My 16-year-old daughter has grown up in and around the event industry and has quite literally been ceremoniously dumped in the event world. As a baby, her favorite place to fall asleep in her car seat, was on top of a 1,000KVA generator. Being baby sat by various Carman Miranda lookalikes at Pride events was also a regular occurrence when her mum and I were working.
She has been bounced on the knee of legends and performed in the circus ring before she was ten years old – the event industry runs thorough her veins.
At 16, she knows her way around an event site better than most hardened crew and as a result has always been drawn to a career in events industry, wanting to follow in the “old mans” footsteps to become a Producer or Event Director. (Wipe a proud tear from my eye!)
This leads onto my dilemma. She needs to start thinking about A-level choices and ultimately the possibility of University. I have been serving up advice for event management students for the last eight years or so and now I find myself doing the same on my doorstep. The repercussions of giving tainted advice being a lifetime of blame from the other side of the dinner table.
It’s undoubtedly an advantage to have a qualification specific to the event industry, but, I do think that it is a fine balance between on the ground experience and the time spent in lecture rooms learning theory.
Employers are looking for tangible evidence that you not only know how to function in an office with a good understanding of pre-production, but you have also developed the skills only gained on live events and a working environment.
You have to ask yourself, would an employer prefer to have a candidate who has spent two and half years actually working in an event office and has a short course diploma or, a graduate who has no experience but a degree?
I think a degree is an important achievement for those who have the academic ability to get good grades. It’s a waste of a good and young intelligent mind not to pursue academic excellence, not to mention the fun and life skills learnt in the Uni bar!
A degree undoubtedly opens doors, emerging markets such as the UAE require you to have a degree qualification to work at a senior level. In that respect, it could be considered a vital asset to a CV.
The playing field is leveled somewhat for those who don’t do a degree and prefer to work their way up within an event organisation. Time spent gaining mileage counts extremely highly within the events fraternity and specific experience in a particular field would arguably trump a degree at the interview stage.
Some of our children are likely to be doing jobs that haven’t even been invented yet, so trying to predict their future and how they need to prepare for it, is a bit like deciding what is the appropriate clothes to take to Glastonbury Festival next year – it is a complete unknown, so we need to prepare for all eventualities and be as diverse as possible.
If I look around me at the next generation of event professionals, it is clear that a degree doesn’t make someone perform better within the industry. It’s certainly not an indicator of common sense or smarter thinking, but it does in most cases demonstrate the ability to focus on a subject, show commitment and the delivery of a final result.
So what advice am I going to give to my daughter?
The conclusion I take from my own ramblings is that, if the young Proto is capable and academic enough to go to university and achieve a degree, then she shouldn’t pass up this opportunity. Going to University is a fabulous achievement and will work in her favour in the future.
My suggestion would be that while at University, she immerses herself in all things event orientated and gains as much experience as she can whilst doing her degree. What a perfect place to get involved in events – gigs, fresher’s balls, conferences……
However, don’t be under the illusion that a degree is a queue jumping ticket, which will catapult the graduate into a well-paid senior role within the events industry – it won’t.
After she has graduated and hopefully still wants to embark on her event career, I would advise her to enroll on a short full time or part time course Post Graduate course in event management which will inevitably include some volunteering opportunities and culminates with that all important internship.
In choosing the Post Graduate course, we will of course make sure the faculty are actually working in the industry and the prospectus includes relevant content that has a very vocational slant rather than a more academic one.
I’m providing my daughter with the best advice I can, having worked in the event industry for over a quarter of a century in many roles including the education of young event professionals. If I’m wrong, then I am committing myself to a lifetime of persecution within my own household and will be looking to go on a couple of World tours to keep out of the way for a while. I will keep you posted!