Many people think an event organiser’s job involves running festive fun events and booking wedding parties.
This might form an element of some organisers’ work, but today’s event management degree courses are preparing students for a fast-paced, rapid-growth profession, and they’re skilled up to run everything from small incentives to large international congresses.
I followed the stories of three final-year degree students, and a post-graduate student to see what it’s like preparing for this competitive challenge.
Egita Gailisa, University of Greenwich
Originally from Riga, Egita Gailisa is studying in the UK as she feels it has a mature events industry.
“I previously worked as a personal assistant, organising birthday and Christmas parties and realised that running events is a challenging, but rewarding experience.
“I am very happy that I chose this university, as the course is diverse, covering venue management, human resource challenges, contemporary issues and more.
“There is a lot to learn, and Greenwich has excelled, as in such a short time they have taught me so much, made the course interesting, and set strict deadlines to keep us all on top of the work.
“You really need to consider your time management skills before deciding to study; it takes a lot of time and definitely cannot be left until the last minute.
“The university also organises workshops to prepare us for the job market. This helps in finding placements, jobs, volunteering opportunities, signing up for graduate schemes, and improving our CV writing and interview skills.
“My ambition is to organise award ceremonies, as I enjoyed my voluntary work in this field, and gained some valuable experience.
“Hopefully I will open my own events company in a couple of years.”
Jennifer Termos, Bournemouth University
Jennifer is also a final-year student at Greenwich, but started her studies at Bournemouth – she transferred due to work commitments in London.
“Events management meant putting my organisational skills to work, and learning new topics like marketing, finance and economics. It’s the best of both.”
Both Bournemouth and Greenwich offered a placement year so Jennifer joined Croydon Council as an internal communications coordinator. She has continued this role part-time, after the placement ended, alongside her final-year studies.
“As per any degree, the first year is fairly easy, the second is more work, with more challenging assignments and then the final year is really hard work,” she says.
“My placement year has made my final year tremendously difficult as I’m struggling to get back into the swing of things when doing my assignments.
“I know this is to be expected, but managing my university workload and my job is stressful.
“Studying in London is also extremely different to studying in Bournemouth.
“Bournemouth has a small community feel, almost everyone your age is a student and you are all in the same boat, studying and doing part-time jobs. In London many people commute and I have felt more isolated from other students.”
Aimee Gaskell (pictured), Sheffield Hallam University
Aimee Gaskell’s interest in organising events started as a teenager at a dance academy.
“I organised the dance shows, displays and examinations – and this experience made me want to study event management. I didn’t consider anything else, as I knew I wanted this to be my full-time job,” she says.
“In the first and second year I gained a broad industry overview. I also did a one-year placement at the Business Design Centre (BDC) in Islington. This experience was invaluable, and made my studies of strategic management and events fall into place.
“All the final-year modules teach how to go forward and manage events after university. This is great, but the biggest challenge is adapting to the workload and level now expected.
“Returning to an academic environment after a year in full-time employment has proved more difficult than I had expected and taken time to adjust to.
“However Sheffield Hallam has excelled with support – for assignments, placement searching, finding work experience and discussing concerns.
“This year has involved finding potential employers, CV writing and using tools like LinkedIn.
“I hope I can secure an exciting position within an organisation whose passion for organising fantastic events matches my own.”
All of our undergraduates find time management a concern, and both Jennifer and Aimee have struggled to adjust to life back at university after their placement.
Our final story comes from a post-graduate student, now in the second year of her MA.
Ruth Boult, University of Westminster
Ruth hopes her masters will give her a competitive advantage for employability and depth of knowledge.
“The course started with an events industry overview and essential theory, with the lecturers adding industry insight,” says Ruth.
“My chosen modules – professional practice, creative experiences and festivals – focus on a specific area, which will all come together in next year’s dissertation.
“It’s been a challenge to fit the level of study required around full time work, even on a part-time course.
“Also, the majority of students don’t have English as a first language, which can be a challenge for group work, but great experience for going into this international industry.
“The course leader makes considerable effort to bridge academia and industry with guest speakers, working industry field trips, tradeshows and encouraging memberships with ISES/MPI.
“It is a difficult transition to make once the course is over and these networking opportunities have reassured students that important connections are within reach. This support also extends a year after leaving the course, which helps.”
Ambitions? “I would like to go into private, creative/immersive entertainment events. I also have an interest in sustainability and event sector approaches to the issue,” she adds.
This was first published in the December issue of CN. Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor