I had the opportunity to do a lot of really interested events last year. It’s still surprising to me how many people don’t know that I run an entire business by myself, with multiple clients. About half of my work is Event Consulting, where I not only plan events for organizations and non-profits, but also help them restructure, create systems, and solve pain points. The other half is weddings and social events. I even helped one of my former brides with planning her mother’s memorial service, soon after the wedding, so that was a service that I felt honored to do.
One of my biggest hurdles is childcare, of course. My girls aren’t in full-time school yet (Marzieh only goes 3 mornings per week), so I’m squeezing in 400 hours of work into naps, before and after Shea’s work schedule, and weekends/evenings.
By February every year I feel like I’m running on fumes, with the cold and the gray of Chicago pushing me down. I’ll try to power through. I’m still working on my consulting clients, and I currently have 9 couples that I’m working with for their weddings in 2023 (1 in 2024).
It’s hard to believe that I had a baby nearly 7 months ago. So many things have happened since then. I quit my full time job after many years of non-stop work, immediately got hired to work as the event planner for an amazing corporate client that had an event in NYC, joined industry networking groups, planned several weddings, incorporated my business into a LLC and got on several preferred vendor lists at venues…the list goes on. Marzieh (my daughter) is a truly joyful baby with good sleep habits and a healthy appetite for food and play, and we don’t sit at home very much, even as it gets colder outside.
My plan is to spend the winter working on my business, collaborating with other event industry vendors on various projects, and traveling. I’ve already got several trips lined up with the family so we’ll be busy with that over the next few months.
IÂ got promoted yesterday. From Events Coordinator to Events Manager*
*does a happy dance*
It was a while in coming, but I was toldÂ in the morning and it was announced in the afternoon to our department (which is good, because it would have been so hard to keep that a secret!). I’ve had some very supportive supervisors and colleagues, and it meant a lot to have that support and guidance over the last few years. Nothing really changes for now (other than my title and my business cards), and I’m really already doing most of the work, so it is nice to be recognized. Thank goodness I don’t have to move! I love the view from my desk.
Women’s Work is Not What You Think
In the last few years especially I’ve been thinking a lot about women in the workplace and in leadership positions. I know that women generally don’t advocate for themselves, ask for raises or promotions, and are not taken as seriously when it comes to strategy and business decisions. I am grateful for the people in my life that have encouraged me to stand up for myself, to not accept the narrative that so many women are fed their whole lives. My parents started it, of course, and then a steady flow of other family, friends, and co-workers all taught me how to be strong and navigate the minefield. And the people who were not so nice taught me things too. I could move on from those situations with additional skills and knowledge.
I work in a female-dominatedÂ industry, but men are still in charge overall, and it became very evident to me last year when I read the PCMA 2015 Salary Survey. To sum up:
Average salary forÂ meeting professionals: $77,519 for women, $102,375 for men. Almost exactly 75 cents to the dollar.Â
Planners with a CMP certification make about $10,000 more than those without. So glad I got my CMP in 2014.
Association meeting professionals tend to make more than corporate planners. I’m in association management, thank goodness.
72% of respondents who said that they had additional work added to their plate also were not compensated for the additional work. Find this to be true across the board.
Also, in the Department of Labor categorizations, meeting professionals were generally lumped in with restaurateurs, lodging managers, etc, within the Hospitality and Tourism category, and only last year did they start to get their own sub-category that is beginning to recognize their expertise. This has been a huge frustration of mine for years. We are experts in a specialized field that doesn’t get nearly enough recognition.Â
The reason I want to talk about this stuff is because I feel a lack of it right now, and career growth and development is important to me. I work with a lot of young women, especially because we get a lot of college grads who are just starting out. When will they have these conversations? No one likes to talk about salary discrepancies, or the workload (please spare me the tired old spiel about working hard to prove ourselves), or the emotional labor we carry for our teams or our clients. We are martyrs in one of the most stressful (and fun!) jobs, but then don’t have enough open conversations about how to create more of a balance, or how to support each other. So I’ve been making an effort and I amÂ hoping it helps some people along the way.
