When the Covid-19 pandemic threw most of society into a holding pattern, up and coming young professionals were caught in an unprecedented limbo. No one would knew more about that than Soundings’ founder and Chief Coordinator Tracy Judge, who works to connect business events and associations with qualified staffing.

Staffing Issues

For Judge’s clients, it is often difficult to find qualified and trained staff. The layoffs that happened during the pandemic have had a deep impact on today’s market. “A lot of the talent that was laid off were early career…So, now we’re looking at like a three-to-five-year gap of younger talent. And then the other piece we have is that a lot of customers as we’re going back full throttle, didn’t have the time to onboard and train young talent as they’re coming into the industry, like we did prior to the pandemic.”

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Entry Level Experience Required

Nikki Gonzales, Judges’ chief of staff, has first-hand experience in the matter. “I had a lot of friends who were in hospitality who ended up leaving the industry by force because he couldn’t find a job post-graduation,” Gonzales shared, “The job search is tough, and it was such mixed messaging.”

Word through the grapevine made many of Gonzales’ industry friends believe positions were available for hire, but many were met with some hard truths. “They’re applying for these positions, and they won’t even get a first interview and because it’ll have that experience that the job description was looking for, even though they might have a lot of transferable skills that actually do generate a lot of that entry level experience they could be looking for,” Gonzales said, adding, “A lot of employers weren’t giving them that first shot. And so, a lot of those cases are people who just gave up on the industry and they look at other places.”

Phone a Friend

To help younger, less experienced meeting planners within Soundings, Judge fostered a system she dubbed: Phone a Friend. “We have this great talent that can’t get into the industry because they don’t have the exact experience, but they have the education, they have the strengths, they have applicable experience,” Judge explained.

“What we do is we’ve started to use our more experienced talent, so senior meeting planners who also like to give back and grow in the industry. So, we’ll pair them with the younger talent, and I call it phone a friend and they might consult for 40 hours on this project. So, they’re able to help get this young talent up to speed with so the customer doesn’t have to spend their time training.”

Non-Traditional Pathways and Tech Curriculum

Gonzales advises young meeting planners who are looking to cut their teeth in the industry to seek out the route less traveled in their journey. “There’s so many pathways that you can take within the events industry that may not get as openly spoken about.”

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Gonzales points to hospitality schools as a great place to explore these areas. “Reaching out to other majors to be able to bring them over,” Gonzales continued, noting the importance of skill sets from other areas that can carry over for individuals looking to enter the hospitality field.

Judge, who sits on the California State Hospitality School Advisory Board looked to the discussion of the curriculum in hospitality schools and marketing schools. “I don’t think that the problem is the curriculum in the hospitality schools, I think we need more hospitality event related curriculum in the marketing school. So, marketers are realizing that this is a pathway for them,” Judge continued, referring to Gen Z’s work readiness. “[Gen Z are] more purpose driven than any other generation before. [Gen Z have] the ability to intern or freelance with different organizations. (It) gives them the opportunity to really feel what it’s like to be part of that organization.”

Working From Home vs In-Office

When asked about the status of workers leaning towards remote or in-person work, Gonzales sees it a solid split down the center. “We still have people who are sick. I have a family. I prefer doing virtual events because it gives me that flexibility…if the work is getting done, should it matter where you’re doing it in some cases?”

Judge agreed, but also believes it is important to foster work communities in a remote climate. “People like to have that flexibility, but I think it gets hard at home not having that work community. So, really focusing on how you can give them that either in the community of your industry or something that’s applicable to their work, so they still have that interaction even if they are remote.”


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