Blog: Why do new event profs have to choose between education and experience?

Kate Stone, project manager at Drp, asks why the debate between events education and experience is still raging on - when new event profs can choose both.

Degrees with placements let you have your cake and eat it too, according to Stone
Degrees with placements let you have your cake and eat it too, according to Stone

The education vs experience argument is one that is particularly of interest to me, as my career has spun out of both. The concept that to excel in the events industry you should have one or the other, only shows a lack of appreciation of the importance of the two pathways. In order to standardise the levels of which we should all be excelling in achieving, there has to be an educational background, but grounded in the focus on practical experience.

I just don’t understand why we are suggesting that those entering the events industry need to choose.

Recently I was asked to give a lecture at the University of Northampton, about how I got into the events industry, my experience working within the sector and advice to the students as they progress in their own careers. It was great going back in to the university environment, and to remember what it was like to listen to guest lectures - I studied Events Management at the University of Huddersfield.

The students were engaging and enthusiastic, but most importantly, over 90% of the room expressed they intended to pursue an industrial placement year to gain work experience.

Different skills

When I started my degree course I had already interned for a year at an events and production company in Cardiff, which gave me quite a clear view as to what I might be expecting from a career in the industry. Although I could have remained working at the company, and naturally progressed through my career, I knew I wanted to get a degree and have the university experience. I did however insist on choosing a degree that offered an industry placement year, to ensure I would leave university with a degree, and some good practical experience that hopefully would lead me in to a job, which is exactly what it did.

I might now look back at my degree and think that I perhaps did not learn much that I can use in my day-to-day working life, as a degree is naturally more focused on the academic over the practical. But what I did build on was my ability to write well, communicate and present clearly, and build a cohesive understanding of a subject, which I use every single day.

During my year placement, I worked for a company in London, where I really developed my management skills, building of colleague and client relationships, understanding the commercial side of business and dealing with difficult situations that you can only learn on the job. This practical experience has enabled me to grow as an events manager and taken me forward in my career.

Now 10 years since I graduated, I am working as a project manager at Drp, based in their London office. Working alongside some of the best professionals in the industry, every project I work on gives me new experiences and skills, and allows me to utilise the ones I gained over the years at both university and in the work environment. So I think either option is fine, it comes down to personal preference. Can’t we have a piece of each cake? 

More: Blog: Nadisha Jayatissa on securing a permanent job

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