January 2014: Hosted Feast with Shea in Wilmette for the first time. Tried not to freeze to death in the coldest 4 months on record. Ever.
February 2014: Saw Queenie Pie at the Harris Theater in Chicago, had a wedding client, and got stuck on a CTA train when it derailed (with my husband, which made it much better).
March 2014: First visit to New Orleans, for a client conference. Ate amazing food at Tableau, realized what a bad idea it is to be in New Orleans during Spring Break season, got caught in a rainstorm, solved several minor crises for the client, walked at least 4-6 miles per day at the conference, and was the event lead for the first time by myself at SB, which felt amazing.
April 2014: Met my niece Faye for the first time, saw my first Bulls game in person at the United Center (from a suite), and saw Shen Yun at the Civic Opera House. May 2014: Traveled to Philadelphia for a client conference. 5 days as the only event staff on site, saw my gorgeous cousin who announced her pregnancy, got caught in a rainstorm (again), saw the Liberty Bell, located several delicious restaurants, walked less than I did in New Orleans, and worked with some pretty great volunteers.
I passed my CMP test and became a certified meeting planner. whew.
June 2014: My second visit to Las Vegas in the span of 1 year for a client. Dealt with some drama, took a taxi to In-N-Out and then to try Halo-Halo for the first time, which is my new favorite dessert. I saw the Beatles LOVE show and tried to bake in the sun when I wasn’t walking 10 miles a day at the show.
We had a mini family reunion in Chicago with most of Shea’s family and I attended my first gala for work at Navy Pier.
July 2014: We spent the 4th of July at my parent’s house and watched the fireworks with Shea’s parents and mine. We visited Green Acre Baha’i School with the Munion family (and extended relatives) for nearly a week. Starved Rock Camping with Shea was an amazing experience, even though the thunderstorm in a tent was not something I ever thought I would experience.
I visited Las Vegas for the 3rd time in a year for a client, where I saw amazing sunrises and sunsets, found a pasta place that had delicious gluten-free bread and pasta, had a successful conference and probably only walked 8 miles per day, experienced bedbugs for the first time, saw Weezer in concert, and ate gelato as much as possible.
August 2014: Celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary, spent a week in Minnesota for the Minnesota State Fair and family time, stopped by Persian Conference, and chopped off many inches of hair.
September 2014: Stepped firmly into my 30s (no going back now!) and visited Nashville for work.
October 2014: Traveled to Denver, visited Rocky Mountain State Park and the top of Pike’s Peak, and then took a plane to Salt Lake City, where we hung out in some amazing cabins in the mountains and watched Shea’s sister get married.
November 2014: I stopped for a few hours in Minneapolis for a client, and spent a few days in Pittsburgh for work, where I realized how very cool the city is and that everyone thinks that it is still covered in pollution, but it isn’t. Thanksgiving at my parents house, a Thanksgiving Interfaith event at the House of Worship, and Thanksgiving in Chinatown made it a very thankful November.
December 2014: Saw Justin Timberlake in concert, went to Second City for the first time, attended my work holiday party, Shea’s work party, saw Cinderella at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, and worked through most of the holidays. Oh and spent 3 weeks with a very bad cold.
(or: things no one talks about but I really wish they would! All of the below items sound like common sense…but it truly isn’t so common.)
1. Always thank people. Whether it is something small or large, acknowledge the work that was done.
It is truly incredible to me how many times I have seen people demand that something be done and show no appreciation for the work. I don’t care if it is a light bulb being changed or an entire project or event…acknowledge it! Make gratitude a part of the culture.
2. Insist on the use of a formalized system of performance reviews that are captured in writing.
This is especially important at non-profits and smaller companies where people are afraid of “hurting feelings” or where people fear losing their jobs because they think that this is what performance reviews are for. Performance reviews are also a method of determining career growth, assisting people with improving areas of weakness (we ALL have areas of weakness!), and having a record of your time at a company.
