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How to Kickstart Your Event Planning Career with No Prior Experience

Trying to break into the event planning industry without any experience can feel like hitting a wall at full speed. Job opportunities often come with the dreaded question, "What kind of event planning experience do...

Trying to break into the event planning industry without any experience can feel like hitting a wall at full speed. Job opportunities often come with the dreaded question, "What kind of event planning experience do you have?" But fear not, because becoming an event planner is possible, even without prior experience. In fact, some of the most successful event planners in the world started from scratch.

What Does Event Planning Entail?

Event planners are responsible for creating environments that align with their clients' visions, goals, and responsibilities. This could involve organizing anything from a wedding to a branded corporate event. Some event planners specialize in a specific vertical, while others prefer a wide range of event types. Flexibility is key in attracting more job opportunities.

Here are some common responsibilities event planners face on a day-to-day basis:

  • Detail-oriented planning and execution
  • Effective communication and alignment with vendors
  • Establishing efficient event workflows
  • Transforming client goals into tangible results
  • Acting as a brand ambassador for clients
  • Managing budgets and negotiating deals
  • Coordinating billing and deliverables
  • Assisting clients in visualizing their events
  • Overseeing event set-up and tear-down
  • Ensuring accuracy and brand representation in all elements
  • Setting clear client expectations
  • Reporting success metrics to clients
  • Choosing and utilizing the right event planning equipment
  • Securing necessary permits

7 Steps to Break into the Event Planning Industry

If event planning resonates with you, you may wonder how to get started in the industry without a loaded resume. Contrary to popular belief, event planning isn't limited to college graduates or those with extensive experience in the field. The industry is diverse and welcomes individuals from all walks of life.

For many aspiring event planners, getting that first opportunity can seem impossible. However, here are seven creative ways to break into the industry:

1. Get Strong Recommendations

Having solid recommendations can make a significant difference in your application or client pitch. Seek out individuals who can enthusiastically recommend you, even if they aren't former event clients. These recommendations should be professional and highlight your strengths. Provide your references with specific examples and information to help them craft strong recommendations. If your potential employer plans to contact your references directly, ensure they are well-prepared for the call.

2. Gain Experience by Working for Free

While it's crucial to learn when to turn down clients as you progress in your career, starting out often means taking any opportunity that comes your way. Be open to working on free events to build your resume and secure those valuable recommendations. Interning or seeking event planning internship opportunities can also help you gain experience at a faster pace.

3. Leverage Other Relevant Experience

Although you may not have direct event planning experience, chances are you possess transferable skills that can be applied to the industry. Did you handle vendor relationships or provide excellent customer service in previous jobs? Highlight these experiences. Use your past roles as examples of how you can contribute to event planning.

4. Volunteer and Network

Consider volunteering or interning for established event planners or organizations. This not only expands your network but also allows you to learn from industry veterans. Websites like Volunteer Match, Network For Good, Idealist, and All For Good can help you find volunteer opportunities in event planning.

5. Always Be Networking

Networking is vital in the event planning industry. Forge genuine relationships with clients, competitors, vendors, and everyone you meet. Avoid burning bridges and maintain a personable attitude. Letting others know about your need for more experience and work might lead to valuable connections and opportunities.

6. Obtain Certifications

There are various certifications and event management courses available that can substitute formal education. Becoming certified as a Special Events Professional (CSEP) with ILEA or as a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) with the Events Industry Council can enhance your authenticity and experience. Explore certifications like Professional in Catering and Events, Government Meeting Professional, Event Strategist, Meeting Management, Exhibition Management, and Trade Show Marketer.

7. Project Confidence

Remember to radiate self-assurance and poise during interviews. Clients trust event planners with significant investments and responsibilities. Demonstrating confidence in your abilities can go a long way in securing opportunities. Show potential employers that you're not just doing a job, but confidently performing your job.

With these steps and a proactive approach, you can kickstart your event planning career without any prior experience. Embrace the journey, learn from each opportunity, and soon you'll be on your way to becoming a successful event planner.

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