2017 NRF Retail’s BIG Show Student Program Experience
Post by Marsalis Pearce ’18
Over the winter break, I had the pleasure of attending the Student Program at Retail’s BIG Show, an annual event hosted by the National Retail Federation. Accompanying me were Dr. Lauren Beitelspacher, Lucy Turner, and several of my peers who share a similar, burning passion for retail. A record-breaking 650+ students from over 70+ institutions across the country, gathered at the Javits Center in NYC for an invaluable opportunity to hear the experiences of executives from some of the industry’s most popular brands, and network with recruiters to learn more about the diverse career paths in the industry.
Day 1 featured an opening keynote from fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff, a panel of young professionals from retailers including, West Elm, The Home Depot, and Kohl’s, a one-on-one resume review workshop hosted by Ross, and a career development session on networking led by Matt Meuleners (Partner, FOCUS Training). Day 2 featured an in-depth chat between Paul Gainer (EVP, Disney Retail) and Emma Jumper (2016 Next Generation Scholarship Top Recipient), an informative and entertaining session on financial literacy, a roundtable executive mentor experience, and a career fair. Day 3 featured invite-only interview sessions and access to the opening of Retail’s BIG Show featuring 35,000 attendees, 300 guest speakers, 510+ exhibitors, and 118+ sponsors.
While I enjoyed every last moment of the Student Program at Retail’s BIG Show, my two most favorite experiences were the career development session on networking and the roundtable executive mentor experience. Seventy percent of all jobs are found through networking and the retail industry is all about people. Sure, networking is uncomfortable, however understanding how to build and maintain mutually beneficial and professional relationships is truly a key to success. Landing that dream job starts with actively engaging in genuine and purposeful conversations, not by simply filling out an application and achieving 500+ connections on LinkedIn.
The gap between where I am now and where I see myself in the future is sometimes daunting. Similarly, it is easy to second-guess your value when you are just starting out. During the roundtable executive mentor experience, I sat down with leaders from companies, including Nordstrom, PwC, and Williams Sonoma, only to be inspired by their career successes and lessons learned from their failures. This experience reminded about the importance of never giving up, no matter how big the dream, and approaching life one day at a time.
I would like to give a huge thanks to CCD and the Undergraduate Professional Accelerator Fund for encouraging me and making it possible for me to attend the Student Program at Retail’s BIG Show. To students who have the opportunity to participate in this experience in future, regardless of class year: have fun, be yourself, listen actively, and take plenty of notes! You certainly will not be disappointed!