For those of you that read the FT.com, you will have spotted this article by Michael Skapinker earlier this month. For those of you that didn’t, here it is in it’s full glory. Naturally, we couldn’t agree more.
Several people I have met recently have asked bashfully whether I can help a daughter or son get into journalism.
I tell them there is nothing I can do; the Financial Times’s graduate entry and internship schemes have procedures laid out on our website.
But I ask why their children want to be journalists. There are far fewer openings than there used to be and competition for those is fierce. The outlook for the profession isn’t great.
So what should they do? In the 1967 movie The Graduate, Benjamin Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman, is approached by a family friend, who says to him: “Just one word. Plastics. There’s a great future in plastics.”
If I had one word for a graduate today, it would be: events. There is a great future in managing events.
There are plenty of other careers: teaching, nursing, medicine, engineering, banking, management consultancy. Some of those are socially useful. The last two are better paid.
But there are five good reasons to go into the events and conference management business.
- It has a future. A curiosity of the internet age is that the more opportunities people have to talk and see each other online the more they want real contact. You can see it in the number of live events: concerts, debates – and business conferences.
In its Occupational Outlook Handbook, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics says it expects employment opportunities for meeting, convention and event planners to grow by 33 per cent from 2012 to 2022, “much faster than the average for all occupations”.
- You will pick up valuable skills. Whenever I speak at or chair a conference, I am struck by how much the organisers, at every level, have had to master: choosing a venue, evaluating the acoustics, deciding where everyone is going to come in and how they are going to move into the hall, whether the speakers have arrived, how soon to fit their microphones, how to get everything to run on time.
There are crises to be managed, such as speakers who are delayed. There are other contractors, such as sound engineers and translators, who have to be co-ordinated. Many businesses talk about execution. At conferences you learn how to execute, or the whole event goes awry.
The skills required are advancing all the time. Rob Davidson, who taught events management at Westminster and Greenwich universities and now runs MICE Knowledge, a consultancy, points to the level of technology in today’s conferences. Many events are webcast; they often have their own app.
- The intellectual content is high. Conferences need more than organisational and technical skills. Agendas have to be crafted and speakers contacted. Each conference requires industry research, getting to know the companies and their people.
You won’t get much time to listen to the speeches. Consider yourself lucky. Many of them are dire. Running conferences is more fun than attending them – but the preparation means there are endless opportunities to learn about new sectors.
- It is easy to get experience. There are undergraduate and postgraduate courses in events management, but they are not essential.
Most universities run conferences, especially during the holidays. You can volunteer for or work at those. It is a chance to see whether you like it, and you then have something to present to future employers.
- It is a great stepping stone to other things. Mr Davidson says most of his graduates tend to stay in events management and move up. He comes across them running large venues or trade shows.
But if you do want to do something else, this is the perfect career to make contacts. You meet the top people at a huge range of companies, government departments and international and non-governmental organisations.
You also get the chance to impress them. Conference speakers, however experienced, are nervous. Look after them, get them on and off the stage, tell them how well they have done and they are more likely to remember you.
Do you want to get on board? Hhave a look at our current vacancies.