In just over five weeks I’ll be finishing university and entering the ‘real world’. A scary prospect at best, but not helped when nearly 25% of graduates are unemployed or in further education, and a third of those who do find work aren’t actually using their degree. So just like any events management student who knows that pondering the theological aspects of events management isn’t going to secure that graduate job, I’ve spent the past three years volunteering and working on as many events as I can squeeze in.
Many have been fantastic opportunities to prepare for just how gruelling the event planner’s job can be, but I’ve found time and time again those who are employing us just don’t seem to have any idea what exactly, from a students perspective, we after in these opportunities.
Here’s my top five suggestions on how to keep your student volunteers and interns happy.
1. Responsibility – There is something really exciting about being given some responsibility. Sure, we don’t expect to be put in charge in the first 15 minutes, but how about trusting us to take on a few of the smaller tasks like being a room manager or helping guests on an info desk. If that’s not something you’re going to offer, just make sure everyone knows what to expect before turning up.
2. Experience – We are after the one thing money can’t buy, some new skills and having something different to add to the CV, if you are able to help us it will be a massive bonus to any opportunity. Equally that doesn’t mean we’re not shy of doing the dull jobs, there were so many aspects of an event I’d never really thought about until I worked on a reception desk at a conference. I guess the compromise here is just to rotate us around your event and show us as many different aspects as you can.
3. Money – Living in London and a Student Loan aren’t really two things that mix so well, of course we know we’re cheap labour and you are doing us a favour by (hopefully) showing us the ropes. But you might just be amazed at how much the talent of your applicants will go up if you pay us a token amount, we’re like moths to a light when we see a paid opportunity. I did some work for a company who paid £40 a day ‘expenses’, a two day event and I’ve just doubled the weekly budget. By my third year and when I had a bit more experience under my belt I simply stopped paying attention to unpaid opportunities.
4. Honesty – One of the worst experiences I’ve had while volunteering at an event was when the event organiser had said the team of students she had recruited would be helping to manage the event. Instead it turns out the plan was for us to be behind the scenes moving boxes round a hotel for the next four days. Oddly I walked out on the morning of the third day. Sure the less glamorous jobs need doing, and we’re happy to do them, as long as we know that’s what we’re there for.
5. Contacts – The ultimate win at an event, a decent contact. Even if it’s just to go for a coffee sometime and talk over our dissertation or a job application, we’re really grateful when we get to build our network. One day, in the not too distant future, we’re going to be looking for suppliers, clients or companies to work for, so why not invest a bit of your time now and start lining up future talent for your company now?
This is a guest post by Matthew Paiton. Matthew is an events management student at the University of Greenwich, in the past he’s worked with several different event companies including Gartner and JetSet Sports at London 2012. He’s keen to get more experience in the events world and is a self confessed London addict, having moved down from Burnley in Lancashire two years ago. Additionally, @mpaiton is content editor @EventsMgmtNews.