In a hands-on industry like event management, there’s no substitute for work experience.
Testing yourself in an events role helps you to gain the ‘thinking on your feet’ skills you’re going to need to manage under pressure, gives you more confidence and, of course, adds more points to your resume.
However, if you’re just starting out in your career, you may already have run into the experience trap: you need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience.
Well, here’s the good news! You’ve chosen an industry where it is actually super easy to get work experience, without already having any. Get ready to roll up your sleeves and do lots of volunteering.
Here are 5 essential industry tips on how to get work experience in event management.
1. Work your way up: volunteer at big events and festivals
As we mentioned, there are lots of opportunities to get experience in the event industry, and most of these opportunities come in the form of festival and big event volunteering call-outs.
Music festivals or sports and cultural events are a great place to start, because of the sheer number of volunteers they need to operate. Sydney Festival for example, requires thousands of volunteers to run successfully, and many of these are first-time event assistants with no prior experience. As with most festivals, they advertise paid positions and volunteer call-outs on their website. Getting experience at big events is almost always as simple as going onto the event website, and sending them an email offering your labour. Many large festivals and events will also post advertisements for volunteer roles on job seeking websites such as Seek.com.
Being a first time volunteer at these types of events, you’ll often end up being assigned simple jobs where you won’t be learning a lot of new skills.
Want to climb the ladder? Here’s a secret industry tip you don’t want to ignore:
It’s surprisingly hard for volunteer co-ordinators at these big events to find capable and reliable leaders amongst the thousands of volunteers. Many people don’t work especially hard, if they’re not being paid. If you work hard and you prove yourself to be capable, your boss will pay attention. They will offer you roles with more responsibility the next time around, and possibly even a paid position later on. Get to know your volunteer co-ordinator, and offer them as much assistance as possible. Make their job easy, and they’ll remember your name.
2. Volunteer for charities and gain diverse experiences in high-level roles
Did you know that a lot of charities organise regular events, as part of their awareness and fundraising strategies? They’re often looking for event managers to take on high-level volunteer roles, because they usually don’t have spare funding to fill these as paid positions.
Some non-profit initiatives, such as ‘Big Sleep Out’, or WWF’s ‘Earth Hour’ are entirely based around managing just one huge, globally co-ordinated event. Look them up online, to find out how to volunteer for your local division.
Here are just a few of the other international charities that often host awareness or fundraising events in major cities:
- Amnesty International
- The Red Cross
- Save the Children
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
These charities all rely on volunteers to design, coordinate and run their events, so working with them is a great way to do something good for the world while getting some diverse, high-level experience. You may end up in a wide variety of roles, because of the diverse nature of many of charity events. You could be co-ordinating events in schools, organising talks, concerts, awards nights, conferences or even public demonstrations.
3. Jump on board an events team at your university or college
Joining a committee to organise the annual university ball while you’re completing your studies is an excellent way to learn essential ‘soft skills’ as well as hard skills like logistics. In the events management industry, soft skills like teamwork, relationship management and communication are invaluable.
University or college events are often organised by elected or volunteer committees, and you’re managing alongside your class peers. Not only is it fun to work with friends, you’ve got to learn to get along with your team, because you’re going to be seeing them in class later!
4. Go straight to the top, by designing and managing your own event
If you really want to jump straight in there and become an instant event director, the easiest way to gain experience is to design and run your own event. The only catch is that you may be spending your own money on the event budget. Here’s how to do it in a few simple steps:
- Pick a concept that you’re passionate about. Wether it’s a poetry reading night, or a handball tournament, you’ve got to be passionate about it if you want to inspire other people to come!
- Figure out a low-cost budget, considering any food or beverage you want offer, and decide on an entry fee that will (hopefully) cover your costs.
- Research a free or low cost venue, and book it.
- Research and book your performers or participants.
- Organise a line-up, run sheet or schedule.
- Get a graphic designer friend to help you make a flyer.
- Market the event: Publish online, and advertise on social media. Print out flyers, and get friends to help you distribute them.
- Make a call out amongst your acquaintances for volunteer help running the night, and organise a work schedule for the evening.
- Set up any décor, food and beverage or technical equipment for the evening.
- Manage the event on the evening, or ensure someone else is doing this according to your run-sheet (and doing it well!). This may include MCing, running the line-up, or managing the performers needs.
- Thank your participants, pack down, and do a post-event assessment.
Congratulations, you’ve just designed and run your first event! If it was a success, (or if it wasn’t!) you might consider running it again. What would you differently the second time around? Now it’s time to perfect those new skills.
5. Internships or work placements
Are you studying event management at university or college? There’s a pretty good chance that your institution will have an internship or work placement program in place for students. For example, Torrens offers its Bachelor of Business (Event Management) students the chance to complete internships as part of their studies. Go to your school’s student services and find out.
If you don’t have a university careers team working for you, another good way to find an internship is through cold calling businesses you’d like to work for.
There’s a broad range of event management companies out there, from small wedding planning businesses to giant corporations that manage events all over the world. Sometimes they advertise internship opportunities online and you can apply formally, but even if they don’t, there’s no harm in asking them if they’d like to take you on. Simply find a contact on their website, and send off an email or give them a call, enquiring politely about internship opportunities. After all, you’re offering them free labour, and you’ve got nothing to lose!