AS YOU EMBARK ON YOUR CAREER IN THIS INDUSTRY, you have to ask questions to help define the career path that is right for you. These include questions to others in the industry for information and perspectives, but also questions you need to ask yourself. One seemingly simple question is, "Do you want to be a planner or a supplier?" But in reality, that question isn’t as simple as it looks.
This can be increasingly difficult to answer, as sometimes people can be considered planners in one situation, but suppliers in another. Take me for example; I own a third-party planning firm and have always been a meeting and event planner as my job task. To Meeting Professionals International (MPI), I am a planner member, but if I joined the Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP), I am a supplier because I’m supplying planning services outside of a government agency. To my clients, I am a supplier, but to a hotel, I am a planner. At the end of the day, most people would say I am a planner because I fit the traditional planner role; even though I’m a third party and have clients, I still supply planning services.
Let’s look at another traditional role-hotel convention services manager, a person who takes over an event from a sales person after the contract is signed. In the same way I would be called a planner, most people consider this role a supplier. However, people who do this job focus on planning tasks and are also the planner’s right-hand person in terms of logistics and details for the hotel, making them less of a supplier.
Some people like to use the element of sales to differentiate between planners and suppliers, meaning they use the fact that when someone sells something, they’re a supplier, even though planners are, technically, selling their services. As a third-party planner, I have a client to keep happy and a sale to retain for the company. The convention services manager did not sell the business-that was the hotel sales manager-but they still have a client to keep happy. Even the least sales oriented of us-the corporate planner-still has an internal client to keep happy. So we all play some part in a sales process.
In order to find the position that is right for you-either planner or sales-it’s necessary to keep in mind that all jobs in this industry have a planner and a supplier component. The first step is to identify what you like and dislike doing.
Are you the creative, big-picture type? Do you like to come up with the ideas, but are unsure how to make it happen?
Are you a people person who likes to interact with clients and team members? Or do you prefer to be behind the scenes?
Do you like to be given a challenge and figure out all the details to make it happen?
Do you like details or dislike them?
Do you want to work with budgets and numbers, or are you more interested in menus and flower arrangements?
Are you interested in the planning aspect, but uninterested in the event execution?
Do you like to work on-site, but don’t want to travel? Or do you want to travel all the time?
Regardless of your answers to these and similar questions, there is a job in this industry that will be the right mix of each task that fits your personality. The first step is to know your likes and dislikes. And to test it out, try something you think you don’t like. You might just find you like it.
Julie Ann Schmidt, CMP, CMM, is the founder of the Global Emerging Leaders Community (GEL). GEL is a one-stop shop for all things in the industry geared towards emerging leaders. The organization is a portal that gives emerging leaders with zero to seven years in the industry help to embark on their career path. emerleaders.com