Young Designers: Matchmaking for the Future

For newly-minted professionals, finding a job, especially in this day and age, can be overwhelming. Even getting a little professional guidance—beyond your faculty advisor—can be intimidating. You can be as smart and talented as can be, but how do you get your name out there, how do you expand your professional network, and how do you even figure out which path might be the best for you?

“It’s very daunting, finding the right place,” says Anne Wood, co-chair of the IIDA New York’s Student Mentorship Committee. “A lot of times these students, typically undergraduates, don’t quite know what focus would best suit them. Mentorships expose them to industry profess from hospitality to retail to healthcare so they can see what the world is like.”

With that in mind, the chapter has developed a program designed to bring students and professionals together. Enter Speed Mentoring. Now in its sixth year, the idea is similar to speed dating. Before the event, there’s a rigorous selection process for the mentors (different mentors are recruited each year). “We handpick the candidates and include a broad range of ages, areas of design and time in the industry,” says Wood, allowing for mentors to offer a mix of interests and skills to their potential mentees.

At the gathering, which also includes more informal networking sessions before and after the main event, each student meets with 10 different mentors. The meetings move swiftly—four minutes each. Then, students and mentors rank each other according to compatibility. Scores are totaled, and the matches are made.

Once the pairings are in place, the actually mentorship can take on many different forms. It could be emails exchanged regularly or coffee dates to chat. The program has certainly led to internships and even jobs. “It’s a rare opportunity they don’t get everyday,” says Wood. “They get some good tips and tools starting out in the real world.” 

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