Event Management Work Experience: Unpaid vs Paid

event_management_experience_unpaid_internship_vs_paid_work_experience1.jpgAre you clear on what to do next after completing your Event Management diploma or degree? As with most recent graduates, you’ll be eager to enter the workforce and start getting paid but what if you don’t land that dream job straight out of university? Don’t worry, about 80% of graduates end up in the same situation. You need to get practical and decide on how you’ll build up your experience, but which way do you go­ – unpaid internship or paid work experience? In this article we discuss the pro’s and cons of both types of work. 

We’ve talked previously about the importance of gaining paid operational experience in banquets or catering and we’ve also discussed the value behind putting yourself forward for an unpaid event management internship with an events business, so which is the best path for you?

The simple answer is it depends on you and what you want to get out of each experience. Try to remember, there is never a right way or a wrong way – there are just different ways in which to navigate your professional growth in hospitality or events. Read on to discover how to gain work experience in event management.

Unpaid event management internships


  • Gaining valuable real world experience with industry professionals
  • There should be a set internship schedule for training and development
  • Vocational placement is accredited
  • Valuable relationships formed
  • Could lead to paid work
  • Less experience is ok
  • Training is provided
  • Flexible exposure to different events styles
  • Detailed administrative understanding of events


  • Danger of not having a set internship training and development schedule
  • Potential to feel like being taken advantage of and used for menial tasks
  • Host employer may see the relationship differently or have high expectations
  • Not getting paid

Operations experience


  • Transferable “soft skills” are developed and can be used in any industry for professional and personal development
  • Better understanding of different cultures and service expectations
  • Learn how to provide service to people
  • Learn how to entertain guests and manage expectations
  • Learn about the back-of-house set up and how events are put together for a client
  • Acquire technical understanding to support the administrative knowledge
  • Get paid


  • Need some experience, may have to pass a basic skills assessment/interview
  • Perception that it may not be beneficial to what you have studied
  • Inconsistent work hours
  • Fast paced, difficult to adjust

The people you meet through your first vocational placement may influence you (organically) to work in a specific type of event service such as conferencing, weddings or corporate events. Or you may get lucky and discover an internship working alongside a business on a paid casual basis, effectively blending an experience of paid work and unpaid, giving you exposure to all the varying types of events – like what we provide at BENCHMARQUE.

The good news is a mixture of both types of work will most definitely allow for the perfect transition from your tertiary studies into the real world of events. So don’t just stand there, update your resume and get yourself out there!

About the author Marlowe Bennett

With 22 years of experience and over 23,000 professional hours working across Sydney’s hospitality industry, our content aims to inspire young candidates to pursue professional careers and to help operators grow compliantly.


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