Contact: Leah Barbour
STARKVILLE, Miss.--She had just started her new job with the National Retail Foundation, when one of her colleagues pulled her aside to tell her that her apparel was just a little too casual for the office.
Shaquayla Mims, NRF coordinator of student initiatives, told the crowd of Mississippi State University students at the Leadership Retail Program Conference that she was absolutely crushed, but those feelings didn't last long.
"I realized, it was nothing negative because you learn as you go, and it's mentors who will guide you and give you that feedback," Mims said. "Mentorship is something that happens over a lifetime. If you can connect with a person with experience and you can bring what's on your mind to them--if you value their opinion and their feedback and you trust them to be honest--then that's a mentor. We all need mentors."
Mims was one of three panelists who spoke at the conference's keynote panel presentation on Thursday [Nov. 6] in the Bill R. Foster Ballroom at Colvard Student Union. Other leaders who addressed the group of fashion design and merchandising students included MSU alumni Caroline Gilbert and Erin Seago.
Gilbert, who graduated in 2013, is the assistant service experience manager for Nordstrom Inc., a fashion-specialty retailer. Seago, a store team leader for Target Corporation, graduated with her bachelor's degree in 2007 and her master's degree in 2009.
All three of the panelists are leaders in the retail industry, and they shared their experiences with students to inform the next generation of retail leaders about the skills they'll need for success in the 21st-century economy. Mentors are critical to success, they agreed.
"I definitely have leaders that I look up to and who lead me in the right direction," Gilbert said. "I can go to those people, and they are always there for me--I can go to them whenever I need them. You will need someone that you can go and talk to."
Seago emphasized that finding a great mentor creates opportunity to grow, even when mistakes are made.
"I understand and realize that I may not always have the answer, but I'm going to find somebody that does," Seago said. "Leaders have a learning curve. You are going to make mistakes, but that's how you grow. It's OK to make mistakes."
MSU's School of Human Sciences hosted the conference, and assistant professor Charles Freeman, program organizer, said the participating students' ability to set goals will also be key to their success.
"Goals will help you get to the next level because that success will ultimately reflect on you and the company; goals are things that can help you stay focused and help you live your best life," Mims agreed.
Conference sponsors, along with the School of Human Sciences, were Target and the MSU Retail Merchandising and Cotton Product Development Center.
For more information about the fashion design and merchandising concentration at MSU, visit http://www.humansci.msstate.edu/students/atm.asp.
MSU is online at www.msstate.edu, facebook.com/msstate, instagram.com/msstate and twitter.com/msstate.