How did I get here? In the meetings and events industry, this question almost always has an interesting answer. There are meeting professionals who were once fashion models, real estate agents, diplomats, and biologists who all bring unique skills from previous professions but exhibit the same detail-oriented, caring, and creative personality traits that make a great planner. Even planners who were drawn to this field from the beginning of their careers will often move between several facets of the industry before finding the perfect niche.
The good news is that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the leisure and hospitality supersector that includes meetings and events has added significantly more new jobs than it has lost every month for the last year. The less good news, according to Dawn Penfold, owner of MeetingJobs, LLC, is that while companies are recruiting for new positions, they are very particular about it. “Hiring managers have created a niche in their own areas and they don’t have the time to train or mentor anyone. They are looking for an exact skill set,” she says. The result is the meetings and events industry is very welcoming to people who are trying to get a foot in the door, but for those professionals trying to move up, or between disciplines, for example, corporate meetings to medical meetings, it is little harder. Penfold warns, “These are different animals and there is a learning curve, so get some experience under your belt.”
If the three things that matter in real estate are, “location, location, location” then the three things that matter in meeting planning are, “experience, experience, experience.”
Below are three meeting planners who have all followed unique and interesting paths into the meetings profession. One always knew he wanted to be in the industry and enjoyed several different careers within it before finding his preferred role with a mission-based association. Another began a career in ballet before he began “choreographing” corporate meetings, and a third was headed for a career as a golfer before honing her planning skills at some of the biggest tech companies in the U.S. and then building her own company.
Here they describe their winding career paths, and share advice on building relationships, nurturing your strengths, and following your passions. Here are some of the strategies that worked for them.