Monday, September 16, 2013

Aspiring Event Professionals: Gain Event Experience without Leaving Campus

For those college students who are aspiring event planning professionals, as I'm sure you have heard time and time again, you need to gain as much experience as possible while in college. But what if you don't have a car on campus or can't find a good internship off campus?

Here's a nice piece of advise: you don't have to leave campus for good experience.

A college campus can be a great place to gain some valuable work opportunities, particularly for a large school. Here are just a few different areas you can gain some type of event experience: 

Development/Fundraising Office
If you learn how to consistently raise money, you will always find job opportunities. In addition to putting on alumni events each year, many non-profits typically have event planning positions that require fundraising experience, so having this skill in your back pocket gives you an advantage when applying for these positions.

Facilities Management
Do you want to run a venue someday? Start working with your campus facilities department (or with a specific building) and learn the everyday skills and knowledge needed to perform the job. This can include maintenance, audio/visual, scheduling, landscaping, and more. Facility managers work with event planners to see events through, so it is a good way to see the planning process and, more importantly, grow your network.

Food & Beverage
On campus dining departments typically also do much of the on-campus catering for events, so this a good place to get some quick experience and, again, meet new contacts and grow your network.

Student Life
The student life department typically puts on larger events: orientation and convocation, commencement, on-campus concerts, movie showings, Family/Parents Weekend, as well as educational and cultural opportunities.

Admissions Office
The admissions office has a number of events it can put in an attempt to attract the most qualified students to the school: campus tours, info sessions, open houses, career fairs, etc.

Residential Life
Dorms are always looking to plan various events. This could be a cookout, holiday party (Christmas, Halloween, St. Patrick's Day, etc), beach trip, hike, night out on the town, and more.

Greek Life
Take the lead on planning events for your fraternity/sorority: formals, social events, philanthropic events, retreats, chapter, etc. You can gain a lot of experience doing this and, if nothing else, learn of the demand an events career.

Wellness Center
At your college's wellness center, you can have opportunities to plan intramurals or campus-wide dorm tournaments. You can also gain scheduling experience when juggling multiple classes and classroom space.

Athletic Department
Athletic departments, especially for larger schools, run like independent entities and are a great place to gain experience. Student interns are always needed and there are many ways to get involved:
  • Marketing - Planning events for fans (FanFest, pep rallies, open practices, Midnight Madness, etc)
  • Sales/Ticketing - You not only work a lot of events, but you talk to a lot of people on the phone and make a lot of connections with other ticketing offices. Have I stressed the importance of growing your network?
  • Development - Planning events and travel for boosters who donate money to the athletic department. This is a good way to get to know a lot of successful and influential peoples.
  • Event management - This department works with every other department to plan those events for boosters, season ticket holders, fans, as well as every home athletic contest.
  • Facilities management - Regardless of the event type, they are held in some type of venue. This department is often part of the events department.
  • Individual teams - This may require planning recruiting or alumni events, coordinating travel, and team functions.
Plus, if you're at a well-known athletic department, it really can stand out on your resume.

If you've been paying attention, the most critical aspects of working in college are: a) gaining valuable experience and skills, and b) growing your network. Doing these two things while in school - with fewer bills and responsibilities - can really give you an advantage when you start looking for a job after graduation.

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