When it comes to the career choices people make, television often plays a significant role in influencing these decisions. In the 1960s and '70s when the characters on "Dr. Kildare" and "Marcus Welby, M.D." were saving lives on prime time TV, applications to medical schools increased. And crime dramas such as "Adam-12" and "Hill Street Blues" inspired people to contemplate jobs in law enforcement. You can blame the proliferation of lawyers over the past few decades on "L.A. Law" and David E. Kelley.
Just think of how many males will wear a tight suit and thin tie on their first day of work at an advertising agency because they watched "Mad Men."
Television viewers will likely notice that there are a number of shows devoted to the exploits of party and wedding planners. Stations such as The Style Network, TLC and Discovery Channel have made event planning a programming staple. It is not a coincidence that the rise in the number of reality shows is occurring at the same time that the event planning industry is expanding and becoming a popular career choice for twenty somethings.
Television is not the only force leading young people to pursue event planning. The United States service-based economy is competing in a global marketplace that requires a larger number of businesses to stress the social aspects of their corporate gatherings in order to retain employees and to satisfy clients and would-be clients. According to Hoovers, the trade show and event planning industry includes about 4,000 companies with a combined annual revenue over $8 billion. Industries such as pharmaceuticals, education, media and sports franchises consider successful special events as a top priority to establish marketplace identity.
Interest in event planning has escalated so much that learning the business has evolved from several how-to books to a popular area of study for college students. The demand for this knowledge base has made event planning one of the fastest growing academic programs in the country.
It does not matter if it is a state school or a private institution, big or small, rural or urban, colleges across the nation are now devoting more focus to event planning. From what I have seen in particular at Rider University, a New Jersey college of nearly 6,000 students, is a noticeable student interest in event planning. The Communication and Journalism department established a minor in event planning only three years ago and now has more than 120 undergraduates enrolled in the program. Most of these students are majoring in public relations as well.
If there are students choosing colleges based on if they offer courses in event planning, it is certain more schools will see the competitive advantage and join the bandwagon by establishing their own similar program.
This progression translates into more resumes that feature event planning experience landing on the hiring manager's desk. It is imperative for those in the communication industry to understand the background of this academic experience and its significance.
Currently, course offerings in event planning vary based on campus and location. Some schools offer degrees through their schools of tourism and hospitality, while others only provide a certificate for completing the program of study. Other institutions teach event planning in conjunction with the existing public relations, management and marketing programs.
The main benefactors of having so many college graduates enter the work force with planning experience are communication firms of all sizes. The pool of job applicants is growing with those offering specialized planning talents along with their public relations backgrounds. Most students understand that there are more options regarding their future careers if they use their planning expertise in a corporate setting, rather than focusing solely on lavish parties and destination weddings.
For human resource professionals or those in a communication company searching through resumes, here is what to look for from applicants with training in both event planning and public relations.
- Well-roundedness: Event planning students are able to call upon techniques and skills presented in a wide range of subjects such as public relations, management, marketing and human resources. Though PR students often graduate without taking enough business classes, this is not the case for students in all event-planning programs. Many are expected to participate in a number of internships and extracurricular activities during their college careers too.
- Communication skills: Students are not only taught how to write press releases and create publicity materials, but also how to improve their verbal communication techniques. Professional communication is a common topic in most event planning programs.
- Organizational skills: Academic work in this field examines a professional planners who must be detail-oriented and self-driven to set deadlines. So, employers who hire these students can call upon their abilities to multi-task and manage calendars. The process of creating timelines and itineraries is fundamental when learning about event planning. Proficiency in tasks like this will be particularly useful in a boutique firm setting that requires a variety of skills from all of its employees.
- Leadership skills: In order to plan a special event, one must be able to lead and to manage. If students are honing these skills in college while planning and executing actual events, they will have the experience that employers demand.
- Entrepreneurial know-how: In the age of the BlackBerry, many students would rather text and e-mail people they don't know instead of picking up the phone. Event planning programs stress the importance of networking and proactively communicating with potential clients in person. The fundamental component of sales- making a connection and negotiating with a client - is part of the curriculum.
- Professional behavior in social settings: Don't worry about new employees who are recent college graduates attending their first client dinner and doing keg stands once they get to the bar. Since event planning students examine successful techniques for social gatherings, they are prepared to focus on the professional qualities needed to excel in a corporate setting where business and alcohol are present.