International Business Appreciation Month events guide business students through pandemic obstacle course

Yvette M. Miley

Yvette M. Miley, NBCUniversal’s senior vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, gave the keynote address for International Business Appreciation Month at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. (Screenshot)

Today’s college students are facing an uncertain business environment created by the COVID-19 pandemic as they finish their studies and get set to launch their careers. 

NBCUniversal executive Yvette Miley believes it will be possible to survive and even thrive during these conditions, as she told the virtual audience that logged into her speech earlier this during International Business Appreciation Month at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. But successful students will have to “adjust, make changes (and) find a way forward.”

That was the consensus of many speakers featured in the virtual event held in place of the annual International Business Career Conference and spread out through the month of February. The event had eight sessions that included topics such as the pandemic’s impact on the study abroad program, strategic planning and risk management and how to do business in the post-pandemic world.

Miley, who is senior vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion at the Comcast-owned entity, was the keynote speaker. She said that UMSL’s nontraditional student body represents the type of workforce her company is seeking.

“My job is to find top talent, and I know the University of MissouriSt Louis is the place to find top talent,” Miley said. “Students, you represent our future. Diversity, equity and inclusion is a business imperative for our company, and race, ethnic and gender diversity is vital.”

She said that although students are “challenged with remote learning and trying to make connections in virtual environments,” she encourages them to find human connections, to know what they want and to do their research. 

Digital marketing consultant and UMSL graduate Annie Mbale reinforced that advice during last Wednesday’s alumni discussion on how the pandemic impacts finding and keeping a job.

“Some people say, ‘It’s not what you do but who you know,’ and it’s really true,” said Mbale, who earned a bachelor’s degree in 2017 and an MBA in 2019. “Forge relationships and use those relationships to be open to opportunities. Leverage the relationships and the connections you have.”

The three-member panel agreed that the traditional tools of networking, finding a mentor and doing your research are still key to finding a job. Timothy Donovan, an IT manager at Centene, said that students will encounter new challenges during the pandemic from an all-virtual hiring process to zoom interviews that reach into your space.

“Look at how you’re presenting yourself in a virtual environment now,” Donovan said. “It’s not just that you’re dressed for success, but what does my (online) background look like?”

The panel advised students to create their own opportunities and get involved in the clubs and activities that UMSL has to offer. All three said that being IBCC members made a difference in their careers.

“My degree wasn’t in business, but IBCC brought me into the field of marketing,” said panelist Madi King Erger, a marketing specialist and 2020 graduate. “Doing IBCC helped me build my entire skill set social media, event photography, project management. It was wonderful learning how to be a leader and be in a team and collaborate.”

Donovan, a 2018 business graduate, said that including the IBCC on his LinkedIn account helped him land a job. 

“I put on there IBCC club president, anything you can do to snow your skills above and beyond school,” he said. “(Companies think), ‘If I hire him, he’s probably going to do his job and a little more.’ Anything you can do that speaks to your work ethic, do it.”

Mbale said that being a member of IBCC and taking international business classes helped her develop her leadership, decision-making and team-building skills. She said she didn’t have any social media experience until she was recruited by IBCC.

“In 2015 when I did IBCC, I was not a marketing major then,” she said. “Someone said, ‘Annie you’re going to be in charge of social media.’ She said I was creative. No one said that before. This girl who came from Africa, who never touched a computer three years before I came to UMSL, did research about social media.”

“Don’t say no just because you don’t know how to do it,” she added. “Say yes, and learn it later.  This is school. If you don’t learn it here, where are you going to learn it?”

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