Very belated thanks to Lara at Ready.2.Spark!

ready 2 spark - ideas and inspirations for events

I’m incredibly embarrassed to realize I have yet to publicly express my gratitude to Lara over at ready.2.spark for her thoughtful and inspiring response to my question of how to break into the event planning biz. Hats off to her for taking the time to share her advice and experience for those of us still looking for opportunities to realize our career aspirations. For anyone who may have missed her comment, here it is in entirety:

Thank you so much for leaving a comment on my blog and directing me to yours! The answer to your question is an easy one for me. Although I wasn’t a student, I did join the special events industry 2 short years ago (from a totally unrelated industry). I knew no one. I knew nothing about events (other than the ones I had attended as a guest). My goal was simple – learn as much as I can and meet as many people in the shortest time possible. I set out to find an industry affiliation that could help me achieve my goals. After considering a few, my choice was ISES (International Special Events Society). ISES is a world-wide organization dedicated to 1) providing networking opportunities, 2) improving education of its members, 3) furthering the industry as a whole. It’s very easy to find a local chapter by visiting I recommend that you attend an event or two before joining. Make sure the people, the content, the opportunities are relevant to you. I’ve heard a complaint from a few students that the cost to attend an event is too high. I believe in looking at your ROI (return on investment). To me, sacrificing a week’s worth of Starbucks coffee is a small price to pay for the opportunity to make great business connections.

The goal of a recent graduate should be TO MEET PEOPLE. In order to do that, you have to get out and talk to professionals. Contact the President of your local chapter (you can usually look them up on the chapter’s website) and tell them that you’re a student looking to meet professionals. Ask them if they can arrange to introduce you to members at the event. Be prepared. Write down a few questions that are important to you and use them as opportunities to engage in communication.

Next, I’d recommend that you get involved in a committee. ISES chapters are always looking for help – help to plan events, increase membership, etc. Offer your services. This will be real-life experience that you can add to a resume. This rule should apply for any organization. NFPs (not for profits) are always looking for help with their events. You won’t get paid, but you will be rewarded with an enriching experience.

Another idea is to find a company you’d love to work with and offer your services at no cost for 2 weeks. Tell them how much you’d love to work with them and communication why they’d love to work with you. Get your foot in the door and show them why you’re great. (one tip, to ensure your services are not taken advantage of, is to ensure they’re hiring or open to hiring – this way your expectations are set. It’s up to you if you want to donate your time to someone who’s not hiring, but make sure you know this before investing your time).

Lastly, image is very important…especially in this industry. Dress for the job you want. Hold your head up. Be assertive. Be nice. Be inquisitive. Be helpful. Be honest. Act as if every encounter is an informal interview. Determine what message you want to convey and ensure it’s communicated. And, most of all, enjoy yourself!


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PR and Development: Let’s be friends

Thesis update: I just found out last week that I can’t publish any results of my thesis research on my blog if I want to be eligible for future publication in an academic journal. I was looking forward to sharing some of my insights but I guess I’ll have to hold off on that for a bit. What I can do is share some of my secondary research from my literature review and also talk about my process. This Friday I defend my thesis and find out whether or not my work is up to the Honors College standards. My fingers are crossed.


One thing I’ve drawn from my experiences writing my thesis and exploring career opportunities is the absolute inter-relatedness of public relations and development. Although scholars cite development as a function of public relations, it appears not to work out this way in many nonprofit organizations. Instead, public relations and development operations occur in separate departments. In fact, Kathleen Kelly, a highly-regarded researcher in the field, found that subordination of the public relations function by the development department occurred frequently in nonprofit organizations. In other words, development staff were controlling or influencing public relations activities, which could result in an unbalanced focus on donor relations at the expense of building relationships with other valuable stakeholder groups (i.e. clients/customers, legislators, community members, volunteer groups, etc.). Any way you look at it, public relations and development can’t exist exclusively of the other; they are bound to interact because both departments share (or should share) similar goals: building beneficial relationships with stakeholder groups through communication and behavior.

In my personal experience, my public relations education in the School of Journalism and Communication has been questioned or at least misunderstood by a few people in its applicability to development work. To me, it seems a perfect background to prepare me for development work, but others are confused: “Journalism? Don’t you want to work for a newspaper?” some people ask. But if journalism is essentially about communication, and communication is essential to successful relationship building, and relationship building is essential to successful public relations, and good public relations includes the function of development THEN it follows that a PR major is a great tool for going into development work.

