Speed dating is a matchmaking practice that involves a series of short “dates” or conversations among people as they rotate from spot to spot at the end of the established interval.

This same “speed dating” set up has worked really well for “speed networking” in the major I advise for, Retail Merchandising and Product Development. This major requires each student to complete a retail internship before graduation and therefore places a large emphasis on Career and Professional Development. Twice a year the department hosts a Retail Summit the day before the Seminole Futures Career Fair. The Retail Summit provides either lunch or dinner followed by a speed networking session with students and retailers. This allows retailers and students the chance to meet each other in a casual setting before going to the more formal career fair the following day. Each retailer (there are generally 15-10 in attendance) has their own table and students travel to each table in groups of 6-8, changing tables every 10 minutes.

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After the most recent Summit I asked students their thoughts on this networking event opposed to others they’d attended in the past. Overall, students found this event to be a little less intimidating because the transitions from table to table were built into the event so it made approaching retailers easier. The smaller groups and fast meeting times also made students feel more comfortable. Many students also commented that they liked the fact they were able to talk to numerous companies all in one day and at one location. Students have also attributed many jobs and internships to the Summit because they were able to build foundations and relationships before the much larger Career Fair the following day.

Considering the positive feedback I heard from students, and the success our major has found in placing students, I encourage you to adopt (and adapt) the speed dating model in your own department. It’s efficient, it’s effective, and it’s fun!

This article was authored by Meredith Warren, advisor in FSU’s College of Human Sciences.