you have no idea who is answering that email. You do not want to waste the time of the reader by adding your career success story, your passion, and what you had for dinner last Tuesday. Make your letter easy to read. The shorter, the better. The reader might even respond to you promptly. It might also save you a lot of time. If you have not received a reply in a week, email them again until you get a firm ‘no.’ After the third attempt and you are still waiting, I recommend you call them.
Time is critical when applying for volunteer roles. Large organisations are typically highly organised. You need to contact them three to six months before the event. Six months might seem like a long time beforehand, but it is good to get in early than when everyone rushes in during the last minute. Work for organisations that are established and have a good reputation. When you apply early, you will get respected for your time; you might even get a better position and have a better experience. When a company cares about the experience of their patrons, they must also care about their staff and volunteers.
Disorganised companies are also great to work at as they need your help. You can create roles for yourself since they need your expertise. Do not shy away from them, but ensure that they respect you. Job opportunities will open because you can see the problems and they need an expert like you to say, “Hey, I can fix this even if it is just filing.”
Below is a list of event organisations for Australians. Please also look around in your hometown for similar volunteering sites. There are many other websites out there that list volunteer experience. Partly, I wrote this article so that people can help me find more websites that advertise volunteering at events. You can help by sharing links.
Paid event work is a little harder for students to find. Most event companies usually require some experience, but not all the time. In Melbourne, we are lucky to have three organisations that actively look for students to work with them. Students do not need much experience as these companies are willing to give them a go at paid employment. These organisations are Event Workforce, Sidekicker, and Airtasker. Airtasker has almost all sorts of odd jobs and freelance work. If you know other websites that offer paid employment, please send them to me so I can add them to this list:
Paid Event Work Websites for Australia
Event Workforce | Register
Sidekicker - The fastest way to hire temporary staff
Online Creative Portfolios, Creative Jobs and Creative Spaces - The LoopSitecrew Crew Profile
Volunteers And Officials - New Member
Discover Not-for-profit Jobs and Ethical Employment Opportunities
Careers | Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix
Events jobs in Melbourne | Scout by Broadsheet
Scout Jobs Jobs in Melbourne and Sydney
Delaware North Companies Australia Job Board
Spotless Job Listings - Staging
Delaware North Companies Australia Job Board
Employment – About Tennis Australia - Tennis Australia
Putting your goal in your email signature is an effective way to get a job in the event industry. Try including a sentence like this,
“Who is the first person that comes to your mind who needs help with an event? Please forward them my details.”
What makes this signature powerful is you are not asking for a yes or no response. Such a question will make the recipient think of someone. If they cannot think of a person, they will generally tell you that they will keep that in mind. These people would be your extra sets of eyes and ears. The more people who know about what you want, the higher the chance of you getting more opportunities. Your email signature gives you even more sets eyes. It is an amazing feeling when you help a friend land a job that they always wanted. So, go ahead and let your friends feel amazing as they help you!
My personal favourite is the option to work for yourself while studying. The experience of running your own little business is life changing. You can organise birthday parties, social drinking events with friends or game nights. If you have an interest in any topic or activities you can start with that. For example, you could put on a winery tour. Rent 12-seater bus and invite your good friends or family to come with you for a lovely trip around the wine regions. Let them know that this will help you get valuable experience and insight on organising events.
If a friend within your circle is celebrating a birthday, you can volunteer to organise a party by yourself or other friends. Either way, it will help you get experience. There is a website called meetup.com where you can create events or be part of a meetup group. Your goal is to build a group consisting of people who share the same interests as you. This will help you schedule a variety of events and activities where people can attend – truly a great way to reach out people further than your friendship group.
Everyone know some one or has a list of contact you can email or call up. With Facebook or Instagram at least 10% of these people should be contactable otherwise why are they on you friends list 🙂 People who know you always have a vested interest in helping you succeed, just like you would for them so ask these friends for their advice — and for leads on prospective work experiences.
You are just to busy but that should not stop you from trying to find a job or a volunteer position on campus. Departments often have extra money in their budgets to hire students into part-time positions and there is plenty of volunteer position available. Again, the experience can be invaluable and networking with teacher is invaluable especially those that also work in the industry. I often get emails from industry asking to put forward potential staff.
If you have the writing abilities and are keen to get you work out there, establishing a blog that showcases your expertise and insights into your future event career this is a great tool for your job-search, building your career network, and adding to your resume. You can interview people that are in the industry you wish to be in and start your networking.
There are many ways to finding the career you desire. The list I created worked for me. Even so, learn from your experience and listen to your intuition. These practices are an art and can take much time to develop.