Clearly, I’m starting to rant a bit but bear with.

In the end, what I mean to convey is that it’s all about relationships. Not just relationships between different operational tasks (like fund raising, donor relations, media outreach, etc.) but, perhaps more importantly, the relationships we cultivate between various communities. Successful development strategies MUST include relationship building in order to create long-term connections with people. Growing relationships between individuals – who have their own unique needs, desires, motivations, and interests – and organizations is incredibly valuable, nay, essential, to encouraging the sustainability and fruition of nonprofit (and for-profit, for that matter) organizations.

 Image courtesy of stock.xchng

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It’s almost here…

My thesis deadline and defense.

Getting a job!



Moving back to Portland (granted I can find an apartment).

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: Probably nothing, because the traffic on this blog has dwindled to next to nothing so chances are nobody’s reading this. Sad. But I PROMISE I will be back (but not with a vengeance) come June. Think of all the exciting things I’ll have to share! Yes, shamelessly plugging my future posts…

(my mind is whirling with thoughts)

Anyway, what’s happening now is I’m editing the first draft of my thesis to submit to my committee on Tuesday. I’m sitting at about 70 or 80 pages – much to my own surprise. I’ve uncovered some really remarkable stuff and I wish I could sit down with each one of you event planner/pr pros/students/anyone who will listen because that’s easier than trying to write it all. Wait, I am writing it all. But, like I said, it’s 70-80 pages and nobody wants to read that. But when I have a second I will post on young professional donors, donor motivations, benefits of special events for nonprofits, relationship management and special events, and so on. Basically, it’s about kick-ass strategies to make friends with your publics/audiences/guests/donors/communities and develop mutually beneficial relationships rather than just asking for money or telling people what they should think, feel, and do. It’s better in the long-term and much more fun.

So I hope the little teaser piqued your interest. Stand by for more.

P.S. The job search is going well; I’ve got my first big interview in 2 days. Thrilling!

Image courtesy of

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I’m still alive

Things have been getting crazier and crazier, so I apologize for abandoning my blog temporarily. Never fear, my mind is still a-teeming with thought. Unfortunately, much of it is being diverted into my honors thesis. In fact, today I am doing my first interview with the Development Director for a local non-profit – I’m going to pick her brain about how events fit into strategic development plans and address some more specific questions on young professional donors and how events may appeal to them.

I’m nervous! But it’s time. I gotta do it. I’m also delighted to have a great response from other board members and staff from the organization to fill out my case study quite nicely. Like I said, it’s keeping me all rather busy, leaving it hard to find time to blog, look for/apply for jobs, and get everything else in order for my impending graduation. Not that I want to complain. I’m just making excuses for being so dormant on the blogging, because I’m hoping once this is all over I’ll be back with some really exciting new thoughts.

On a rather unrelated note, this past weekend I celebrated my 22nd birthday. I feel much older, in a good way. I had a fun party and spent time with my friends and loved ones. What more could I ask for?

And yes, my mom called last week to say the swallows were back.

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Thanks to Christy at The Red Carpet Events!

The Red Carpet Events

What a wonderful surprise to find upon my return to the blogosphere – a post by Christy Bareijsza at The Red Carpet Events featuring my blog. Thanks Christy! In response to her post, here’s my question for all event planners/event planning professionals: What tips or advice do you have for new graduates looking for a job to break into the industry? Beyond myself, I know several soon-to-be grads who are interested in events and I’m sure they’d be appreciative of your input! In my own experience, I don’t have the credentials many employers are looking for in a director of events or events manager or event coordinator.

So, how do I get my foot in the door?

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Back from Mexico

After 10 of some of the most exhausting, fun, and rewarding days of my life, I find myself back in Eugene, sitting in front of my computer, feeling a little overwhelmed at the prospect of jumping back into the blogosphere after an almost completely internet and technology-free week and a half.

