#EventStudents Advice: ‘Do a LOT of work in the industry whilst you are studying’

The second instalment in the #EventStudents interviews is with the lovely Cassie.

I first spoke to Cassie after her blog won highly commended for Retail & Fashion at the National Blog Awards back in April & it was then that I found out she had previously studies Events whilst at University. Cassie’s journey has gone on a slightly different path since then, which is why I was very interested to interview her – so please lets get started!

What, where and where did you study? 

I studied BA (Hons) Event Management from 2005-2008 at the University of Central Lancashire; at that time there were only a handful of universities in the UK that offered an Event Management degree.

Can you give some information on your work history & the job you are in now. 

Well, things have changed a lot over the years to get me to the job that I’m working in now! 

Prior to studying at university, I had worked at Snape Maltings Concert Hall in their box office, theatre and events department. I knew that I wanted to continue working on special events but I preferred the charity sector so I became an Assistant Manager for the Sue Ryder Care charity to gain experience in this industry for a year before starting on the Event Management degree. 

When I completed my degree I discovered that the university offered a scholarship for a Masters to students with a first class degree, so I jumped at the chance to study something different (and prolong student life for another two years!). I chose to study MA Fashion and Lifestyle Promotion (basically brand management and marketing) in the School of Art & Design and focused my research dissertation on the future of retail and fashion marketing. At the same time I began writing a blog which at the time was a completely new method of promoting brands. This gradually grew into a lifestyle blog and over the course of 4 years it began out-performing my ‘normal’ work and I started working on it full time. 

So now I am officially a full-time blogger – quite a change from my original intentions when I started my degree! But I’ve still got all the skills and experience so I can always go back to that career path in the future if I need to.

What made you pick Events Management at the University of Central Lancashire? 

I chose the Event Management course at the University of Central Lancashire for two reasons; the placement year was optional and I already had experience of management and events; and because the dissertation was also optional and I really wanted to carry out an in-depth research project during my final year and this course allowed me to write the dissertation in place of two standard modules. As you can probably guess, I love writing and I’ve always enjoyed academic research, oddly enough!

Completing my dissertation led me to become a research assistant for the university during my MA – yes, I got to read and write all day long and get paid for it! – and I’m certain that this was the kick-start for my current writing career.

Did the University of Central Lancashire offer a placement year, and did they push you to take part in work experience during you time at university? 

Yes, the university offered a placement year and really encouraged students to take a year in industry to gain experience. I think this was an excellent idea for students who had moved straight from college to university without any work experience and most of my coursemates did attend placements at Disneyland and hotel groups in the US during their third year. I continued on the course without a placement year because I had already worked a lot in the industry and had continued to work on charity events during my time at university so I felt like I already had plenty of experience. 

Overall did you find studying events has helped you find you dream career? 

In a roundabout way Event Management did help me find my dream career: it was my passion for the subject that encouraged me to work hard and take on extra work in order to get a good first class degree. It was gaining this classification that allowed me to study the Masters for free and I would never have been able to continue at MA level without this scholarship. The MA undoubtedly change the course of my career into the world of marketing and brand management, which are great skills to combine with an Event Management degree, but also led me to learn how to research, write and publish my work. 

It was this knowledge that ultimately led me to start my own business and write a blog so technically without the Event Management degree I wouldn’t be doing the job I have today.  

Would you change anything about your course/time at university?

I would have worked harder during my first year and taken on more optional modules while I had the spare time. The university offered a selection of optional modules and I took study skills modules – great for my writing skills but rather dull! I always wish I had studied sign language or a science while I had the chance. I also would have started writing and working on my blog sooner but that’s in hindsight! 😉 

What is your opinion on the recent views that event management course are NOT relevant or needed to gain a job in the events industry? 

I think that there is such a large number of event management graduates each year that it is difficult to get a job in the industry with a degree alone. Many of my classmates are not employed in event management roles because there were simply not enough jobs available, and that was back when only a handful of universities offered the course. I think that a degree is very important for the overall management skills it teaches, because it means that Event Management students will be able to work in many business sectors such as HR, Marketing or Hospitality. But a degree alone is often not enough to land you the event management job that you want – practical experience counts for a lot! 

Would you recommend that students should go to university if they want to work in events? 

Yes, I think that studying on a degree is very important and I learnt so many skills that I use every day but that I would have never studied otherwise, such as financial accounting or logistics planning. 

What advice would you give to current event management students at university? 

I would advise current students to work hard in your degree (cheesy, I know!), to get a good classification which will help your degree stand out from all the others once you’ve graduated. 

I’d recommend doing a LOT of work in the industry while you are studying – volunteer to work on charity events, become a steward at festivals, get a weekend job in a hotel, get involved in Student Union fairs and sign up to a hospitality temping agency to gain experience. Three years of this type of work will look great on your CV alongside your placement year work experience and will help you get your dream job.

Do you have any other advice or tips you would like to pass onto current Event Students? 

It might seem dull to take on extra courses while you’re already studying for your degree, but my course-mates who have done really well in the industry are those who took on an extra course in first aid or food hygiene and could add these extra skills to their CV. 

So if a free HSE health and safety course is available take the opportunity to gain an extra certificate that will help you stand out from others when you’re looking for a job – I actually did do this! Keep an eye out online too for free web-based MOOC courses from Future Learn or similar providers, because they all add to your knowledge and skills. I’m not saying that you should neglect your degree studies but you have a lot of time off during the summer break, so head to a leisure-learning class or study an e-course to keep your brain working and your skills up-to-date.

You can follow Cassie on twitter or on Facebook & remember to go and check out her blog; Cassiefairy’s thrifty lifestyle blog!

 

#EventStudents was set up as a way to allow students to easily connect with students at other universities & to pass of advice and learn from others! You can use the hashtag #EventStudents to pass on advice, talk to other students or (if you are a final year student) to promote academic research! We have both a Linkedin & Facebook group that are updated every Sunday & Wednesday – lets get discussing!!

  • Holly Houghton

    I completely agree and wished I had done more while I was still at University. It is only now that when applying for jobs and getting rejections that I realize I should have put more effort in to signing up to help charities on their events or working in a bar or something to get that additional experience on my CV. You live and learn I guess….

  • Holly I would say that even though Cassie & myself talk a lot about doing work whilst studying, it isn’t too late now that you have Graduated. You could help on charity events now over weekends or in your free time & continue to build up your experience whilst applying for other jobs?