Student Life

Business After Dark: Thriving through Turbulent Times

“Let’s party like it’s 2020!” was definitely the mindset I had when I started off this year.  However, it’s safe to say that 2020 has been one for the books – just not for the reasons I thought it would be!

These can be very nerve wracking times – especially for us (students). Job losses, health scares, financial uncertainty and a shift to online learning has given us a lot to juggle. Personally, I would gladly welcome the opportunity to regain some direction. The (virtual) Business after Dark session organised jointly by AMPed and the QUT AMPR faculty turned out to be the ideal platform for this. Having been a part of a majority of AMPed’s seven virtual events which collectively gathered over 200 participants during last semester, I was able to gauge some amazing insights and advice which helped get rid of those pandemic blues.

This session revolutionized the meaning of ‘Business after Dark’ with conversation around how organisations from different industries endured and overcame COVID-19 adversities. Versatility, innovation and authenticity were at the forefront of the night’s discussions.

The panel consisted of five industry giants;

  • Scott Martin – General Manager, Product Development and Delivery (Institute of Managers and Leaders Australia and New Zealand)
  • Kim Stockham – Field-lead for Enterprise Communications at the Expedia Group (Asia Pacific)
  • Jessica Hamilton – Chief Marketing Officer for the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade)
  • Ian Coombe – 2020 Writer in Residence at Queensland Writers Centre (Queensland State Library)
  • Meg Drysdale – Senior Account Manager (Ruby Communications, Brisbane)

The panelists started off by discussing the difficulties faced by their respective industries due to COVID-19 which included budget cuts, redundancies and losses in supply and demand. Kim Stockham talked of the tourism industry’s efforts to innovate while managing costs. Austrade’s efforts towards managing supplies for those in need and providing support towards Australian businesses were highlighted by Jessica Hamilton.

It was inspiring to hear how these companies took these adversities as challenges and learning points. This has led the way to positive changes moving forward, such as a higher focus on mental health and better work-life balance. Giving way to transparency, creativity and authenticity when handling customers and internal teams is also prioritised. Managing client expectations, building feedback loops for internal teams, listening well and ensuring their well-being and confidence is key. It is important for higher management to be more in-touch with their teams, be considerate and real without ‘hiding behind a suit’.

The panelists also highlighted how facing past crises helped companies to be more vigilant and proactive in laying out their contingency plans. They also noted that businesses who haven’t been through crises are not necessarily at a disadvantage, especially due to new technology. 

Innovation and flexibility have spearheaded the mechanisms adopted by companies to face the new normal. Meg Drysdale mentioned the importance for businesses to be agile and move with the times. Asking yourself ‘what business could we or should we be in?’ is also an important way to successfully navigate into new, more lucrative arenas; says Scott Martin. Setting out contingency plans based on data and being flexible with them is a key factor to success according to Ian Coombe. Ian also elaborated on the importance of being nimble with planning and crisis management.

For me, the highlight of the evening was the valuable advice the panelists provided for university students navigating opportunities during pandemic times. Here are some tips which caught my attention;

  • Channel yourself into your application – don’t be afraid to be authentic
  • Don’t give them a reason not to hire you – minor mistakes like spelling and grammar errors might put you into the ‘no’ pile so triple check your application!
  • Have the right attitude – skills can be developed on the job, equip yourself with a great attitude
  • Don’t be afraid to take initiative! Reach out to companies you want to work in, don’t wait around for those job ads to go up
  • Connections are everything – leverage them. It also helps to participate in as many networking events as you can (even if they’re online), make connections on LinkedIn and have meaningful conversations

I cannot deny the fact that my motivation increased significantly, after hearing the inside scoop on how companies thrived in a pandemic-stricken world. Getting some great tips to resolve my COVID dilemmas didn’t hurt as well!

Excuse me while I go and spruce up my application and iron out my ‘take over the world’ pantsuit! ; D

Nethmee Goonesekera

Master of Business (Strategic Advertising)

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