3. Make a habit of written praise for employees who go above and beyond.
Even if it is just a quick email to them, it is something that they can keep to put in their files to show in the future, especially when they are going for a promotion or need support when a situation might not be so pleasant. Even if you aren’t someone’s manager, that praise can mean a lot.
4. Confront conflict right away, clear the air, and ensure that the individuals can move past it.
Do not allow situations to fester. Recognize that just because you wish people would just get along, it doesn’t mean that it will happen. It isn’t easy to do this! Most people do not enjoy this part of the working world. But learning how to do work through conflict will actually make things easier in the long term, and employees will appreciate your ability to deal with the hard things.
5. Learn to balance the art of consultation with the science of standing up for what is right.
Your professional opinion could enure the success of an event/project, and you may not get credit for standing up for the right thing until years later. It’s worth it. People won’t always like it, especially if it challenges their sense of authority/ego/power. I have learned from experience that if you are a young woman with knowledge and confidence, there are people who will not be able to handle that, and who will try to undermine you. (This has not happened in my current job but I have experienced it in the last 15 years in the workforce.) Recognize it for what it is, and learn methods for moving around it without jeopardizing your job.
Last Wednesday was a bit nerve-wracking for me. I took myÂ CMP (Certified Meeting Planner) exam and found out right away that I passed! Within a few hours, something that I had been trying to do for years was over.
I started the process of preparing to take the exam in January of 2012 by registering for a class at Harper College from March-May 2012, which I passed. Then life took over and I was far too busy to think about studying for the EXAM.
There are at least 2 things that you must have to qualify for the CMP test (there are other options but this is what I qualified for):
-At least 36 months of working in the event industry & current or recent work in events.
-Completion of 25 clock hours of industry-related continuing education within the past five years.
From the Convention Industry Council website: “…the CMP credential is recognized globally as the badge of excellence in the meeting, convention, exhibition, and event industry. The qualifications for certification are based on professional experience, education, and a rigorous exam.”
I studied the official materials for a few months this spring, and that, combined with the last 7 years of working in events, enabled me to pass the test. Just the things that I have learned in the last 8 months at my current job have been enormously valuable. When you are surrounded by 60 other event planners on a daily basis, you have no choice but to learn!
As a kid, I watched Bulls games with my family, mostly because Michael Jordan was playing and the Bulls were the hottest team out there. We are not a sports-watching family (thank God) so that was the extent of it. I was offered tickets to attend Bulls vs Bucks (Milwaukee) through work and they had an executive suite with food and drinks, and of course the Bulls won (we left before the game ended to avoid being in a crowd of 21,000 people leaving a game at once). It was a good time, though I’ll be honest and say I probably didn’t watch the game as much as other people…the food was pretty distracting!
When I started my new job last fall, I was assigned to a (very nice, shiny new) cubicle on the southeast corner of my building, right next to the Chicago river and facing Lake Michigan. I know, really lucky. Somehow I haven’t managed to bring my DSLR to work to take photos with a real camera, but you never know when the light will be perfect. Sometimes when I need to think, I turn my head and look out over the water. It does wonders for my thought process (and sanity).
The whirlwind hasn’t stopped. My brain is trying to rapidly absorb all of the information I need to learn at my new job. Coming in at a higher level means learning all the things very fast. When you add in a longer commute (I went from 10 minutes to over an hour each way) and a continuous to-do list…well, it means that I am still playing catch-up. But I love being an event coordinator and this is what I am meant to be doing.
We finally settled on Halloween costumes (of course I won’t tell you until AFTER Halloween) and some friends and I are throwing a little shindig on Halloween. I was looking for parties for adults that don’t involve alcohol, and it turns out that they are either really hard to find, or they don’t exist. So we’re doing our own last-minute party.
I am trying to take advantage of the fall food and festivities…did some pumpkin-carving and pumpkin pie baking with family last night, and am spending most of my Sundays preparing food for the week so we don’t have to cook lunches and dinners.
