Posts tagged career

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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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!

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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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Taking a crack at my first professional resume

Alright folks, I’ve finally done it. I’ve retooled, re-worked, fiddled with, edited, and redesigned my resume. In the past, it wasn’t as important how my resume looked or what all it included because I felt pretty proud of myself just for having one in the first place. After all, applying in high school for a part time job at the mall wasn’t quite as rigorous as trying to find my place in the professional world, so I didn’t stress over the details so much.

But the time has come for a fancy-schmancy, formal resume. I posted it on its own page – please take a look and give me your input. I hope it avoids any of the 7 deadly sins of resume design, which includes the sin of using pink strawberry-scented paper, a la Elle in Legally Blonde. If it stinks, let me know how it could be improved. If it’s brilliant, forward it along to someone who might be interested! Either way, feedback would be much appreciated!

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But it’s not my fault!


I want to be an event planner. I am not a masochist. But, sometimes I fear the two go hand in hand. The exciting thing, to me, about events is how everything comes together in time and space to create this incredible, real, touchpoint experience for everyone involved. There is interaction. There is community. There is life. Sometimes, there are pretty things to look at and yummy things to eat. Every sense can be engaged.

The terrifying thing about events is everything I just said. There is less control and no edits. There are the confines of time and distance. What’s done is done, and if it’s not done well, there is no backspace key or reset button. If something goes wrong, will it be my head on the chopping block?

This is one reason why I’ve been drawn to corporate and nonprofit events versus weddings. Don’t get me wrong, weddings are fun! I’d like to keep it that way. I’ll plan my own and help my friends. But event planning is a demanding profession, and the personal emotions (for better or worse) tied up in the Happiest Day of Your Life are just the icing on the towering cake of pressure put on event planners to ensure that everything runs smoothly, on-budget, and successfully. If I make a mistake in an event, I’d prefer not to think I’ve ruined somebody’s lifelong dream.

Event Planner Christy Bareijsza wrote in her blog, The Red Carpet Events, about the responsibilities of event planners in her recent post “Where Do You Draw The Line?” She says that “if it rains the day of your event…chances are, it’s your fault.”


Bareijsza explains that, as a strategic planner, you should always have multiple backup plans and be constantly prepared to roll up your sleeves and do the dirty work to keep your client satisfied.

I think what she’s saying is that rather than admitting defeat or pointing fingers, the best thing an event planner can do for a client is to be accountable, which means not just taking responsibility for mishaps but, more importantly, generating positive solutions. In my experience, hardly anything ever goes perfectly according to plan. I think clients understand that. But being a good planner doesn’t mean planning it all and then going on autopilot. Instead, it means developing flexible strategies, supervising their implementation, and improvising as necessary to ensure that end goals are met.

Personally, I’d like to think that I will never make a mistake and everything I touch will turn to solid gold for my clients. In reality, that’s impossible. Mishaps will occur and I will get blamed, whether or not it’s really my fault. This, I must accept. But the difference between pleasure and pain will be how successfully I can anticipate, prevent, mitigate, and repair the damage. Then I can proudly accept responsibility for the outcome, rain or shine.

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The art of the effective business e-mail

Brian Zafron wrote last week about the importance of well-crafted e-mails on the Freelance Switch blog. This topic drew me in because I too tend to be a bit picky about e-mail grammar and content and shudder at the complacency some of my peers seem to exhibit in this age of new, instant communication technology. In a world where “Where you at?” is actually a tag line for Boost Mobile and”idk” “lol” and “brb” make sense, the art of eloquent, professional, and thoughtful communication seems to have been seriously downgraded as a must-have for the adult world.

And maybe I am on a bit of a rant. It’s true – I stodgily resist the new IM and text messaging jargon. When I send a text (which is rarely) I painfully type out each word, finding myself slightly irritated that I can’t figure out how to make an apostrophe when I want to say “you’re.” I still subscribe to the notion that spelling, grammar, and writing style say something about us as individuals and as professionals. Just as I’m nervous having my hair cut by a stylist with a less than salon quality ‘do, I wouldn’t trust my professional communications to someone whose e-mails read like a 2nd grader’s spelling test. They could end up costing me my dignity with a blunder like this one (featured on Bad Pitch Blog).

So, my advice to students and professionals alike is this: save the shorthand for your BFF and keep your professional communication just that – professional. That means writing an e-mail like you would a letter, beginning with “Dear so-and-so” (or some variation) and ending with your signature. Read Zafron’s post to get more great advice. One thing I had to add to his advice is to avoid humor. Personally, I LOVE humor; I doubt I’ve gone a day in my life without cracking a joke or doing something silly just to get a laugh. But the problem with e-mail is it’s harder to tell when someone is joking. Sarcasm is the trickiest to pull off, so I’d recommend nixing it altogether, at least until you’ve established a comfy rapport.

After I’ve let loose my frustrations with bad grammar and time-wasting ramblings in e-mails, I want to please beg your pardon for any grammar/spelling/outright stupidity I’ve accidentally let slip in this post. Though I don’t want to make excuses, it is 1 AM and the chances are high I’ve missed something. So here’s my last piece of advice. Above all, be merciful. One or two errors does not a moron make, so on behalf of my graduating class, in our vernacular: plz give us chance!  

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Brr! This PR blanket isn’t working

Using “PR” as a blanket term can be problematic for several reasons. Unfortunately, it seems like people either associate public relations with specific tactics such as press releases or they think of it as a means to attracting publicity (as in “publicity stunts”) and controlling reputation. Worst of all, public relations is sometimes vilified as “spinning” the news in order to protect client interests. 

Many leading thinkers in public relations research, however, define PR as “the management function that identifies, establishes, and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the various publics on whom its success or failure depends” (Cutlip, Center, and Broom. Effective Public Relations. 1985). In other words, public relations is about managing relationships, not spitting out generic press releases or creatively explaining why a certain starlet was photographed sans undies.

With this definition of PR, it is easy to see how activities like fund-raising, maintaining a blog, hosting events, or publishing podcasts can all fit under the public relations blanket. Matthew Stibbe, editor in chief of Articulate Marketing, however, does not follow this definition of PR in his recent post “27 Proven Freelance Marketing Tips”on his blog, Bad Language. I was checking out this post in hopes of gaining some advice for marketing myself as a job candidate and potentially later if I start my own business. In his post, he argues that PR “doesn’t work,” along with fancy business cards, cold-calling, and mail shots. He lumps PR – a management function – in with specific tactics. I agree that business cards and brochures can not stand alone as a method of marketing your freelance business. But I found it interesting that Stibbe listed blogging and website maintenance as good techniques but clearly separate from PR. In my Advanced PR Writing class, blogging and social media was the focus of a significant assignment. Why? I think because they are great ways to manage relationships with stakeholders/publics (including potential clients).

In another post from his blog, Stibbe wrote that “PR stands for public relations but it could also stand for press relations.” I disagree, at least with the fact that press relations could explain the entirety of what public relations is. The press is a public and it also provides a vehicle through which messages to other publics can be disseminated. But I do not think that PR practitioners should limit themselves to media relations.

I did get some good advice from Stibbe – I think one of my favorites was number 14: “Your obvious is your talent.” Do what you’re best at and fill that niche rather than trying to wear 20 hats. Lately I’ve been looking at Preston Bailey – the It guy of fabulous wedding and event design (he blogs too!). He started in the event design industry as a floral couturier, but used his talents to build a reputation as one of the world’s leading event designers and a celebrity favorite. His work has inspired me to focus my interests and specific talents: style and design AND strategic, creative thinking and planning AND relationship building.

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