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Emily Sullivan

Creating the Job You Want in the Special Event Industry

If you're working too hard and not loving it too much, you need to change your job. Here's how.

Working in the event industry can be both rewarding and extremely personally taxing.

We are a people-oriented, service-based industry. The work we do requires a kind of emotional, physical and time investment (pre-dawn setup, day-long execution and all-night strike--sound familiar?) that is not necessarily characteristic of other careers. It’s no wonder that turnover is high and burnout is common.

You’re passionate about events, and you’ve already put so much work into your business and career. How can you craft a situation that will ultimately give you the rewarding, profitable and enjoyable job that you want?

Ask Yourself: What Makes You Happy?
Before you can make the kinds of changes and commitments necessary to ensure that your job is the one you really want, you need to understand how you define success.

At this point in my career, being able to work with my ideal client and having a team committed to the overall vision of my company is my definition of success. I want to work in an environment where I have time for my kids so that I can be a present, loving parent while still delivering the quality of product and service that my company is known for. I also want to educate and encourage other wedding creatives and save them from some of the hardships I have faced.

How do you define success? For you, perhaps it is fame or monetary success. Maybe you want to travel more, or to become a renowned speaker. Perhaps you have financial goals for yourself or your family, and your business is driven by those.

You can’t change the things about your job that aren’t working for you until you know what would make you deliriously happy, so spend some time reflecting on what success means to you.

Ask Yourself: Can You Diagnose the Dysfunction?
Think about what your business looks like today. What are your sources of frustration? What things exhaust you, or worry you because you know they aren’t being done to the best of your ability?

For a very long time, I worked in my business and not on it. In order to stay afloat, I had to work with any client I could land, good fit or not. I couldn’t afford to turn down business, and I sacrificed a lot. It was an extended survival period, and worrying about survival is not fun or fulfilling. It is exhausting in more ways than one.

It took me a decade to create and refine a system that allowed me to ease up on the constant concern, and actually measure and witness the payoff, and that system has made all of the difference in how I view my career and my future in this industry. Now I am empowered to help others, and hopefully save them their own decade of survival.

What are the sources of stress and concern in your business? Are your systems inefficient? Do you need more help in the form of a team? Is your income sufficient to meet your business and personal goals? Figure out what is broken so you can move on to the life-changing repairs.

Ask Yourself: What’s a Weakness and What’s a Strength?
The time you’ve spent reflecting on your ultimate goals, and the obstacles you face getting to them, is time very well spent. Take your obstacles one at a time and look at them as opportunities. Consider all of your possible tools--efficiency software, business consultants, financial guidance--and apply what you learn in the process.

You must make time for this process. Our go-to line in our office is “Don’t let the urgent take away from the important.” You have to take time away to work on your goals and what is important in the overall structure, and not always be working on the event itself. The to-list will never end, so make sure you push your business improvement efforts to the top whenever you can.

If you dedicate yourself to regular reflection, review and making the meaningful adjustments necessary to push your business the direction it needs to go, you will find yourself so much more content with your job, and with your career choices in general. Your happiness is worth it, so make the commitment today!

Emily Sullivan is the owner of Emily Sullivan Events, a full-service wedding planning company based in New Orleans and serving couples everywhere.

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