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Taking the Plunge: From Novice to Nervy


MPI Toronto On February 15, 2017

 By: Lynn Miedzik

I am, what I like to call myself, an introverted extrovert; very timid at first, a firecracker later. The idea of moving myself and my three cats to a cabin in the woods sounds mighty appealing, but being onsite at a bustling event takes the cake. Here’s how I survived a whirlwind two years at college for Special Events Planning, and how I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone in order to be the best newbie industry professional I could be:
 
I was the company I kept- I tended to gravitate to other students in my program that wanted to get involved like me, but didn’t want to do it alone. Between my group of friends, there was always someone volunteering or going to networking events with me.
 
I went for site tours- Part of my hesitancy to attend industry events was that I wasn’t sure what to expect. Touring venues familiarized me with not only the space but also what was around it, how to get there, and the staff. The more places I visited, the more inclined I was to return for an event or volunteer job. Knowing exactly where I was going and who would be there when I showed up cut my nerves in half.
 
I started a professional development fund- As a student, attending industry events was sometimes costly. Spending money on gas or transit was kind of a dud when I was going to volunteer. I started setting aside a few dollars from every paycheck, or not buying that third pint at the bar, so that I could afford to do something that would benefit me, and the fund didn’t allow me to use lack of money as an excuse to skip out.
 
I switched up my mentality- Sure, school credentials look great on a resume, but I don’t believe it’s enough. Only so much could be taught in a 30-hour school week; the rest was up to me.  Award nominations, volunteer jobs, and internships rounded out my resume and showed that I have an impassioned work ethic. I began to think long-term. The time I committed to a volunteer job didn’t seem that important at the time, but it did when I was job hunting.
 
I said “Yes”.. A LOT- My strategy was to always say “Yes” now and worry later. Pending my schedule being clear, if I was asked to volunteer or if I was invited to an industry event I would almost immediately say “Yes”. It was afterwards that I allowed the fear to set in and I would simply refer to the tips above. 
 
My biggest piece of advice to any introverted extrovert, introverted introvert, extroverted extrovert..ok I’ll stop – is that the things that scare us in life the most are the things worth doing!
 
I reached out to some friends in the industry for more advice that can help students who are trying to find their footing in the meeting and events world: 

The events industry is very welcoming and this is even truer when you are a student. The first step for me was changing my mindset. I set personal goals and challenged myself to be more involved.  Before going to a networking event do your homework and research the venue, or other vendors that may be involved. Send out emails to your current network or alumni from your program to see if they may also be attending. Attending networking events is not just about meeting new people; it is about learning and getting a pulse on the industry. The events sector thrives on professional relationships, so remember to always put your best foot forward. –Diandra Sandoval


I’d say a piece of advice for students entering the industry and introducing themselves to other professionals at events or onsite would be to be confident, but also be honest. Be confident in the fact that you do have some knowledge of the industry, draw on what you’ve learned in school or while volunteering or even during the first stages of employment. But also, be honest and don’t try to overcompensate by pretending to know something you don’t. In most cases, the honesty is how you will learn more from your peers – for example if a group of professionals are talking about something you don’t know much about, pipe in and indicate your interest on the topic. Also remember that being a young member in the industry is an asset, sometimes you’ll find your peers will actually seek your insight on certain matters because of your age demographic and fresh ideas about the industry. So with that said, confidence and honesty in your experience are just a few tools that can help you be more comfortable as a newbie in our very overwhelming and wonderful industry! – Katrina McKnight

Looking back, most opportunities come from the unexpected and usually are the result of many smaller connections. What if attending your first event, volunteering for the first time or meeting someone new in the industry could eventually lead to something spectacular? What if it led to that new connection introducing you to someone looking for a new employee or you being recognized for going above and beyond as a volunteer? It is certainly a possibility! What else would that inspire? You just have to be willing to put yourself out there and be open to what the industry has to offer. – Rachel Stark



 

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