For meeting planners, the time-proven threat of being outsourced now has been joined by the double whammy punch of mergers and acquisitions. The latter often result in downsizing, staff reviews, and you guessed it--.
Times like these call for a new creativity. Suddenly, the question becomes just how do you translate years of planning last-minute dinners at a restaurant that has a wait list of six months into an entirely new career? Recently I logged onto Monster.com, arguably the most popular of the online job-seeking Web sites. I played around with word combinations, including "meeting planner" and "event planner." Then I dropped the adjectives. Well, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a listing of several hundred jobs nationwide? Being the project planner for a major city in the Northeast isn't exactly what I had in mind, but the search results were an eye-opener for me. Why limit my search to only what I know and what I'm comfortable with?
While I still have my hand in event planning for my current employer, I find myself in the middle of a large project implementation. We are in the process of moving into a new headquarters facility. Built to our specifications, the site will have more than 300,000 square feet of usable space, including a dining facility, fitness center, and on-site day care. I got the job of developing the project to move all of our employees to the new site.
It seemed a daunting task until I started to make the natural comparisons between moving employees from one origin to a new destination and moving senior executives from a board meeting to a three-day retreat. While I didn't use a destination management company for the transfer, I did use a professional moving company. The process of selecting one wasn't much different from the one I use to interview meeting suppliers.
Also, the site selection for our new facility was done in much the same fashion as the site selection for a meeting. We built a list of specifications, conducted a search, and did an on-site visit. Several issues were the same. How far is this location from the airport? What are the transfers like? What amenities will we offer? Thinking through these questions, I realized I wasn't learning new skills so much as translating the skills I already possess to meet a new set of challenges.
If it's any comfort, meeting planners are not the only professionals dealing with change. In his New York Times bestseller Who Moved My Cheese?, Spencer Johnson, MD, uses a simple parable to point out that today's workplace presents an ever-evolving environment, no matter the company. The author elegantly shows that new challenges will continue to require determination, professionalism, and optimism--and that those who build a set of skills that can be adapted to new challenges stand the greatest chance of ongoing success.
There is a lot about what we do as meeting professionals that has cross-functional, cross-company value. For me, the creative aspect of meeting planning is what snared me in the first place. By taking on this new project, I'm being creative with the one resource that I truly know--myself. No, it doesn't have the upside of that trip to Bali, but there are rewards both professionally and personally that await the adventurer in you!