Lucy Hurry, operations co-ordinator at i2i Events Group and EN30 member offers some advice to graduates looking to get their foot in the door.
Two years ago I began my career in the exhibitions industry, having migrated from the retail sector – it has been a whirlwind but a challenge that I have enjoyed immensely.
This year in particular, has been a great one as I am honoured to be part of the 2016 EN Thirty Under 30. I remember being asked in the nomination form where I see myself in five years’ time.
One of my hopes is to help develop mentoring programmes within businesses and make our industries more accessible to universities and colleges, to show what great opportunities are available. So when I got the invitation from EN to share my passion, it was an opportunity I couldn’t let pass by.
Firstly, every time my peers and I had an event module at university, we were taught about music festivals, sporting events and art exhibitions. Yet the less glamorous, but just as rewarding side of events such as trade shows and conferences wasn’t mentioned. I feel there’s a whole side to the events sector that isn’t being taught at universities, and I am not sure why we aren’t shouting about us and what we do.
Secondly, one of the biggest challenges we faced when leaving uni was finding the right opportunity. There was a fear that companies wouldn’t take us on with the little experience we had. A degree showed commitment, but would the lack of hands on experience make a difference?
If there were more partnerships or mentoring programmes readily available between university and event companies allowing students to work alongside completing their degree, this would enable students to gain valuable experience and how to put their learnings into action in a real industry environment.
It would also allow opportunities to build a network. Not only for the graduate, but for the companies, this is a great opportunity, as there is a whole world of talent out there that could be tapped into.
For the graduates, doing a work placement differentiates you from the rest of your peers. There was a headline in The Telegraph a few years ago stating: ‘‘Degrees do not guarantee jobs, people do”, and I believe there is some truth in this.
Anyone can have a degree, but it’s the individual that needs to stand out and make a statement, and it may just be that having work experience supports that.
To all the graduates searching for a foot in the door, my key advice would be to go out and meet as many people as you can. My first bit of work experience was initiated by attending an event I loved and wanting to be a part of it. Loving what you do is a huge bonus.
When you’re at an event, look for the organisers, a help desk, or someone who is part of the team and show your interest. That personal touch goes a long way and face-to-face interaction is what the exhibition industry is based on.
The company in question may not currently run any internships or work programmes but you never know what the future holds. Building your network and showing how interested you are could open many doors.
I am fortunate, and very proud to be a part of a company who regularly run successful marketing internships in which i2i go on to employ a high number of interns once they finish the scheme.
It is evident how successful internships can be for both parties.
Last but not least, experience is key when developing yourself and finding out what you want most from your career.
You don’t always have to get to your goal in a straight line. I believe it’s interesting and beneficial to take a side route sometimes; work alongside other teams, communicate and inspire one another, widen your area of knowledge, because it’s those pieces that fit together to make the bigger picture.
Challenges should be seen as opportunities, because that’s what they really are. If you’re starting in the events industry, you better be ready for a challenge.