Mexico was amazing. Never before have I been honored to help lead such a remarkable group of high school students and adults. The kids this year were truly unique. To be honest, I think high school and college comprise periods in our life in which we are possibly the most self-centered and oblivious to the thoughts and needs of others. I don’t mean this to sound as bad as it does. I just mean that in my experience, ESPECIALLY in college, we are taught to think primarily about ourselves – who we are as individuals, what it is we want to do with our lives, and what we must do to achieve our own personal goals. We don’t yet have spouses or families to be responsible to; nor do we own homes or hold steady jobs. We don’t HAVE to think about anyone above ourself. In some ways, that’s good. It’s important to discover and establish ourselves in the world. Putting yourself first isn’t always wrong.

But on the trip this year, the collection of selfless, compassionate, accepting and respectful souls blew me away. Despite it being a group of nearly 50 high schoolers, I didn’t see any cliques! No alienation or social ostracism. Everyone genuinely seemed to engage with everyone else. And everyone benefited from that.

My role on the trip this year was also a step up from the past. It was my first year as a “site foreman,” which means I was responsible for the construction of a standard Amor home (11′ x 22′, 2 windows, 1 door). I was the second female site leader and the youngest ever in our group’s 20 year history of doing the trip. As such, I had high expectations for myself; I wanted to prove to myself that I had the gumption, leadership, and expertise to do a good job. I’m proud to say we finished it, with time to spare! In 4 years we haven’t finished a home, but this year 3 of the 4 site leaders finished. A testament to our group I think. As a site leader, I was surprised by how mentally exhausting the process was, but also surprised by how naturally much of it came to me. I’m glad I accepted the invitation to serve the group this way.

With regards to my professional interest in events and relationship management, I think I learned a lot from this experience. Too much to relate here. But here a few quick tidbits:

  • Engaging in hands-on activities is great for building relationships. The necessity of cooperation and teamwork allows individuals to interact positively in pursuit of a common goal. Students and adults who might not have spoken to one another otherwise developed friendships through challenges like building a wall together.
  • Be honest and open about setbacks. When our bus broke down on the trip down through California, the students were less put-out by the inconvenience of it than by the leaders’ lack of communication about the problem. Admitting a mistake garners respect; hiding it hurts trust.
  • Put faith in others (but don’t be afraid to check-in, advise, and supervise). I was nervous about trusting the completion of certain elements of building the house to students; then I reminded myself that as a high school student I was capable of many of these tasks. I was not disappointed in the work of the students under my supervision but under their own leadership. The finished house looked great!
  • Love conquers all. Okay this one’s pretty cheesy. But all I mean is that, at the end of the day, it’s who we are as people that matters. If we are loving, ultimately we will do good. The talent, the brains, the experience – that’s all important. But the first, last, and most important quality we must have, in order to truly succeed, is love. Love to make us understanding of others, responsive to their needs, patient and respectful, and invested in their personal outcome.

I think that’s enough for now. Stay tuned for my updates on the job search. Hint: it’s most definitely still on.

Here are some more beautiful images from the trip, courtesy of Spencer Mason Roberts:

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Taking a (spring) break


I am leaving tomorrow to head down to Mexico on my annual mission trip with my church to build houses for impoverished families. Amor Ministries is the nonprofit organization that organizes these trips, and my church has been doing this for about 15 years I think. This is my 8th year; I started my freshman year of high school (the first time I was old enough to go) and have been going ever since.

This year, I’ve been asked to be a site leader, which entails the additional responsibility (beyond being an adult leader, as I have been for the previous 3 years) of leading a team of approximately 20-25 high school students and adults in constructing a home. Yikes! I was reluctant to accept but decided I was ready to step up and challenge myself. I know how to swing a hammer, but I’m no toolman, so I’m a bit nervous! How do I tell other people what to do when I’m still not sure myself much of the time? I trust the judgment of the trip leaders – I figure they wouldn’t ask me if they didn’t think I couldn’t do it. But it’s still intimidating – the other 3 sites leaders for our group of 60+ are all men twice my age with a lot of experience. Not only do I feel as though I’m still just a kid, I wasn’t born with that Y-chromosome that makes me know how to tinker with stuff like my dad can.

I’m excited for the opportunity to lead the group this way, and I have high aspirations for my team. I think we can build a really good, strong home for a deserving family and have a fun, safe experience doing it.

Please, please wish me luck!! I’ll be back in two weeks with the outcome!

Image courtesy of Amor Ministries on

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