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Your Event Career

How to Get Experience as a Corporate Event planner

One of the biggest hurdles of breaking into any industry is gaining experience. If you’re a novice, how can you land those precious event planner jobs without experience, and how can you gain experience without a job? It’s a classic catch-22.

Luckily, if you’re serious and passionate about something, there are always ways to make it work. Today, we’re going to go through a variety of different avenues where you can gain experience as a corporate event planner. Keep reading!

Volunteer for non-profit events

It goes without saying that volunteering your time is a great way to gain experience as a novice planner. Especially when you’re still in the process of earning your event planner certification, you won’t be able to charge full-price for your services, anyway.

volunteer your corporate event planner experience

While you will be working an event planner job, you won’t be getting paid for it. Putting in your time pro bono swaps earning money for experience. The latter of which is many times more rewarding to your career—you’re building your earning potential! That being said, don’t think that you should only look for volunteer opportunities. You can absolutely find paid work as a professionally trained planner. But if you see a volunteer opportunity you can’t pass up, go for it!

When volunteering, you can get an inside look at the industry you’re trying to break into. You’ll learn all about practical event execution and how to manage and assign individual tasks. Nothing beats getting a front-row seat for all the action! Plus, when you’re working under or with an experienced planner, you’ll be able to see how they handle any issues that arise. Learning how to prevent problems and how to calmly handle them if they do happen, is the mark of a true professional.

Plus, it’s also a great networking opportunity. More on this later!

Find an event planning mentor

corporate event planning mentor

Even if you’ve undertaken formal corporate event planning training, you’ll want to find a mentor post-grad. Anyone can benefit from having an experienced mentor in the sector he or she is trying to enter!

With your corporate event planning course, you learned the theory and each step of the formal planning process. After graduating, you’ll need to adapt these concepts and planning processes to your local industry. For example, you wouldn’t price your planning services in Des Moines, Iowa to the same amount as an event planner living in New York!

This know-how can absolutely be achieved via thorough research. But if you want to get a leg up on the competition right out of the gate, a mentor can guide you there faster! Your mentor can also give you the inside scoop on the types of services that are sought after in your area. For example, if you were a wedding planner, you may not have known that the marijuana-themed wedding industry in your area is in high demand. Your mentor can take you under their wing and aid you in establishing your niche.

Get involved with a variety of different events

coffee and croissant for office meeting

Remember, you don’t need to strictly work corporate events to become a corporate event planner! No matter the event, you’re gaining valuable experience. Planners share the same core skills—planning, time management, budgeting, etc.

Meeting planning is a great stepping stone into large corporate event planning. You’ll be responsible for coordinating the meeting space, catering, scheduling, audiovisual logistics, and potentially even accommodations. Your experience here is incredibly valuable since the objectives of these meetings match those of external corporate event planning.

Take any opportunity that comes your way! Even if you’ve thrown a community holiday party, for instance, you’ve had an opportunity to practice those skills. You were able to gain experience in a variety of fields, which shows employers that you’re flexible and creative. Take lessons from all your experiences and put them to work!

Attend conferences and special events

large trade fair and expo

There are three primary reasons why people attend conferences:

  1. Promote their own business
  2. Learn from expert workshops, keynote speakers, fellow attendees
  3. Network

The main idea is that you’ll interact with other professionals in the industry. You can find insider positions, learn from seasoned planners, and find potential clients. While not all conferences, expos, and conventions are free to attend, this is an investment in yourself and your business.

Plus, this can also be a planning opportunity for you! Graduates of QC’s Corporate Event Planning course are eligible to join a variety of associations after earning their certification. Associations often plan their own expos and conventions. You can take an active role in your association and help throw the following year’s event!

Work a variety of different roles

Take the example of one of QC’s graduates, Jordan Merlino of Seventh and Central. She was an emergency medical technician before launching a career in the wedding industry. Before she went full throttle in professional wedding planning, she built her skills up in related industries. She had stints in wedding cake design, personal bridal styling, and bridal gown salon management—that’s quite the list of accomplishments! It was only after assisting a wedding planner for several years that she knew she was prepared to fly solo.

naked wedding cake for wedding planner experience

Her wedding-related jobs throughout the years gave her obvious experience in the events industry. But she still credits her time as a first-responder as contributing to her present success. After all, nobody knows chaos-management and quick-decision making better than an emergency first-responder!

This is all to say that there is no one direct path to your dream career. It’s okay to start small. Even when you’re working full time, you can always create opportunities for yourself to gain planning experience if you take initiative.

Are there other options we missed? Leave us a comment!

Nervous about networking for the first time? Check out QC’s Corporate Event Planning tutor Alyssa Perna’s 5 secrets to networking like a professional!

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