You never know what will happen when you put a job-hunting meeting manager on the front cover of your magazine with a headline screaming, “Get Noticed!”

In the case of Bill Brownson (formerly of John Hancock Financial Services), who appeared on the cover of Corporate Meetings & Incentives’ March issue, he got noticed, leading to a new job as operations manager on MetLife’s conference and event management team.

So, we wondered, how are our other industry friends who were also looking for work doing? What is the outlook in coming months for meeting managers searching for jobs? How does that compare to the overall U.S. jobs picture?

LinkedIn is a good place to start an informal analysis. Most of the people who had left or lost their jobs have finally landed on their feet: Jan Hennessey, CMP, CMM, formerly of Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co., now conference services manager at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Tamara Gordon, formerly of Cargill, now travel manager, global markets at CIGNA Healthcare; Joann Kerns, formerly of Bristol-Myers Squibb, now at Shire Pharmaceuticals; Kathy Rust, formerly of Washington Mutual, now at NetApp.

While many of us can count on our fingers right now the number of meeting managers we know who are still looking for work, the underlying story is that many have given up looking for full-time jobs altogether. They’re the ones who are consulting, or freelancing, or who have became wine stewards or Mary Kay consultants, or, an all-time favorite: “President, CEO, My Own Life.”

"The hiring seems to be taking place in middle management; high-level planner positions are still rare," reports Dawn Penfold, president, MeetingJobs. "The financial sector is in a hiring mode, as well as third-party companies. I am remaining very optimistic for 2012."

Sheryl Sookman, CMP, principal of The Meeting Connection, is also feeling positive. "I know of two senior meeting planner positions that were filled recently, and a meeting manager position with a financial institution that has recently become available—and that's just on the West Coast!"

Still in Recovery Mode

The U.S. Department of Labor has painted a rosy picture of the job outlook for meeting managers over the next decade, predicting 31,200 jobs in meeting, convention, and event planning will open up this decade (2010-2020), a 44 percent increase, due to “increasing globalization and the recognition by businesses of the value of professionally planned meetings.”

The overall jobs picture, however, continues to focus on recovery. Moody’s predicts that the job outlook for 2012 will be “more of the same,” with companies adding only 1.3 million new positions—slightly lower than 2011’s 1.5 million new jobs, according to Marisa Di Natale, Moody’s Analytics director. That recovery mode will continue throughout 2012 and 2013, slowly making up for the 9 million jobs lost during the recession, and it won’t be until 2014 when the job market returns to the size it was before the recession.

In a nationwide survey of 3,023 hiring managers and human resource professionals, CareerBuilder found that 23 percent of employers surveyed plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in 2012, relatively unchanged from 24 percent for 2011 and up from 20 percent in 2010.

Though actual numbers might vary, most experts agree that companies have been operating with lean staffs—and that includes in meeting departments—for far too long and have pushed their productivity limits as much as they can.

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