You may be aware that there is a snowstorm in Chicago right now. There was an Ayyam-i-Ha party at the Baha’i National Center this morning, and after lunch everyone was sent home because of the impending storm (which had already started). So a few girlfriends and I had an impromptu hangout at my place, which included conversations, food, nail polish, and television. It was exactly perfect on a night like this. Now they are gone and I fully intend to continue enjoying the evening. The silence of a snowy night is such a peaceful thing.
we are an entire generation
we are here to serve, to work, to strive
we are silenced
we raise our hands to voice concern
we raise our voices to fight injustice
we are silenced
our brothers and sisters are imprisoned
we are here, in a prison which should not exist
in a place that should be joyful
and we are silenced.
I get to see cool things through my work at the Baha’i National Center. I don’t know who made this or what era it is from, but I loved it and put it up on the wall in our office. Click here for a larger image.Â If anyone knows when this was made, or who made it, please let me know!
Because I work at the Baha’i National Center, there have been times that I’ve been asked to participate in short videos produced by our Media Services team. Actually, since I grew up in the area, there is probably a great deal of embarassing footage out there, especially from my middle school and high school years.
I shot my particular part of the video on a very cold, blustery day in March. I only had to do a few takes, but I loved the idea and the end result turned out even better than I thought, and a lot of my friends ended up in it too. This is my favorite introductory video of the Baha’i Faith so far (and not because I’m in it!). Good job, team! I kept forgetting to post it here, but finally got around to it.
And I’m sharing this video because it has two of my coworkers/friends and it makes me laugh when I watch it. The purpose of the video is to encourage Baha’is to give to the Baha’i Funds, and I love that it was done with humor. And awkwardness. Lots of awkwardness.
As an event planner, I am constantly scouring websites, looking for information, photos, and contact details for venues all over the country. Whether it is a hotel, a theater, a banquet hall, or a loft space, they nearly all have one thing in common:
It is almost impossible to find a decent photo of what their space actually looks like. If they DO include a photo, it is 200 pixels square and was taken with a point-and-shoot from 1995.
Really? You charge $4,000 for 4 hours of room rental, but you can’t hire someone to build a decent website and take a few nice photos? You are trying to sell your space but you don’t want anyone to actually SEE it?
And don’t even try to find room capacity information on the website. They want you to fill out a little form, wait a week for someone to contact you..by which point the date you wanted has been taken.
Sometimes they try to get fancy and have a videoÂ or some muzak start playing when you open their page, which makes you jump because you forgot to turn down the sound after watching Mad Men last night. If I want a soundtrack, I’ll turn on my own music.
So this is for all of the venues out there who can’t seem to get their act together: if you want me to use your space, build a decent website. 🙂
A gathering of souls, meeting to discuss the future, full of excitement. You can see what the world might look like one day, if we strive hard enough.
News of my great-aunt’s passing at the age of 94. Maryam Saniei Firouzi, wife and mother of martyrs, servant of the Faith, loved by her entire family. I was able to visit her a few weeks ago, and I know she is now reunited with her family, so my sense of sadness is overtaken with joy that she has been released from this life.
The sun is finally shining today. Accomplishment in my tasks, the week isn’t over yet but I know that it is all perfect, no matter what.
It is two places now, where I am and where I was.Â It is pieces of memories that float to the surface with no warning and leave me gasping for breath.
It is silence in the Mother Temple when I close my eyes and pretend that I am in the Shrines, or standing on the sea wall, or walking down broken stone paths.Â I am still near the water, but instead of a warm sea I swim in the cold lake, instead of gardens I am stand in concrete city landscapes.
So much and so little has changed.Â There is a little more knowledge behind my eyes, a little more heaviness in my sighs, more smiles and more quiet.Â There is less need to be here and there and everywhere at once.
Work happens every day from 8 am-5 pm, Monday through Friday, just like I prayed for.Â Last night I signed a short lease for a place to rest my head at night, and a closet for my clothes.Â Resigned and happy.
