Emily Martin, our event co-ordinator for Leith's, shares her initial experiences of life in the meetings industry following university (the original version of this article appeared in 'Conference News' March 2014):
Last summer I graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with an Event Management Bsc and subsequently joined Leith's at The Queen Elizabeth II Centre as their events coordinator. Earlier this year, one of my tutors asked if I would like to join another post graduate and some industry professionals and return to Sheffield to speak about my experiences of life after university. Titled 'From Here To Reality’, the conference audience was over 100 undergraduates in their last year of the event management course that I'd completed the year before.
I was determined that my presentation was going to be both interesting and informative. I wanted to make sure I didn't sound pompous or condescending and that the students were able to relate to me – after all, only a year before I'd been in their shoes.
I started by giving an overview of Leith's, QEII Centre and my role. Leith's is the in house caterers at the QEIICC – one of the leading conference centres in London, and my role is to liaise with a variety of clients and ensure that all their catering needs are met. I then tried to explain how I went about getting the job. The events industry is a very attractive to lots of graduates and getting that first job after university can be quite a task. When I was at Uni I tried to make as many industry contacts as I could, so I encouraged the students to do the same and to network as much as possible. In my last year, I entered the MPI Event Innovator Competition 2013 and met Paul Cook of Planet Planit – who turned out to be a very useful contact because I used ‘Linked in’ to connect with both Paul and other industry professionals and found online networking a very useful tool.
I encouraged the students to be realistic- to aim for jobs within their reach and to work their way up. I was advised to try to determine exactly the job and location I wanted to be in early on so I could focus my time and resources. It was a great piece of advice – I decided that I really wanted to move to London and so I was able to focus my job hunting and networking on achieving that goal.
The final dissertation is also really important – it's not just another essay, but a chance to make it personal and to focus on a part of the industry that you are really interested in – and show what you can do. My dissertation was on CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), a subject very close to my heart and I really enjoyed researching and writing about it. I discussed CSR at my interview with Leith’s and it really struck a chord with them. Since joining the company, I have become the sustainability champion and Tony Brinsden and I attended the Sustainability Summit and represented the Centre.
It’s been quite an experience getting used to working in such a prestigious venue – the gravitas of the events held here ensure we have many visiting luminaries. So for I’ve seen Princess Anne and of course several members of parliament– given our proximity to the Houses of Parliament. I was thrilled to see Ed Miliband here last week, and I hope it’s something that I never get used to!
My University course was very hands on, and we had some amazing lecturers but I’m not sure anything could have prepared me for the speed and how the team all pull together to make the seemingly impossible happen.
All in all, my transition from University to the meetings industry wasn’t very painful and I hope that with some focus and pre-planning, other students will have a pain free journey too.