While you are on your journey of self-mastery, find mentors whom you can share your dreams too; mentors you can trust and can lead you in the right direction you wish to go into. I recommend going down the less travelled road as there are interesting people to meet there.
Congratulations on reading all the way down to this part! Reading this is a proof that you take your career seriously. With that, I assure you that you are moving in the right direction. Your dream will soon become a reality. If you have questions or need clarification on what I said above, please feel free to contact me via the contact form. I will do my best to reply within 72 hours. I answer all my emails, so please be persistent if you have not heard from me.
My own journey
As a teacher, I find it heartbreaking when my former students come to me and say they cannot land a job due to their lack of experience.
My heartbreak started when I finished Tertiary Education. I tried to land my first accounting job, but I was unsuccessful. I sent out my resume and received rejection after rejection. Back in 1990, I would write my resume and send it via snail mail. Then, I would wait for a reply on whether my application was successful or not. I’d often wait for a couple of weeks or even months just to get an answer. I was fortunate enough to get a part-time work at a local supermarket, which later became a full-time job as a storeman. After a year of trying, I gave up the idea that I could get work in the accounting industry. It just seemed too hard. More so, it was too heartbreaking to receive a lot of rejection.
My teacher encouraged me to try further education so I could land my dream job. I asked myself, “Why do people lie that I will find a decent job?” I became so disenchanted I decided to run away. I went overseas for three months. What should have been three months became four years – surprising, right?
While I was in London I got my first accounts assistant role. A friend of mine was working in a job agency and they needed someone to do filing. I was not thrilled, as I studied for two years as an accountant. Filing seemed unfit for my skills. One of my favourite sayings is that ‘magic happens when you walk through open doors.’ That saying became true in my life when I accepted the filing job.
The agency I worked for converted all their handwritten archive boxing system into a spreadsheet program called Lotus 123. The program is much like Microsoft Excel. After two weeks, I was getting disgruntled; my attitude towards filing was becoming miserable. Under my breath, I was complaining how I should be managing the books for the company. I approached Andrew, my manager, and placed a completed archive box near him. I asked him to catalogue the files and input them into the system. Andrew looked displeased and said that the system is terrible and he hates it. He continued on saying that the company did not even give him the proper training on how to use the system. I glanced at his computer screen and realised he was using Lotus 123. I showed him I know how to use the program, as it is straightforward to learn I asked him if he needed help. With a sense of desperation, he told me to input the data into the spreadsheet and he will do the filling instead. I thought to myself, “Gee, what just happened?” I got my first promotion just after two weeks, just by being in the right place at the right time.
I loved my first month in the agency. Despite not being an accounting job, I settled on the fact that I was using a computer and inputting numbers into a spreadsheet. I was contributing to the team in a more meaningful way, plus I wasn’t filing anymore. My job sounded much cooler at the pubs I frequented. When the team completed the archiving project, I reformatted the spreadsheet to improve it, so we could use its information better. I made sure it was superior to the previous system.
Andrew sent reports to the executive management team for review. They would provide us feedback and know the steps we should take next. On that same day, Justin from the senior management team visited our office and asked Andrew who messed around with the spreadsheet. Justin wanted to know the person behind the changes as the spreadsheet different from when he gave it to Andrew. Andrew pointed to me without any hesitation. He said that he gave me the responsibility of updating the spreadsheet. I fired an angry look at him, seeing as he sold me out to the boss. I sucked it up and did not say anything. I stood there ready to be told off for something I believed was a clever idea.
Justin looked puzzled and asked if I was the one who made the edits to the spreadsheet. I nervously nodded and said yes. I explained that I thought its format was not user-friendly; hence, I tried to make it easier for everyone. With my edits, we could manipulate data in many ways and produced more meaningful results He smiled. He said what I did was awesome, that the company needed such a system. He then told me that the archiving project is now over and he would like me to go to the accounting department to train all the accountants on how to use the software properly, so they could be more efficient. I nearly fell to the ground as butterflies filled my stomach. At first, I thought I was going to get fired from my first accounts job. Instead, I got an unexpected promotion to work with the accountants and train them.
That evening was a defining moment in my life. I walked through an open door and took the opportunity to do some filing job. Then, I got a chance to show people my potential and was rewarded with a job that I wanted.
I love the process of entering open doors and seeing magic happen. Of course, you must have the right attitude and the right skills to pull it all off. I am a firm believer that you will get the support and assistance you need when you take that first uncertain step. It is probably the hardest step and it can be quite scary; nevertheless, when you get used to facing your fears, the world will truly open doors for you.
May peace be with you in every step you take.