I miss you and you and you and you and you and most especially you.
In between places and time are the photographs, the Saturday morning brunches, the days upon days at Bahji, the Friday afternoon soccer matches, Thursday nights that were never-ending, Monday’s game night and dinner, Tuesday farewells to the pilgrims, and praying my way down the mountain.
Home is a jumbled mess of prairie grass, the call to prayer, the flat roads, the mountain stairs, a million flowers, snow, sand, sky and no starlight.Â Haifa and Chicago.
These last few weeks have really done a number on me.Â I finished up my work helping organize the 3rd Annual Baha’i Choral Festival at the Baha’i House of Worship.Â The Festival was wonderful, you can read about it here, and watch the hour-long performance here.Â (There were readings as well, but had to be cut out of the DVD.)Â Then I moved over into another job, which is quite fun and keeps me very busy.Â I’m only 4 days into it, and already feeling a bit like I did a year ago, right before International Convention.
I live out of suitcases and my car, my friends’ couch and my parent’s home.Â My work is so far from home that commuting is painful.Â But I get to see my friends a lot more now, and being in the city is wonderful.
On the continuing theme of my clumsiness, I knocked over a glass last weekend, and promptly sliced my finger open as I tried to rescue it.Â Luckily it wasn’t too bad, and thank God for medication.
I went to a lovely wedding this past weekend.Â That, combined with several friends visiting from out of town and the usual weekend festivities, created the deadly combination of no sleep, crazy meal schedules, and getting nothing done on my to-do list.Â My poor to-do list is feeling quite neglected.
Twitter was sending me into a spiral of distraction, so 9 days ago I took a break.Â I don’t really miss it, and I’ve stopped thinking in terms of tweets.Â Maybe when things settle back down I’ll get into it again, but right now I’m enjoying the silence.
“Raise ye a clamour like unto a roaring sea; like a prodigal cloud, rain down the grace of heaven. Lift up your voices and sing out the songs of the Abha Realm. Quench ye the fires of war, lift high the banners of peace, work for the oneness of humankind and remember that religion is the channel of love unto all peoples. Be ye aware that the children of men are sheep of God and He their loving Shepherd, that He careth tenderly for all His sheep and maketh them to feed in His own green pastures of grace and giveth them to drink from the wellspring of life. Such is the way of the Lord. Such are His bestowals. Such, from among His teachings, is His precept of the oneness of mankind.”
(Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 35)
“When eloquence of expression, beauty of sense and sweetness of composition unite with new melodies the effect is ever great, especially if it be the anthem of the verses of oneness and the songs of praise to the Lord of Glory.”
(Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 59)
So if you know of anyone that is hiring, do let me know.Â :-)Â I’ve got a nice little resume and work experience.Â Project/Event management type jobs, preferably, but I really don’t know where I’m going to end up.Â Quite fun.
That is all I’ve got for today!Â Hope everyone is enjoying the last days of summer (well, in the northern Hemisphere, anyway.Â Trying to remember my global readership.).
I thought I was prepared. I had the box of cereal ready, and I remembered that I had strawberries in the fridge. I casually open the fridge to get the milk…
horrors! NO MILK!
So instead I feasted on some hummus and cheese with chips. For breakfast. haha.
Interesting topic at lunch today: What motivates people in the workplace? Some would say money, but of course we know that it is so much more than that. And then you take a unique place like the Baha’i World Centre (where I am serving), where people come to serve, not to climb the corporate ladder or start a company.How do we motivate the people around us in the workplace? People usually think of motivation in a “top-down” approach: that is, the upper levels of an organization use incentives of some kind to coax employees to work at a certain level. But what happens when employees take an active role in managing the people they report to? When they explain to their managers how they work best? When working on a team, do we take the time to figure out each other’s styles of project management or personal interaction?
My accounting and finance professors will be happy to know that I remember some of the things they taught me.
