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CareerPath: How to get a job as an event manager

Karen Brown owns the Midtown East-based event management

Karen Brown owns the Midtown East-based event management firm Karen Brown New York. Photo Credit: James Edward

New York is teeming with events -- such as concerts, weddings and benefits -- and behind them is an industry of professionals making sure they are executed smoothly. For those who are interested in the behind-the-scenes work, we chatted with Karen Brown, owner of the event planning firm Karen Brown New York, on how to land a job as an event manager. Along with Brown, the Midtown East-based company, which is expanding to Denver, Colorado, has two event managers and an intern. While it was tough for Brown to estimate an exact salary, many event managers work freelance and typically earn around $20-$30 an hour, depending on the scale of the event, she said. They handle everything from scouting venues and caterers on a budget to presenting spreadsheets on decor and color schemes to running the event the day of.

What are the degree requirements?

My current event managers are both from fashion. I don't think there is a particular degree that you would have to have, you would have to understand [event] production. They understand fashion shows, Fashion Week, they understand run-of-the-show, or a day-of timeline. Having those organizational skills, no matter what profession you're from, can translate into event management.

What kind of experience do you look for?

I want to know that they have ran events before, even if it's internal office -- someone who works at like an engineering firm but they organize all of their in-house baby showers for their co-workers -- I want to know that they can organize something. If they have catering experience, that's great, or music shows, that's big, and sort of [public relations] work.

What skills does an event manager need?

Organization, managing a schedule, managing multiple vendors, managing a budget. You have to stay on email, that's a big thing, responding to client emails as quickly as possible. Don't allow 24 hours before you respond. Clients need an answer.

What should an applicant submit?

Cover letter, a resume, I usually request three references -- professional, personal or school-related, any organization they might have been involved in, like a charity organization. I really do call these references. I want to know that I can count on them, trust them, that they have good work ethic, because they will be representing my company.

In an interview, what personality traits do you look for?

I always notice how they come dressed, if they look put-together. I am pretty picky. If their nail polish is chipped and coming off, I feel like that translates into details for events. I want someone who is very detail-oriented. Appearances totally matter in this industry. And then, just smiling. I like a person who is confident, who's smiling, who's pleasant, who brings in this positive vibe and atmosphere, because the clients are really attracted to that. I can't stress enough, confidence is so key.

How do you think someone should dress for it?

I would love to see personality [and creativity], but don't come in jeans and a T-shirt.

Do you ask the person to offer any ideas?

I ask them, tell me about a situation where you've had to put a plan B into action: What didn't come through and how did you pull together your resources in order to make things still happen? So many things can happen -- a photographer doesn't show up, the catering is wrong -- what are you going to do, how would you handle that situation?

Would it matter if someone was fired from their last job?

I would want to understand why they were fired. I wouldn't discriminate against it but I would definitely want to know what the issue was.

Any general tips for those looking for a job?

Absolutely, an internship is key. Based on my own experience, I learned a lot in my internship. It gets your foot in the door. People have to make money -- I honestly don't know how I did a six-month internship without getting paid -- but I honestly think it's good. And then ask if they can shadow on the day of [an event], volunteer their time, even if they're not looking to get paid. Volunteer your [day] to an event planner.

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