The University of Montana - Organizational Communication
A lot of women have told us they aspire to be an event planner. Dreaming up parties and weddings … for a living almost sounds too good to be true. While it has its perks, it also requires a lot of work, as Amber Dobson, an event specialist for Agapé Events will tell you. The Tri-Cities, Wash.-based company specializes in event management, event design, and décor and boutique catering. As an event specialist, she is part of the procurement, development and execution of a wide variety of events, including weddings as well as social, corporate and nonprofit events. She recently received certification in bridal consulting and is a member of the Association of Bridal Consultants. When she's not busy planning special occasions, you can find her antiquing, dog training or dancing in her living room with her iPod. Hey, this girl knows how to have fun!
Being assertive is not the same as being aggressive; we only hurt ourselves by holding back.
How did you discover your current job?
I moved to the area over a year ago on a whim and found myself settling for a mediocre job that I didn’t love, but it was one that paid the bills. I was very depressed and dreaded becoming ‘stuck’ in a career I didn’t enjoy. One day, when I had reached a breaking point, I took a leap of faith and started researching event planning jobs in my area. I sent over a resume to the owner of Agapé Events, Renae Quigley, and had an interview soon after.
What is your typical day like? What types of things do you do in your job?
There is no such thing as ‘typical’ or ‘usual’ in my job. Every day holds something new. Some days I am meeting with clients, other days I am on the phone constantly trying to secure donation items for nonprofit fundraisers. There are days I am in the warehouse in blue jeans assisting the production team, or sitting for hours on end ironing table overlays or chair sashes. Sometimes I am rarely in the office as I am dropping off catering supplies to our chef, mailing off wedding invitations, doing a venue walk-through or running through Craft Warehouse last minute looking for the right shade of floral spray. On event days, I am crawling in and out of a moving truck with copious amounts flowers, urns, chair covers and table linens. Event days last about 12 hours, but it never seems to give us enough time as we are always making last minute trips to Wal-Mart, back to the office to iron more table cloths and tying over 250 chair ties, just in time for the party to start. The only thing I do every day is make the 45-minute commute to my job twice a day.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
I love working with a sense of urgency; it gives me a rush. Seeing the final product, whether it's a beautifully decorated venue or a happy bride, makes all the time and sweat worth it. I also enjoy the bond that doing an event creates with the other members of my team, which is odd considering we are on our feet all day, barely have time to eat, and still find our selves laughing and enjoying the day together.
The most challenging part of my job is the unpredictability of events.
Summer is wedding season, so it is by far our busiest time, but winter offers less events and that means everyone has to be conscious of hours. Being in the event industry can test your ability to stretch a dollar, and you find yourself having to sacrifice your free time to get a second job during the slow season.
What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?
Before I was an event specialist I had a full-time job with great health benefits, but I didn’t love it. When I found Agapé Events, I knew the only way I could be happy was to quit my other job (and lose my benefits) to really indulge in this experience. I also had to commit myself to a daily commute to another state for my career.
Because of the unpredictability of hours, I took on a second part-time job to keep my head above water. During event weeks, I can easily put in 50 to 60 hours of work between both jobs. Having two jobs, and a long commute is quite a sacrifice, but I wouldn’t change my situation for anything else. I am absolutely content with my life.
What is one lesson you've learned in our job that sticks with you?
The biggest lesson I have learned is humility. Having a degree or experience is invaluable, but it doesn’t make you above anyone or any other job. This is not a cushy job -- it is physical and humbling. Sometimes I am making coffee runs for the office, while other times I am on my hands and knees picking up broken bits of glass from a champagne flute that dropped on the ground. It can be as if you are a glorified personal assistant or waitress, but that is what this industry is like, and this is how you move up in a career.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
In this job, you are the face of the event, the go-to gal. You deal with a vast amount of problems in an event day, and sometimes you have to be assertive to get the job done. Some people feel threatened by a woman in charge. If a man is assertive, he is a go-getter -- out to get the job done. If a woman is assertive, she is seen as aggressive or a bitch. I think women feel they have to hold back from being forward because it is not our nature; we have to change this way of thinking.
As strong women, we have to reiterate the fact to ourselves that being assertive is not the same as being aggressive; we only hurt ourselves by holding back.
Who are your role models?
My mother taught me to be a strong and opinionated woman. She never wanted me to just settle into something. She always told me that I deserved better. My boss, Renae, is someone who has the same passion for events as I do. She turned from being a wedding planner into being a full blown event production company, with a warehouse of inventory, floral designers and a catering division. I couldn’t think of anyone better to introduce me to this industry.
What are some of the rules you live by?
If you have to cry, go outside.
It is not personal, it is Business 101.
The reason they are acting this way is because to them this wedding is a one-time-only thing, while this is my third one this month.
Relax, it’s just a party.
What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?
A lot of girls want to be in this industry because they watch David Tutera and like the movie ‘The Wedding Planner". It isn’t just fun cake tasting and talking about pretty flowers; it is real physical work. I am not just an event planner. I am a linens lady, wait staff for catering, personal assistant, delivery person, office personnel, mediator, craft person, dishwasher and janitor. If you think the job is still for you, then it is meant to be. The best advice I have is to not be afraid to go out and try to get the job you want. If you realistically want to be an event planner, don’t be afraid to go to someone experienced and ask to be an intern, to shadow them at their job, or just give you advice on how to get started. For every six people that tell you ‘no’, there will be one person willing to give you a chance. Use your resumé and experience to your advantage. I never thought being a Hooters Girl would ever get me this far in life, but it did.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I would still love to be in this industry, whether I am still at Agapé Events or on my own. I always dreamed of working PR and events at Disneyland, but more than anything I would love to be back in Montana again. I also hope to have planned my own wedding by then!