Why more and more graduates are choosing to work in nightclubs

Fancy organising events such as an after-show party for Julien Macdonald during London Fashion Week, or being in charge of a nightclub?

You may not have considered these suggestions as viable career options after university, but think again. The late-night entertainment sector employs more than 200,000 people in the UK and jobs can be as varied as running a nightclub to organising celebrity parties at a members-only club.

Larger entertainment firms are starting to offer structured career paths for staff, says Paul Smith, executive director for Beda, the trade association for the bar and late-night entertainment industry.

"These large corporates often have sophisticated career paths in place and they are looking to create more of a graduate environment. In our sector, there is a strong regulatory pressure from government, so managers really need to be aware of a whole range of issues," he says.

One former graduate who is benefiting from the increased professionalism within the late-night entertainment sector is 29-year-old Dan Portus.

Portus developed a taste for nightclub management while working two nights a week at Tokyo Jo's club in Preston. At the same time, he was writing his thesis for his PhD in nanomaterials. "Even though I was commuting 20 miles each night for a part-time job, I enjoyed the busy and fun atmosphere of the club," he says.

The deputy manager of Tokyo Jo's suggested that Portus could have a management career with Luminar, the entertainment company that owned the club. "I had known for most of my final year in the PhD that I wanted to go into management but I had only been thinking of fields similar to my research."

In January 2003, he decided to embark on a career in nightclub management. Since then, Portus has worked his way up through the company's management development programme, from being a trainee manager to his current position as deputy manager of the Oceana nightclub in Leeds.

He is currently participating in a leadership and management foundation degree, run by Luminar. "My plans are then to look for promotion to run my own club in 2007," Portus says.

He believes the image of the industry is changing as it becomes increasingly professional. "If you had asked me four years ago whether I could see myself as a nightclub manager, I'd have said definitely not," he reflects. "My preconception was of Peter Stringfellow, drinking champagne with lots of pretty girls around him. But when it boils down to it, nightclub management is like any other business - you have to train your staff, control the costs and look for ways to increase revenue."

However, not everybody has followed such a structured career path in the industry. Anna Horsman is a 27-year-old events planner for the Cuckoo Club, a members-only club in Mayfair. She left Manchester University with a 2:1 degree in economic and social studies in 2001 and, driven by her passion for music and socialising, she fell into the entertainment sector. "There was pressure at university to go into the City but I ended up working for a DJ management agency as an artist and event co-ordinator, where I booked DJs and negotiated their fees," she remembers.

This was followed by a two-year stint as a PR and events officer for The End, a big London nightclub, where she became more involved in event management. In October last year, Horsman secured her current job as events manager for the Cuckoo Club, where her role is to organise private parties for corporate and celebrity clients and ensure that every aspect of the event runs smoothly, covering everything from menu planning to staffing requirements.

This year, London Fashion Week was a particularly hectic period for the club, recalls Horsman. "We had a party every night during this period." One of the perks of the job is organising events for high-profile clients such as the Brit Awards after-show party and Channel 4's T4 party.

"You need to be very organised, polite and be able to keep a cool head to do this job," reflects Horsman. But you shouldn't expect a nine-to-five job if you're working in this sector, she warns. A typical working day for Horsman starts at 10am and may not finish until 2am if there is an event taking place at the club.

The pursuit of money isn't necessarily a motivating factor for embarking on a career in this sector either, Horsman admits. "You have to be prepared to start off on less money than friends who would go into the City. I was paid £12,000 for my first job but I now have a competitive salary. However, you have to work your way up in this sector."

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