Constance Samuels, CMP, likes to live by the phrase, “Work hard, play harder.” Armed with her outlook, notes and events apps, her trusty three-ring binder and a medium black coffee, Samuels leads events that go off without a hitch. Afterwards, she treats herself to some much-needed self-care and rest.

“Planning an event is not simple,” she says. “[The CMP designation] continues to solidify our existence in the multibillion-dollar event industry not as an option, but as a need.”

Growing up, she wanted to be a teacher; then, an architect. By high school, she wasn’t sure. Career aptitude tests pointed her towards hospitality. “I leaned into what the tests suggested and haven’t looked back since,” she says. “Who knows what I would have initially majored in in college, but I feel in my heart of hearts, it would’ve eventually led me to this wonderful industry and career.”

She worked in hotel and DMO sales for 7.5 years before pursuing her CMP. “With a hospitality management background, I was aware of the certification but wasn’t sure where my career would lead me and if I would actually need it,” she says. “It wasn’t until my second industry role that I realized that not only would it apply to what I was doing at work, my company would support me in studying for it and help pay for me to obtain the certification.”

Preparing for the Exam

Having worked in sales roles, she says “I wasn’t sure that I had the applicable experience to pass it.” Despite her doubts, in early 2016, she began studying for the exam anyway. In 2017, she passed on her first try.

She joined a virtual study group to prepare. “It’s important to get a different perspective in thinking through questions, and being challenged by your peers is the best way to do that,” she says.

Flashcards became her best friend. “Flashcards, flashcards, flashcards!” she exclaims. “I had a huge stack that I made based on the content of the slides from my virtual study group. I used colorful sharpies to write different prompts and questions. I would play different games that included me reciting definitions, filling in the blanks and matching.”

She also relied heavily on her network. “I have always been of the thought that I can gain wisdom and knowledge from other industry colleagues that have been in events longer than I have,” she says. Samuels would schedule peer-to-peer interviews with individuals outside her organization to hear different perspectives and tips that would be helpful as she built her career. She also attended webinars regularly, learning skills and habits that strengthened her ability to perform her roles.

“In the words of the emergency alert system: ‘This is only a test.’”

“The CMP [exam] was intimidating, and I am a self-proclaimed overthinker,” she says. To anyone looking to take the CMP exam now, she advises, “Studying is very important, but if there are some things you don’t totally grasp, it’s okay.”

As a helpful tip, Samuels recommends the “brain dump” technique: At the beginning of the test, write down all the formulas and concepts you don’t want to forget on your scratch paper. Refer to it throughout the test so you can easily reference everything you want to remember when a relevant question comes along.

It’s also important to avoid second-guessing yourself, she says. “If there is one answer that sticks out to you, there is a reason why—and it’s probably because it’s the right answer.”

Where She is Now

Only six months after earning her CMP designation, Samuels took on her first planning role as association event manager. “I had the opportunity to apply everything I learned. Since then, I have had the pleasure of planning several events, and growing my career in ways that I didn’t know were possible.”

At her first event for which she was lead planner, a 200-plus person conference in Louisville, she says, “I was a nervous wreck, and I probably held my breath through the entire three-day event.” But everything went flawlessly. “Seeing everything come to fruition reaffirmed my decision to transition to the event side of the business. There are so many other events that I am proud of and have left me with memories I’ll never forget, but it’s always the first that will hold a special place in my heart.”

She now lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and works in a full-time event management role, as director of events and education at National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO), a company that seeks to grow, promote and support the PEO industry, which provides HR services to small to mid-size companies.

Looking Forward

Samuels feels inspired by the industry’s continued evolution and its agility during the turbulence of the past few years. “While it’s true there will never be anything to replicate face-to-face meetings, we have found innovative ways to heighten the creativity, engagement and connectivity of events through the avenues of technology as it relates to the changing attendee profile.”

Like many CMPs, Samuels sees the designation evolving alongside the industry. “[It] will always be a highly regarded certification for event professionals that are dedicated to their craft and who find importance in continuing to grow, not only in their own careers, but in the industry as a whole…It is a stamp of confidence that is looked at when there is a company or organization looking for the right person to get the job done.”

Read More: CMP Spotlight: Get to Know Cynthia MacDonald, CMP