Today's historically low unemployment rate in the United States—3.9 percent—has caused some complications for meetings and events, such as more costly but less consistent service at hotels and other venues. On the other hand, the employment situation has brought a positive for planners: If you've wanted to change jobs, now is a favorable time to try.
While an annual turnover figure in the event-planning segment isn’t known, "it's very clear to us that turnover is quite high on both the planner side and the hospitality side," says Dawn Penfold, president of Meetingjobs, a recruitment and job-search firm for the meetings market. In addition to today’s low unemployment, Penfold sees social issues behind the high turnover. "The concept of putting in your time and rising through an organization is not prevalent anymore. There's also the desire of more employees to find what they consider 'perfect' work-life balance."
Another factor increasing demand for planners: Employment in the meetings, conventions, and events industry is projected to grow roughly 11 percent by 2026, according to the 2018 Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This job growth is faster than what's expected in the overall economy in that time.
As for areas where planners can find the most opportunity, "there's always a need within the medical communications industry for solid planners; the compliance issues specific to this niche makes understanding and experience very valuable," Penfold says. Given that the Occupational Outlook Handbook shows that 11 of the 20 fastest-growing occupations are in the medical field, educational events in that industry will remain abundant and require planners. Elsewhere, "third-party companies are taking an ever-increasing piece of the overall meetings industry and have staffing demands,” she says. “And even with the advent of specialized software for various tasks related to meetings, we always see client needs for people with experience in sourcing, budgeting, contract negotiation, and other aspects central to event planning."
For planners seriously considering a change in employers, Penfold has these tips:
Be reasonable with your expectations. "Not all companies have the flexibility or culture that allows for flex time, virtual offices, day-care services, or other work-life balance considerations,” Penfold says. “Know your particular strengths and your comparative worth to best position yourself when interviewing and then negotiating."
Follow the directions in the job posting. If you are asked to include a cover letter, make certain to have one with your application. If you are asked to state an acceptable salary range, supply it. You do not want to be perceived as someone who is not detail oriented, or able to follow directions.
Make certain that your social media presence is clean. "Hiring officials will check your Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other social media. Photos of you passed out poolside while on vacation might amuse family and friends and bring back good memories, but potential employers might not be so amused."
Use all resources available to you. Most recruitment is now done online. Get on industry-specific job boards from the big associations and from recruiters. Also make certain to use aggregators such as Indeed and CareerBuilders.
Build social capital by networking constantly. "The meetings and events niche is a pretty tight-knit community. Be active by being helpful to others, and give more than you take. You'll be very pleased with the results when you're the one asking for assistance."