Navigating a career in event management as a Millennial

Navigating a career in event management as a Millennial

Well hello there! It’s a pleasure to be back. I hope you’ve been well since we last connected!

This week I’d like to focus on The Children, because The Children are our future. Who I’m referring to is that group of young’uns known as Millennials (AKA Gen Y).

I should preface that I’m allowed to call this cohort The Children because, according to the year I was born and much to my dismay, I am a Millennial. It’s a difficult thing for me to admit, so your support is appreciated.

Hello, my name is Danielle, and I am a Millennial. Phew, there, that wasn’t so bad.

Most of my hesitation in admitting my inclusion in this age group lies with the characteristics associated with Millennials as I vehemently insist that I do not identify with the vast majority of those traits. We’ve all heard that Millennials are social media savvy, yet underemployed; they are looking for a distinct experience, yet are detached from institutions. Knowing this, how can event planning professionals reach this cohort?

I have the privilege of being the unofficial in-house student tour guide at the MTCC. I’ve anointed myself as such because of my personal mandate to help The Children just as other professionals have helped me along the way. It’s my chance to pay it forward to current event planning students (and I know you’re thinking, How un-Millennial-like of you. Why thank you).

Something that I’ve consistently come across during these tours is that the Gen Y event professionals are very concerned about the next step in their career and making sure it’s meaningful. The panic that I see in their eyes when we talk about interviewing, job opportunities, and the future would be endearing if it wasn’t so disheartening. What are they so afraid of? Does it have anything to do with the pressure they feel to live up to a standard that took others of past generations less years to achieve? Is it the yearning for instant gratification, a trait that partly defines this generation? I don’t think these worries are exclusive to our industry, but I think that what makes the event management business unique is also a little scary for the next generation. Why, you ask? My thoughts are two-fold.

  • Raise your hand if your path to where you are now has been linear, predictable, and clear of potholes. *Pause, and not a hand in sight.* Many of us did not start our careers in events, as rather it was destiny (or a random serving gig) that lead us here (myself included), and that uncertainly could be discouraging to many young people.
  • In a world of increasing reliance on technology to bring us together, a Millennial may wonder what place face-to-face gatherings actually have in the future. To a young person who may not know the value and big business of assembling like-minded people together, the very practicality of our industry may seem futile.

So what can be done to encourage this generation to pursue a path in events? Short of a campaign of strategically placed sandwich boards outside of Starbucks and the Apple Store, the first step is to continue doing what we do best – producing attractive events – to show that this industry is significant and is, in fact, an extension of what comes naturally to human beings. I see it as an “if you build it, they will come” kind of situation. No gimmicks or tricks, no celebrity endorsements or veiled promises; to attract the caliber of people we want – nay, need – to catapult our businesses forward, we must simply do things bigger, better, more creatively, making more money than we have before. Millennials are faced with seemingly infinite choices of what to do next and they do not want to feel stagnant, so let’s first show them that this business is rewarding, viable, and one helluva wild ride.

Needless to say, it will be very interesting to see how The Children – OK, Millennials – act and react in the event planning industry in the coming years. I suppose this has been said of all upcoming generations, but, of course, if it hasn’t been on Family Guy or Facebook, I wouldn’t know.

Danielle is slated to sound off about Millennials in the industry at next week’s PCMA Canadian Innovation Conference. Look for her Panel Discussion, “How Gen Y Sees the World: Battling Stereotypes” on Monday, Nov. 23 and 10:30 a.m.

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