Going outside meeting planning per se is not a bad option. You can broaden your skill set, as long as it keeps you within your chosen arena (corporate or association). But jumping the fence to the supplier side may not be such a good idea. Given the marketplace, hotels aren’t in much better shape, and they’re unlikely to be willing to teach a fence-jumper the ropes, particularly when it comes to sales jobs. Plus, that jumping back and forth raises questions in some people’s minds about whether you’re serious about your career track.

It also can be tricky moving into a third-party planning company. If you’re coming from an association to a firm that mainly handles associations, then the transition might be smoother. But the potential employer will want to know what you can bring to the table. If you’re coming from an association, be sure to speak to the corporate mentality.

Sources: Steven Williams, PhD, director of industry and market research, American Society of Association Executives; Sheryl Sookman, CMP, principal, The MeetingConnection, Novato, Calif.; Jim Zaniello, recruiter, Association Strategies, Arlington, Va.; Barbara Dunlavey, CMP, director of meetings and exhibits, American School Food Service Association, Alexandria, Va.; Dawn Penfold, The Meeting Candidate Network Inc., New York.