I had a moment of shock during corporate training yesterday. I was able to answer a question about depreciation off the top of my head. I didn’t even have to think about it. This happened a few other times, as well.
Training was the epitomy of all corporate stuff I ever imagined. The swanky meeting room, glass pitchers of water tastefully scattered, notepads with the hotel logo stamped on them, and good food. I really can’t complain. I imagine if I did it every day I’d go crazy (every hotel looks the same after a while).
We played games and I sat with some “higher-ups”. I was definitely the youngest person there.
So I get to work this weekend…as does everyone else at my company. I don’t specifically talk about work on my blog because that is just a little bit dumb. 🙂 However, I do work an 8-5 job, M-F. This weekend is a special circumstance having to do with computers. Yippee. I’ve also got birthday parties and a study circle, as well as Feast.
Here is a little tidbit for you:
“Whatever the customer wants, we can get it 9 times out of 10. 99%. Is that clear?” – lunch meeting, a sales manager
Well, no one said that we’re math majors over here. Speaking of which, last night I dreamt of fractions. 5/16, 3/4, .375, etc.
I got up from my desk this afternoon at work to grab a can of Pepsi from the refrigerator. As I walked across the salesfloor, something didn’t feel right…I wasn’t as tall as I should be!
I looked down in horror. Peeking out from under the hem of my brown slacks were…
MY BLACK FLIP-FLOPS!!
I quickly looked around to see if anyone had noticed I was wearing flip-flops at work. I grabbed my soda and walked quickly back to my desk. The offending shoes were banished under the desk and I resolved not to leave my desk all afternoon.
I realized that in my rush to leave the house after lunch today, I had forgotten to put my heels back on. Not only did I commit a fashion error (hahaha) but footwear at work must be more professional.
I have a normal job. 8 am – 5 pm, Monday-Friday. Wow.
Only 3 hours of sleep on Sunday night…extreme insomnia. In the morning on Monday we did basic form-filling-out & orientation, then had lunch with a bunch of 20-somethings in my department. I’m in Sales, so there are a good number of people my age, and most of them are very nice and personable. They even invite me to eat lunch with them! *shocked look* I also have two friends already working there (one of whom was the one who suggested the job to me).
So far I really like the people around me, and I feel like I’m already getting into the whole routine. I’m struggling with getting enough sleep, but hopefully it will balance out as I get used to getting up every morning at 6:30 am.
The commute is a killer…5 minutes down one street. Yikes. hahaha. The cafeteria food isn’t bad, but has limited selection, so I will utilize the fridge in the breakroom and warm up my meals.
I like it so far. I definitely need more sleep, though. Insomnia is hitting me really hard.
Last night the fuse blew in the house. Luckily, I woke up at 5 am and resent my alarm clock using my phone.
Unfortunately, I set it one hour late, so I woke up at 6 am instead of 7 am. I walked out the door at 7 am, only realizing my mistake when I saw the sky and how dark it was.
Oops. Well, at least I had time to eat breakfast, but I will be tired today.
It appears as though I begin work tomorrow. If only the cubicles looked like this:
Too bad it is rather hard to ride a bike to work in a suit (besides the cold weather!). It would be entirely possible to do so, since it is so close!
As I contemplate the contents of my closet, I look to the internet for “inspiration”. First day of work clothes are very important, you know. Well, I found some lovely suits that I was thinking of investing in. The one I liked the most was this:
Also, I’m tired of my current style, so I think I want to change it up a little bit. I was thinking of going for something a little more…classic.
Ah, corporate America, here I come! Are you ready for me?! Mwahaha.
It appears that I have graduated from college. Crazy, no?
I have also retained employment. Being as this is a public blog, I’m not going to go into detail, nor am I ever likely to. However, if you are curious, feel free to email me and I’ll probably tell you (if I know you!).
I will say that I’m very happy to have a job, and one related to my field (Marketing & Management). I’m going to be a real person! 😉 Chicago will be my home for a while longer, since the company is located here.