Why Volunteering Will Kick-Start Your Career in Events

Why Volunteering Will Kick-Start Your Career in Events
Around about 2016, a new noun started appearing in social media and charitable volunteering: “Volunesia.” Defined as “that moment when you forget you’re volunteering to help change lives,
because it’s changing yours” Volunesia certainly also applies to volunteering as a way into event management … after all, it’s one of the most recommended ways of starting an event management
career and not just change and improve your life, but also your career prospects!

But what if you’re not quite convinced that volunteering can kick-start that paid career? From the
experiences of five leading event industry professionals working with Event Academy, there are at least 6 distinct ways in which volunteering at events doesn’t put paid to your events career options, it actually helps them considerably …

#1 Volunteering – a starting point for knowledge and experience
Like many careers, getting started in events can be difficult without relevant knowledge and experience. Volunteering at events is an ideal way to gain both and is something that event experts
Jane Morley, Director of Superglue Ltd, and Lorne Armstrong, Director at Event Academy, both agree is valuable when starting an events career, with Lorne advising particularly: “Do some
volunteering. It’s definitely more important when you’re getting started to get involved with as many different types of events as you can – it doesn’t really matter what, a mix is good”.

His colleague, Course Director Justine Kane, agrees that volunteering at multiple events is essential: “no event is a bad event for you to do unless you are really, really clear on specific areas that you would never, ever go into – but even then I would be really surprised if there wasn’t one that came out of it! So I would highly recommend that you try a bit of everything – try a sporting event, try private parties, try corporate events, try exhibitions, a conference – try everything!”

Martin Turner, Senior Lecturer at Event Academy, also recommends that would-be event managers
should volunteer as much as possible, adding that it’s not just being a volunteer, but participating in some of the activities which boost your knowledge and experience of the events industry: “All
experience in the events business is valid and important. If you are packing a box or handing out a badge, it helps you understand what is involved, how much time it takes and how many people are required to deliver something smoothly and on time.”

#2 Volunteering – creating early networks and connections
Jane Morley additionally recognises how volunteering is vital for early networking, explaining “it’s also good for network and exposure. Volunteering provides you with a network, you’re finding out who’s going to be giving you the next event, what events are going on, what other opportunities you
might be able to work on.”

Importantly, her advice is based on her experiences and the first-hand value gained from her own early networks, adding, “still now, there are people that I volunteered with at the beginning of my
career that form a really important part of my network and I work with them all the time.”

Lorne Armstrong also offers examples of how even the smaller tasks at larger events can bring the prospect of future networks: “You could do something apparently dull like going to Wimbledon and serving strawberries in a tent, or working backstage at The Brits … obviously one sounds sexier, but you never know what you’ll experience, who you’ll bump into – it’s really about those connections that are at the core.”

This is an aspect that Justine Kane always emphasises to her event management students: “volunteering is fantastic for networking and events are all about networking! So you’re only as good
as your little black book, and the more connections you have the better.”

Additionally, as event management is a highly competitive industry, a significant number of roles in the industry come through recommendation, through being successful, indispensable and being noticed, so volunteering is an excellent way to gain experience whilst making those connections which can become the foundations of a career.

#3 Volunteering – fact finding for your future
As well as offering a wealth of events experience, volunteering also presents a no-obligation route for exploring different types of events and roles within them, as Jane Morley suggests: “volunteering provides you with absolutely invaluable experience to not only look at the types of events you want to get into, but to look at the roles that are best suited to your character.”

The importance of exploring potential events roles through volunteering is also valuable, as Lorne explains: “with volunteering it’s important to do as much variety as possible because if you don’t
know where you want to go, you need to see the breadth of the industry rather than just jumping into something.”

Justine’s advice to would-be event managers is clear: “Volunteering gives you the chance to look around and think about where you see yourself in the event industry. You might decide,”I never want to do a wedding again in my life” or “I’ve totally found my calling”, so it helps to filter things out.”

#4 Volunteering – changes your CV and interview prospects
Justine is also emphatic about the multiple roles volunteering has in helping to secure paid roles too, explaining its value when applying: “volunteering helps build your CV, so it looks more events
based.”
It’s this movement into a paid role, beyond the CV and into the interview, that Jane Morley also recognises as another benefit of volunteering, “[volunteering] also gives you the experience that when you are going for those paid opportunities, you’ve got real things to talk about in your interview, real stories. That can really help you come across and get you those jobs.”

#5 Volunteering – can change your future
Events professional, Chirag Patel, freelance Production and Content Manager, has first-hand experience of volunesia, recounting how volunteering literally changed his life, taking him from
unpaid volunteer to paid event manager: “If you embrace volunteering you never know what’s going to turn up! I think I did about 20 volunteering events for one particular company, then I ended up being the event manager because I knew it inside out. So you can get an opportunity of not just beinga volunteer, but of being paid for the work.”

Just as Chirag’s experience proves, that volunesia moment develops not just by getting the experience, networks and knowledge – but by being out there, in the right place, at the right time. This
is one of the reasons why Lorne is adamant that doing as much volunteering as possible is a key ways into the industry: “I wouldn’t recommend a particular one [type of event or role] because you never know what you’re going to learn from anything! You could just be standing on a door, registering conference delegates, and not believe that’s going to be at all useful for you, but you end up having a conversation with either someone else who’s volunteering, or the delegates themselves, and that leads to a job. That can happen, that does happen because you’re there at the right time.”

#6 Volunteering – choose a location that puts you into the heart of the industry
Finally, where you volunteer can also be relevant to the push it gives your career prospects – not just the type of event but its actual location. Justine iterates how important it can be to volunteer at events in major cities, particularly London. “London is sort of the epicentre of the events world, so that looks good on your CV.”

As such, it can also offer a much wider experiential range across the London events calendar, such as London Fashion Week and the London Marathon, and through the types of international audiences, delegates and brands which attend or stage events in the capital. Volunteering in a location such as this puts you right into the heart of the industry and directly in the path of those wider opportunities: that volunesia moment and a kick-start your career indeed.

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