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Ella Crowther and Lauren Beadle of Ashfield Meetings & Events were invited back as alumni to their former academic home, Leeds Beckett University, for the UK Centre For Event Management (UKCEM) Final Year Development Day on Thursday 28 January.

Both Ella and Lauren were excited to be given the opportunity to network with other industry professionals, tutors and final year students and to share their personal experiences. We caught up with them to find out what the day entailed.

Back to the future at Leeds Beckett; return of the alumni

Tell us about your experiences since university

Ella: I graduated from the UKCEM last summer and was lucky enough to secure a Project Executive role soon after on the Jaguar Land Rover Global Events Team (an outsourced extension to the in-house team) that sits within Ashfield Meetings & Events. I came to learn about Ashfield after being the lucky recipient of the ‘Student Of The Year’ award, sponsored by their sister agency SPARK THINKING.

Lauren: I also graduated from the UKCEM in the summer of 2015 and secured a full time position as a Project Executive working on a global pharmaceutical account. Prior to this I had worked in the agencies Leeds office during university on a part-time basis. The sense of relief after securing a job after university was overwhelming.

What were the key discussions on the day?

Ella: The agenda for the day focused primarily on the students’ dissertation projects. It’s fair to say that we both felt a tinge of anxiety and déjà vu, having sat in the same seats as the students only a year ago with the same feelings of trepidation about our final year marks and future careers. It’s ironic that the same advice that was given to us (and ignored only a year ago) became the guidance that we preached to the students – ‘Don’t leave everything to the last minute!’ and ‘Try to focus on your employability and job search ahead of graduation’.

Lauren: The speed dating format of the day allowed us to interact and network with a range of students. Many were eager to probe us about tips and success stories for finishing their final year and securing a graduate job.

What the students can expect in the real world?

Ella: I made it clear that life isn’t necessarily as peachy after graduation than the comfortable student bubble. It lacks structure and you can easily find obstacles and barriers based on your level of experience or lack of focus on the area and sector you wish to enter.

Lauren: There are so many expectations of working life, especially within the events industry, partially because you are to ‘expect the unexpected’. When asked how I was finding working within the events industry, I made it clear that I gained a sense of achievement from the events I was working on and the resulting business success of the client.

Back to the future at Leeds Beckett; return of the alumni

Is our industry in safe hands given the future talent you met?

Ella: My general observation was that the students were very ‘in the moment’ as opposed to future-focused. Many were only thinking about the completion of their dissertation and final exams rather than their future careers and how they can add value to the industry. Having said that there were a handful of exceptions that stood out and possessed a proactive and go-getter attitude and were inquisitive and insightful in their conversations and are clearly destined for success.

What tips did you give them on how they can differentiate themselves in a competitive landscape?

Ella: A great tip for securing a graduate job is making the most of networking opportunities and building strong relationships with alumni and tutors. Most of these support networks will have the best contacts in the event industry, as you will often hear ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. LinkedIn is also a great tool to maximise these opportunities so keep your profile up to date and fill it with all of the skills and experience you have gained so far to stand out to potential employers.

Lauren: We would also recommend to any student completing an events management degree to undertake a placement year. We both found this very beneficial having worked in London and Singapore allowing us to explore the nuances of the industry and put the theory into practice. The experiences you gain on a placement year are invaluable and provides a big differentiator for employers. I also advised them to take advantage of the volunteering opportunities offered through the university. Although nowadays many are reluctant to work for free, when opportunities to work on the Tour De France or Confex are presented, the experience gained is too good to miss.

How did it feel being back?

Lauren: It was very strange as it felt like a lifetime ago that we were once the scared students not knowing what to expect! Nonetheless, leaving the university after the event left us with a sense of achievement having prepared the students slightly more for what to expect after education and having given them the encouragement that they are able to do it.

If you are a graduate, or undergraduate, of one of the many universities offering event management degrees we would love to talk to you. You can read more about our university placement scheme here.

Back to the future at Leeds Beckett; return of the alumni

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