5 Ways to Future-Proof Your Meetings Industry Career

These tips will help event planners become more valuable to current and future employers.

Image by Who is Danny for Adobe Stock
Image by Who is Danny for Adobe Stock

Destination Texas
Scott Steinberg will be onstage at Northstar Meetings Group's Destination Texas hosted-buyer event, taking place Dec. 5-7 at the Kimpton Harper Hotel in Fort Worth. His topic at breakfast on Dec. 7 will be "A Futurist’s Guide to Attendee Engagement."

The uncertainty of today's business environment has everyone wondering how to steer a steady course through their careers. Thankfully, as I wrote in my new book, Think Like a Futurist 2022: The Next Normal, just because a tidal wave of change is rocking the meetings industry doesn’t mean you can’t learn to surf the wave more effectively. To ensure ongoing job security, tomorrow’s meetings industry leaders must create their own paths to career success by becoming more forward-thinking and resilient. You can do this by actively engaging in the following practices.

Make Your Own Luck

Good fortune is the spot where opportunity and preparation meet — and you can improve yours by constantly putting yourself in opportunity’s path. To do so, think about where you’d like to be in your career tomorrow, and ask yourself: What action steps do I need to take to start moving toward this destination today? 

This often means having to expand your comfort zone, to acquire new skills, or to volunteer to pick up new experiences and insights. Thankfully, from online talks and virtual courses, to having coffee with speakers and industry thought leaders at the events you host, there are many ways to expand your repertoire. The more you seek out career opportunities instead of waiting on them, and push to acquire tomorrow’s skills today, the more fortunate you’ll be.

Expand Your Professional Network

Today’s most successful business leaders surround themselves with a network of expert advisers who can provide much-needed advice, insight and support as they embark on or pursue their career journeys. They also ensure that this panel is made up of diverse individuals from many backgrounds, whose skills and experiences hail from different walks of life. These people can bring different perspectives and opinions to the table — and constantly work to nurture and grow these relationships. 

What’s more, successful business leaders are not afraid to reach out to their networks when help is needed. Essentially, the more you tell contacts and connections that you’re hunting for work or could use a helping hand as you face various professional challenges, the better off you’ll be. If you’re shy about reaching out to your connections, create a good excuse to be in others’ inbox, by sharing an article you’d think they’d like, or asking to interview them for a podcast or video series. You can also proactively volunteer to help others, which allows you to meet more people and do some good at the same time.

Become More Flexible and Resilient

Want to future-proof yourself and ensure that your job prospects always look bright, even in uncertain and volatile times such as these? Take calculated steps to acquire “elastic skills” — widely applicable talents, such as project management, design thinking, research and communications capabilities — that can be molded to fit any role or industry. 

For example: To guard against career upheaval, one successful event marketing executive that we interviewed routinely reviews his professional strengths and weaknesses, then takes on a progression of carefully chosen job roles that address any shortcomings. (This exercise includes making PowerPoint presentations of his own skills and experiences to determine where proficiency is lacking.) These opportunities provide education and experience that make him more unique and more attractive to employers, and they serve as springboards to future opportunities.

Take a Long-Term View of Career Growth

Prioritizing long-term development over immediate opportunities for financial gain or advancement can be crucial to becoming essential over an extended career. Three new moves that are equally elastic as the skills they convey — the sidestep, the backstep and the all-important “slingshot” — can help you sustain upward momentum, even in uncertain times. 

If you've hit a career plateau, you can move sideways, a.k.a. sidestep, into a position of equal rank and pay — preferably into an organization that offers more opportunities for advancement. 

You could also take a backstep by accepting a less-prestigious title or less pay. For instance, leaving a Fortune 500 business to work for a more innovative start-up, thereby gaining new skills or experience while working in emerging markets. 

Alternately, you can slingshot by making both a sidestep and a backstep while staying focused on your ultimate career target: When you apply the new knowledge, experience and skills gained through these moves, you’ll leap far ahead.

Learn to Improvise and Adapt

Learning how to improvise strategically can take you places you want to go.

Here’s a simple illustration. Amber Case, a young technology executive we interviewed, graduated during the Great Recession with minimal business experience and qualifications. Instead of taking a low-paying, dead-end job, she instead fast-tracked her career success by turning her life into a self-guided MBA program. 

Committing to a five-year semester-like timeline of challenges, including launching new conferences and entrepreneurial ventures, she purposefully declined full-time employment to pursue self-directed goals that eliminated gaps in her experience and skill set. Not only did she complete all goals ahead of schedule, and gain talents and knowledge far beyond her peers, but she founded a successful online start-up, became a noted industry thought leader, and served as the youngest-ever member of her college’s board of trustees. 

An Extra Tip

Feeling stuck in the fast-changing meetings industry? Take an immediate step to improve your fortunes by taking on more stretchwork: Simple work assignments that stretch your capabilities and expand your personal toolbox of talents and capabilities to match. Studying contract IT and film workers (who enjoy as little job security as one can get), researchers found that successful careerists didn’t just seek out jobs that paid the bills. They purposefully pursued roles that helped leverage competence in existing areas in new ways to convey additional talents and experiences. 

For example, successful IT contractors would take the basic skills they learned on one software program, study up on a faster-growing program, then experiment with using it until they became adept with the latter tool. Likewise, entry-level film workers would take on jobs (and job responsibilities) in various departments such as art, wardrobe, and lighting that required overlapping talents and capabilities. Over time, each helped these professionals gain core vocational skills that like clay, could be shaped toward more specialized career paths during future assignments.

Meeting and event planners looking for a change of perspective, or change of employer/career, would do well to take note as follows. Two basic principles − being proactive, purposeful, and persistent with regard to one’s objectives, but highly-flexible with strategic approaches − are central to future-proofing yourself and sustaining career advancement. As a host of MICE industry’s top names can tell you, finding ongoing career security and success isn’t about aiming for instant gratification. It’s about purposefully seeking out the tools, training, and expertise you need to succeed long before you need them, and constantly building bridges to future opportunities, even in the midst of ongoing market chaos.

Scott Steinberg CEO of FutureProof Strategies

Award-winning professional speaker and management consultant Scott Steinberg has created a new teaching and training method called Pop Future. A trends expert and futurist, Steinberg has advised more than 1,000 brands, and is the bestselling author of Think Like a Futurist; Make Change Work for You; and Fast >> Forward: How to Turbo-Charge Business, Sales, and Career Growth. He is also president and CEO of BIZDEV: The International Association for Business Development and Strategic Partnerships.