To be an event planner, should I work for an event planning business or directly with a certain company that would use my services?
I'm a senior in high school and I'm looking into event planning as a potential career path. I have taken multiple business, marketing, and economics classes, and plan on pursuing something similar in college. Socializing, organization, and problem management are strengths of mine and event planning involves these skills, which is why I am looking into it. business event-planning event-management freelance corporate-events
If you want to focus on a major, check out Marketing or Public Relations. I actually got my start in hotels which is a GREAT place to start. You will learn all about events and it is easy to get promoted. You can also start as a Travel Director with one of the leading agencies (Maritz, EEG). http://www.traveldirectors.com/travel-directors/
While you are in school, check out the major associations surrounding events (CEMA, MPI, NACE). Many have student divisions where you can learn about what they do and meet people in the industry. Ask people how they got their start. You'll find most start out as administrative assistants. You can also reach out to local event planners to see if they need "day of" help as an hourly worker. Finally, if you really want to get in the thick of it, sign up with a temp agency. Most large events need temps as human arrows, registration help, etc. You'll get to see the craziness of large events.
For your question: You can do both. I've worked for companies, agencies (meaning they are hired by the company to do the event planning), and been a freelancer to just assist on events. You'll just need to decide for yourself which you prefer.
When you're a service provider, like a PR firm or event planning organization, you really put the client first – and you need to be marketing services for your company at all times. Some folks thrive in that mindset. other folks find it exhausting to be in selling mode 24-7. Depending on the service firm, you may only be able to do events. So if this is really the only thing you want to do, then that's something to think about. But for people at companies that only do this, the standard of work is frequently higher as a result.
When you're in house, many times you're doing something that will directly impact your company. It could be something to benefit employees - you'd be an employee, it benefits you, too. You'll be more likely to be part of a group that does more than just events and can learn more than just events as a result. However, because you're stretched more, you might not be with the best event planners ever. But on the flip side, you may be more exposed to WHY the event is happening in the first place. And you may get excited to learn the communications and channel strategies.
You're young - my biggest piece of advice right now is INTERN, INTERN, INTERN. You think you want to be an event planner right now - you might actually want to do something totally different. But the skills you'd get in these internships will help you decide what you really like and get some skills you can transfer to other areas as you figure it out.
Oh, and volunteer. My time volunteering with more independent events entities has led to work, great connections, and a safe space to learn a new skill.
There are a variety of paths to becoming an event planner and I'd encourage you to do as much volunteering on events as you can, and also to get a variety of internships. Volunteering on events at your school, school clubs/organizations, local non-profits, your church/community can give you a good view into how events are produced. However, it would be pretty rare for you to get volunteer experience on events that are produced by an in-house company event planner. For that, I'd recommend getting an internship with a large company where you can specifically intern with their event planner. And set up loads of informational interviews with folks who work at event planning firms, folks who plan events in-house for companies, and folks on the hospitality side (like hotels, caterers and DMCs). By volunteering, interning, and listening to experienced planners, you may be able to get a picture of which path sounds right for you.