To be ‘job fit’ for the 21st Century nowadays you need to pursue a path of Lifelong Learning, or at least plan a programme of, Continuous Professional Development (CPD) to update your work-skills and subject-knowledge.
If you thought that your learning finished when you left school, or university – think again! Lifelong or Continuous Learning is an absolute necessity in this day and age and is a solid investment for your future career prospects. Investing some time across your working life in some form of learning will enable you to keep your skills and knowledge up-to-date and in doing so, you will strengthen your professional credibility and employability.
I practise what I preach and have been on a path of Continuous Learning since I left school, both in terms of my professional as well as my personal development. Whether starting out in your career, or already a seasoned Event-Planner, it is essential that you continue with a personally tailored programmed of Lifelong Learning to help you carve out a more successful career path for yourself.
A good friend of mine, Jackie Mulligan, (Entrepreneur, Speaker, Writer & Consultant) formally Principal Lecturer and Director of Enterprise at the International Centre for Research in Events, Tourism and Hospitality, explains her approach to Lifelong Learning and CPD and describes how she mapped out her own path to a successful career through a bespoke programme of professional and personal development:
Gaining qualifications and engaging in continuing professional development is a critical success factor in career progression. Whether it is mentoring, short courses, education sessions at events or new qualifications, professional development activities to support growth, enhance staff motivation and retention, and help planners navigate in increasingly complex fields. The industry is moving to more strategic, data-centric, critical and creative demands that call on specialist skills and updated skills. Professional code of conducts identified by PCMA and MPI for example emphasise that professionals need to take responsibility, as do businesses, for staying updated and maintaining the highest standards
All businesses have to stay updated and obtain twenty-first century skills-sets if their organisations are serious about building and sustaining success in what is a crowded, global marketplace; being lazy about taking responsibility for CPD and updating your skills-set in programmes of Lifelong Learning are no longer an option in a well-managed business enterprise, but a necessity. On this point, Jackie Mulligan, adds:
Of course in this very dynamic world, ensuring you or your staff can engage in CPD is challenging. However in recent years there is more learning available online. MPI has created a Professional Development ‘On Demand’ and UK Centre for Events Management launched the first purely online Masters qualification. Graduates should be aware that the degree is just the start. Maintaining a personal development plan to identify skills needs and resources needed to progress is a good strategy for identifying and updating goals as well as identifying educational needs along the way
How do you identify what skills you need to develop?
The SWOT Analysis
When setting your professional needs, or personal objectives, regardless of the topic it is good practice to understand where you are currently placed. I find that for professional and personal development a good tool to use is a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats).
All you need to do is write down your Strengths Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats in a table, such as in the downloadable example below.
Some skills you will be aware of because you use them every day, but once you feel that you have exhausted your list, you can look over your job description and compare what skills and attributes are required for that role and see if you can add any of them – or that you are about to acquire – to your Strengths or Weaknesses boxes. When you have completed this exercise, you could research the job of your dreams, (perhaps that is your bosses’ job) and identify what skills and attributes are required for that role too. Again, you can compare these to your own, current skills-set and place them in the appropriate box.
What skills and attributes should you build on?
Determining what skills you should build on is perhaps down to priorities. I personally believe that you should always focus on your strengths and build on them as much as possible. If ‘Finance’ is a weakness of yours and you have no desire to work with accounts, then to develop this weak area would seem rather pointless, (although others may disagree). If you want to be happy in your work (and I hope that you do) then channelling your career towards work that you enjoy and in which you are confident about your ability, makes sound sense – so my advice is to develop your strengths, not your weaknesses for a quick return!
However, Event Management is a varied role and a basic understanding of all aspects of this job is nevertheless, advised. You never know when you might need to work on a budget, regardless of whether or not you undertake the cash-flow forecasts for it, debt collection, or budget monitoring. So, if you have some glaring weakness that is vital to a career in Events Management, please ignore the previous paragraph and rectify it – now!
What opportunities and threats exist?
Once you have assessed your Strengths and Weaknesses, it is time to look at what Opportunities and Threats exist. The following Opportunities might include:
- getting a promotion with your current employer;
- doing a similar job with a different employer;
- working within an agency versus a corporate organisation;
- changing specialities, eg. from outdoor sporting events/festivals to indoor conferences and exhibitions;
- working abroad;
- starting up as a freelance organiser.
The Opportunities are endless, too many to list here, but you get my drift! Once you look at the skills you have and the opportunities available to you, you can start to prioritise your personal and professional development.
With Threats, the whole idea is to look at them and see how you can turn them into Opportunities, for example, if you identify possible redundancy as a threat, then how can this be turned into an Opportunity? It could be a good time to change your employer, change direction, or start up your own business. I started my own business following a round of redundancies with my previous employer – it was scary branching out on my own, but I am glad I took the plunge and I have never looked back.
How to develop your skills?
There are hundreds of ways you can develop your skills, both generally and within the Events Management industry. I would split your learning programme into three groupings:
- increasing my knowledge in the events industry;
- developing my skills within the events industry;
- personal development – honing skills such as communication, leadership, selling.
Once you have broken down your learning into these three areas, you can look at what opportunities there are to continue with your professional and personal development.
In – house
- Does your company run training courses, or development programmes?
- Does your company run a mentoring scheme where you can mirror work colleagues?
Outside of work hours
- What opportunities exist outside of my current workplace?
What are my preferred methods of learning?
- Reading textbooks
- Experiencing/watching others
- One-to-one coaching
- Training courses and seminars
- Reading blogs and engaging in online discussions
How to build your knowledge?
As well as developing your skills, it is important in the events industry to keep abreast with changes and current trends. We are in a fast moving industry so methodology changes regularly. Below is a list of five ideas to keep your subject-knowledge in tip top condition:
- Join organisations
I have mentioned in previous blogs the value of joining industry-relevant organisations, as they present a great way of updating your knowledge, via In-House newsletters, websites, online discussions, networking and industry events.
- Attend industry events
There are a number of exhibitions all over the world for our industry. It is not necessarily important to go to all of them, as not all of them will be relevant.
Here are a few of the larger ones.
- IMEX – held annually in Las Vegas and Frankfurt
- IBTM World (formerly EIBTM) – held annually in Barcelona
In the UK
- The Conference and Hospitality Show – held annually in Leeds.
- The Meetings Show UK – an international event held annually in London.
- Square Meal Venues & Events Live
- International Confex and the Event Production Show –held annually in London.
- Event Production Show
2. Familiarisation visits
As an Event- Planner you will no doubt be invited to a number of familiarisation visits (fam visits) throughout the year. Fam Visits are a great source of knowledge, as you often get to see the best of a region, city or hotel, which can provide you with vital information that you can pass on to your clients. Visit CHS Group UK to view our Independent Venue Roadshow and networking events, which run throughout the year across many venues.
3. Industry publications
There are lots of publications in our industry – and the ones to read are pretty much determined by either the area you currently work in, or the area you would like to work in! Here are a few national titles you might want to subscribe to:
Blogs and online forums are a great way to keep up-to-date with industry news and key trends. If you search the internet for “event management blogs” you will get almost 2 million results – take your pick!
Once you have completed your SWOT analysis and you have identified the skills and attributes you want to develop, use this grid to write down where and how you might develop them.
Lifelong Learning should be engaging and achievable for you, strengthening your professional credibility and helping you to become more creative whilst challenging established and well-used ideas and beliefs. What are you waiting for? Go and learn!