By Allen Wallace, email@example.com
Posted on August 11, 2020
"Everybody has a plan until they get hit," boxing champion Mike Tyson once said. Like so many others in 2020, Lauren Copeland was hit by the widespread impact of COVID-19. The rising senior, majoring in retailing with a focus in fashion merchandising, had an internship lined up with Belk, but the pandemic caused the company to cancel it. Some might have thrown up their hands and wasted the summer. Copeland went to work and found a way to come out on top.
"I definitely had to pivot,” Copeland says. “I wanted to find something that I could still put on a resume and have something to show for the summer."
When the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management created virtual internships for the summer to provide more opportunities for students in situations like Copeland’s, she saw her chance. She applied and interviewed, impressing faculty and staff with her academic and extracurricular excellence, and was hired as the Department of Retailing student organizations intern.
"It's been great. This had not been done before, so we kind of got to pave it. I was able to cater the internship to what I wanted experience in," Copeland says.
That area of interest was in website building. Copeland had learned the basics of creating websites in her fashion merchandising and digital innovation classes as part of her retailing major. She proposed creating sites for two student organizations with close ties to the department: UofSC Fashion Board and the UofSC chapter of the National Retail Federation.
"I knew there was a need for it with Fashion Board and NRF. I've been on both of those teams and seen the need for a landing place,” she says. "As we're going virtual, as everything is happening with COVID-19, they need a place to paste that Zoom link, type the meeting code. They need a place to really explain things. We're going to have to be able to get information out to more to people."
Her internship supervisors approved, and Copeland went to work. By the end of her summer term as an intern, the Fashion Board and NRF websites were ready, and created with the long term in mind. Copeland will maintain them throughout her senior year, but then pass the responsibility to future leaders of the two student organizations.
It was not the summer Copeland had planned, nor the type of work she had expected to be doing, but she found it directly applicable to the future career she hopes to build in the buying or planning / allocation side of the retailing industry.
"It wasn't the way I thought it was going to be, but it matched up very well. I expected to be working in a buying office learning those skills, but instead I built my creative skills,” she says. “You may not think all those skills go into working in a retail setting, but they most definitely do."
The retailing industry is broader and more dynamic than some people might realize, with technology and digital retailing driving an ongoing evolution in the way people shop, sell and experience goods and services. Retailing jobs requiring a mix of creativity and analytic ability are in high demand, and after a summer of web development and user experience design, Copeland is well on her way to not only earning such a position but becoming a leader.
"It's just so easy doing the things I always do, so I was excited that this was challenging my brain,” she says. "Creativity and analytics go hand in hand when it comes to customer service and design. I love being creative. I love math, I love Excel, I love numbers. If I had a job where I could do it all, that would be ideal."