Joy LiuPeople change careers for different reasons. For one woman, Joy Liu, it was fatigue. “I was working in restaurants, and it was physically exhausting. I loved it, but working 10 or 12 hours a day is hard on the body.” She was 32 and decided that she didn’t want to stand on her feet all day. “I wasn’t holding up well. I was having physical problems with my feet and knew that I had to do something different.”

Liu decided to enroll in meeting and event planning classes and went from the restaurant to becoming the national field manager for Hornblower Cruises in San Diego. “Studying meeting and event planning seemed like a reasonable transition – an opportunity to see different options that might be available given my professional and educational background. The program was affordable, and the classes were interesting.”

After several years with Hornblower, Liu adds that she still uses what she learned in the classroom today, “I think that probably one of the best preparations that I had coming to this job was the fact that I was a restaurant manager. My instructors stressed using your past experience to help you with your current job. I had a lot of food and beverage experience and I had to deal with difficult people in that industry. My job is a walk in the park compared to those restaurant years.”

More advice is to continue learning as much as you can about the industry. For example, there are many industries and organizations that also offer opportunities for planners. “My favorite is Professional Conference Management Association or PCMA. PCMA will host a conference in San Diego in 2012. I recommend any students that are in the meeting and event planning program to participate in that conference. It’s three days of extreme meeting and planning and leadership skills. It’s an educational rich conference,” Liu adds.