Whether you’re stepping out on your first career path, or swapping your skills and experience from one career to another, it’s certainly possible to build yourself a whole new career in events without committing to a 3 year degree course in event management. Initially though, your concerns about a degree and your options for progressing without one may largely depend on where you’re coming from:
If you’re aiming to get into events as your first career, but have concerns about the level of commitment or relocation required for taking a 3 year university degree course, then the good news is that there are plenty of other options for studying – including degree level study, or for getting into a role at entry level and building your initial career from there.
A later retirement age and the rising incidences of midlife redundancies mean that many of us enjoy at least two careers during our working years. If you’re coming into event planning as a career change, you may well have an alternative set of concerns:
- That your current career is not relevant
Any previous career will certainly count, as you will have gained a set of transferable skills which will be highly relevant to working in events – such as communication and organisation skills.
- That a degree you already have is not relevant
Working in event management involves a wide range of tasks, so a degree from another sector could have significant relevance. These include degrees in subjects such as catering, hospitality, business management, marketing and IT.
- That you already have responsibilities, such as a mortgage or family, which mean you don’t have the opportunity to commit 3 years to studying for an event management degree.
Gaining a specific qualification in events will of course be helpful to your new career, but it’s by no means essential. There’s no reason not to go ahead with your event planning dream just because you need to earn whilst you learn, it’s just a case of incorporating some time for research, planning and preparation for a swap to events.
Wherever you’re starting from, time is a key factor if you are hoping to get into event planning without a degree, because you have to also consider the time available for you to meet this new challenge…
Full time focus
If you want to commit full time to your new career, then gaining both experience and a qualification will be helpful to you. A full-time alternative to a degree course, such as a vocational course, will mean you’ll be able to move into working in the sector far more quickly than if you studied a traditional degree first. As vocational courses offer opportunities to gain experience through volunteering and work placements, you’ll also be building a new career path and network of contacts as you learn. For a comparison between vocational qualifications and university degrees visit Event Academy.
Alternatively, if you want to dedicate full time hours to learning about the industry whilst working within it, then an internship might be a good place to start. Internships within respectable companies offer just a limited amount of income but a wealth of industry knowledge.
If your current day job is a necessary priority, then there are still several ways you can begin forging your alternative path into event management:
- Taking a part-time event course (online or in person) is a great way to gain knowledge, experience and a qualification, whilst also exploring different types of roles and sectors within the industry, such as corporate, charity or public sector event management or specific events such as conferences, education, festivals or weddings.
- Gaining experience whether through volunteering or stepping up to help out provides hands-on experience, evidence for a professional portfolio and possibly references and ways into a paid role when the opportunity or time becomes right for you.
- Start where you are by using your current workplace as a test ground for your fledgling event planning skills, for example by running a MacMillan Coffee Morning or charity event, or volunteering to organise the next social or training event.
Overall, whether you’re able to study event management, volunteer or focus full time or part time on moving into event planning there are also other strategies you should be making time for if event planning is to be your new career…
Researching the events industry by attending industry events and reading industry blogs / magazines and social media offers a way to begin recognising trends, names and companies within the industry, as well as for keeping up with industry news.
- Reach out with social media
Using social media, for example to do your research, not only improves your proficiency with it and helps to show that you can use social media effectively in making connections (vital for communicating, marketing and publicising events, for example) but also helps create your social media presence – essential for gaining traction in the industry. A degree course may well have a module on this whole topic, but researching and communicating by social media yourself can be a real-time, industry-relevant way of learning what’s important in events. It also provides a way of creating online networks and professional relationships through practice, rather than theory.
- Establish relationships
Speaking of creating networks, it’s really important to start establishing industry relationships early on. As well as making social media connections, volunteering is also a good way to get started, and for researching the types of roles available and the companies offering them – so you can not only identify where the opportunities lie, but also start to recognise the types of event planning roles which appeal to you.
As you make volunteering connections and establish relationships, ensure you make a positive impression and exchange business cards (even if you’re not in business for yourself, you should provide a card with basic contact details) so that you can start to build up a network of potential contacts.
- Revise your CV
If the qualifications side of the CV looks a little empty without a degree, take an industry accredited certificate or diploma course so that you can offer a relevant industry qualification.
You can also compensate by for qualification gaps by filling up the experience and skills sections with all relevant experience and roles undertaken during your research or learning phase, especially those which demonstrate your commitment, problem-solving attitude and communication skills. Remember to also make the most of your current (and growing) list of competencies which are relevant to roles in events, such as proven customer-facing skills, organisation and marketing skills, budget handling and communication strengths.
In event management, it’s essential to supplement your traditional CV with an industry portfolio. This provides a visual CV of your competencies, roles and experiences within events to date. Even a fledgling portfolio of your experiences as a volunteer at community or national events, or your role in organising family events can be a useful way to build evidence of what you know. Portfolio building is also essential for demonstrating what you have learned and experienced through any part-time or degree-alternative, vocational study.
It really is possible to get into event planning without a degree but by degrees, so whether you have full or part-time hours to dedicate to getting into event planning, make the most of the time you do have. Remember, accredited qualifications can offer good alternatives to degrees and offer you ways to continue to earn whilst you learn. Later on, additional part-time study and research to degree level and beyond can also be continued as part of your professional development once you’re in your shiny new role!
Written by Justine Kane
Justine has spent the past 5 years as Course Director for an event management training Institute, placing hundreds of graduates into roles and tutoring them through to successful qualification