People enter the trade show world from a variety of gateway careers. But to grow and to avoid career burnout, professionals need to be mindful and focused when it comes to personal development. Whether you’re a newcomer to trade shows or a seasoned professional, the following represent “must do” activities for career enrichment:
Active Association InvolvementWith a hectic trade show calendar of your own, it may be hard to envision adding even more activities to your busy schedule. But active membership in a trade association (like the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, the Exhibit and Event Marketers Association, or the Exhibit Designers and Producers Association) is perhaps the best thing you can do to further your career. Professional organizations not only keep you informed of changes in the industry, they offer an invaluable opportunity to network with (and learn from) peers. Add to this the tangible benefits of newsletters and magazines, seminars and conference discounts and range of other members-only benefits, and its easy to see how an annual association dues pay for themselves many times over.
Certification & Continuing EdFor those working in events, a range of industry-specific certifications—from healthcare to IT—are currently available. Certification programs vary considerably, with some available only to those with undergraduate or graduate degrees, and others that focus on teaching a specific skill required for highly specialized work. If you’re not interested in adding a few letters after your name, Continuing Education Units are available through a host of sponsoring bodies, as well as countless informal seminars and webinars. Take a look at the dates on the education section of your resume: has it been awhile since you’ve obtained anything beyond on-the-job training? If so, the coming year may be the time for you to add certification or CEUs to your professional goals. Another great option is the CTSM (Certified Trade Show Manager) program. More than 3,200 trade show and corporate event marketing professionals from every type and size of company who are currently enrolled in CTSM, the industry’s only university-affiliated certification program.
Degree ProgramsIf you’re a student or entry-level employee interested in the trade show industry, you may have considered getting a formal degree. Undergraduate degrees in business, hospitality, communications or public relations are common springboards for trade show careers, as well as a growing number of degrees specific to event management. For mid-level professionals considering returning to school, a range of graduate and doctoral level programs exist. US News has long been the jumping-off point for beginning a search for the best colleges and universities in a given field.
MentorshipWhether your career has plateaued or if you have your sites set on a given company or position, a mentor can help you take your career to the next level. While some formal mentorship programs exist, this is the one area of professional development that really comes down to interpersonal inquiry. Finding a mentor begins by thinking about the professionals in your industry who you know personally, and whose work inspires you. Ideally, it should be someone who already recognizes your worth. And getting that person’s guidance rarely means literally asking him or her to mentor you. Instead, it’s usually a more informal process that begins by asking an initial question or volunteering your time, and that gradually segues into a long-term, mutually-beneficial partnership.
Trade Show & Expo AttendanceThere’s a strange irony in the fact that many who organize or staff trade shows have never attended one specifically intended for their own profession. Gatherings such as Convening Leaders or The Special Event Show serve the overarching community of event professionals, but there are countless specialty organizations dedicated to specific disciplines or to niche aspects of event planning and marketing. In addition to exposing you to emerging thought leaders and the latest industry vendors, attending event and field marketing expos can help you better understand and communicate the benefits of trade show attendance to your own audiences.
Your professional development can not only reinvigorate or lift your career, it can have a profound effect on your company’s growth. Make a resolution this year to expand your resume, and you and your employer will reap the rewards.