As signs of the country’s economic recovery grow stronger—corporate profits surging, stock market rebounding—expectations are that the job market will follow suit as in previous recoveries. But as recent job growth figures show, this recovery is different. Although job prospects are brightening corporate meeting planners, don’t expect to find a job hunter’s paradise around the corner.
For one thing, unless the economy sees another dot-com–like explosion, employers will retain the edge in hiring. And they have gotten more demanding. It’s not enough just to excel at planning meetings and events; increasingly, planners are being asked to contribute more to the overall success of the company.
"The role of the meeting planner has changed," says Mary Power, president and CEO of the Convention Industry Council. "It goes beyond logistics to the big picture and forecasting and meeting the goals of the organization." The council is evaluating the questions on the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) exam, which it administers, to determine whether the test accurately reflects the expected responsibilities of a meeting planner.
"Being successful is different than it was five years ago," agrees Jim Zaniello, a recruiter with Arlington, Va.–based Association Strategies. To solidify your current position or find a new job, "you need to work at being seen as a resource within your own organization," Zaniello advises. "Any time you can show how what you do affects the bottom line, that helps strengthen your position."
Being able to show how you saved money will win you favor with your current employer or help open new doors. It’s important to document any savings, either by making your current manager aware of them or by including them in your résumé. Not surprisingly, sharp- skills are at the top of many clients’ wish lists.
While many employers are seeking candidates with solid experience, planners who haven’t made a career move in years—either because of complacency or slim pickings—may have trouble attracting the eye of potential hirers. "Sometimes people may have experience, but it seems evident in the most recent months or years that the person hasn’t accomplished much, and that can cause issues," says John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a Chicago-based international outplacement advisory firm. One way to offset the appearance of complacency is to invest in continuing education. "You may have graduated 10 years ago, but if every year you’ve taken a course, you’ve done something to improve your skill set, that says you’re interested in learning. It shows that it’s important to your development to stay up-to-date on the issues affecting meetings," Zaniello says.
For a special report on how the jobless recover is affecting corporate meeting planners, look for the June issue of& Incentives.