Contact: Michael Tullier, APR
Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing
To be marketable in their future career pursuits, today’s students are actively seeking — and capitalizing on — opportunities to showcase their academic prowess, expand their network and identify mentors who can assist them with their post-graduate job searches. Five Tuskegee University students majoring in sales and marketing epitomized that through their participation earlier this semester in the third annual Student Sales and Marketing Conference, hosted in Atlanta by the National Sales Network.
Juniors Jordan Cole of Richmond, California; Kai DeShields of Atlanta; and Briann Ryce of Huntsville, Alabama; along with seniors Jordan Harry of Tuskegee; and Jeffery Johnson of Chattanooga; attended the three-day conference in September. They were among the hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students from across the U.S. who were split up and paired with their counterparts from other institutions into one of 15 teams that competed in a case study competition. Several rounds of presentations comprised the competition, which centered on four different case study topics — with each evaluated by professionals representing companies like Johnson & Johnson, Grainger and PepsiCo.
Cole, whose team placed third for a case study marketing the placement of a PepsiCo food product on Wal-Mart shelves across the nation, recalled the competition’s fast-paced and high-pressured nature.
“We had less than 24 hours to complete our presentation and prepare to present the next day,” he said. “The case study was very informative and provided us with insights into what companies go through to push a product to stores around the world. The experience was unbelievable.”
Ryce, whose team placed second for a case study focused on marketing a diabetic pharmaceutical, could not emphasize enough the importance of participating in events like this and taking advantage of every chance to network with potential employers.
“When you have opportunities like this, bring your resume, print some business cards, and network, network, network,” she said. “This is the perfect time to expand your professional circle. Prepare conversation starters, engage with other students as well as companies, and don’t forget to follow up on those conversations.”
Several students credited the university’s “Professional Selling” course, taught by Anthony Freeman, who also coordinates the Sales and Marketing program in the Andrew F. Brimmer College of Business and Information Science, as the foundation for their success at the conference.
“‘Professional Selling’ definitely prepared me for this event,” Johnson stated. “As students in Mr. Freeman’s course, we learned about relationship building, public speaking and negotiating within a business environment. I applied those skills effectively during the conference, which allowed me to stand out among other student competitors. In turn, the conference provided me with a forum where I could hone the public speaking and presentation skills I know I will use throughout my career.”
Others cited their completion of the “Corporate Survival Skills” course, taught by instructor Rose Lanier, as being instrumental in their success at the conference.
“Ms. Lanier has had such a hand in my success as a young professional,” Ryce noted. “She has taught me the overlooked art of proper etiquette that many college students have not been exposed to. It makes all the difference for your confidence when you know how to approach someone professionally in conversations or how to participate in dinner using the correct utensils. It helps you feel comfortable and knowledgeable around more experienced corporate professionals.”
Each of the students left the conference confident that their networking opportunities would pay dividends in their future job searches — with a couple of them securing impromptu interviews at the conference or plans for formal interviews following the event. Currently, and as a result of their participation at the conference, Cole, DeShields and Ryce all have confirmed internships for the summer of 2018, and Johnson has two post-graduate job offers he is considering.
DeShields, whose first-place team also addressed the challenge of marketing a PepsiCo food product to Wal-Mart for national distribution, echoed the personal and career benefits available to students who participate in academic and professional development conferences and similar opportunities.
“I thought I knew what I wanted to do in my career, but participating in this conference opened my eyes to the different types of sales and marketing jobs available to me and encouraged me to be receptive to other opportunities I hadn’t considered,” she said.
Johnson emphasized that when students participate in national events like this, they serve as university ambassadors by demonstrating the potential Tuskegee University students offer prospective employers.
“This is not only an opportunity for our students to gain exposure for themselves, but for them to show employers how well Tuskegee University students interact and perform,” he said. “This brings more attention to our university and the benefit to companies that recruit our students for their employment opportunities.”
As a result of his participation in the conference, Cole was selected a student ambassador for the 2018 conference. He hopes to see more Tuskegee students consider participating in future NSN student conferences.
“This is an amazing opportunity for young professionals to widen their professional network, learn first-hand from company representatives, and to earn internships and job offers,” Cole said in encouraging students to consider attending next year’s conference. “It has been my biggest resume builder and interview topic of discussion, leading to an abundance of internship offers.”
Cole noted that students registering before Dec. 31 are eligible for full conference scholarships. In addition to contacting Cole for additional information, conference information and the registration application are available online at http://www.salesnetwork.org/student-conference.
The National Sales Network is a nonprofit, member-based organization founded in 1992. Its members — representing sales and sales management professionals regardless of industry, location or job level — benefit from professional and developmental programs offered through its 20 metropolitan-based chapters across the nation.
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