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Women+ In Leadership: Nail Your Networking

An audience of people watching a presentation
An audience of people watching a presentation
Photo by Sat Sehmbey
Written by
Vicky Creevey Careers & Employability
Published date
18 March 2022

Creative Shift hosted a Women+ in Leadership: Nail Your Networking event on 9 March at Phoenix Court London. Held in celebration of International Women’s Day 2022, the event was UAL’s first in-person Women+ in Leadership event since February 2020!

The event promised to deliver:

  • Tips on how to get the most of networking events
  • Prompts you can use to initiate conversations
  • An opportunity to test your skills by networking with others in the room.

Roni Brown (Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education at UAL) kicked off the evening by sharing her thoughts on how networking is a simple and powerful concept, but the challenge for many people is how to network successfully and without embarrassment and fear.

She then introduced guest speaker Isabel Sachs, a creative producer, public speaker and podcast host. Isabel is the founder of I LIKE NETWORKING, a career platform which supports women and non-binary people to break into the creative industries and progress their careers through networking. She is also a passionate advocate of diversifying the creative industries.

Isabel’s founded I LIKE NETWORKING in April 2020, after losing her job due to the pandemic and seeing freelance work dry up overnight. She realised that many of her peers were in the same situation so decided to start a mentoring networking programme. Initially she had 37 mentors, but when 100 people applied in the first 24 hours, she realised how much support the industry needed. She quickly looked to expand her provision, launching a podcast, event series and membership scheme. Since its inception, I LIKE NETWORKING has worked with 3,000+ women and non-binary people across the world.

What is networking?

Isabel explained that a lot of what we perceive traditional networking comes from the corporate world and doesn’t necessarily apply to the world we live in – specifically not the creative sector.

We all have a network. Our friends and families can be viewed as our “orginal network” or support system. Networking isn’t anything other than finding a support system that works for you, just in a professional context. If you start by reaching out to the people who know you the most, you’re already networking.

Networking online

When approaching people online it’s useful to have a script prepared to help ensure you get your most important points across. By creating a script to use online, it will help you to feel prepared for when you meet someone face-to-face.

When sending your first message, make sure you include the following:

  • Your name - so many times we forget to introduce ourselves!
  • The thing about you that is going to resonate with them - what’s the part of your background they need to know?
  • A clear ask - there’s a misconception that asking for something can come over as pushy but in fact, people are often keen to help others. Be clear about why you are approaching them specifically.
  • Sign off your message in a polite and kind way to ensure you come across well.

Isabel suggests reading your script aloud before you send it to ensure it’s not cringey and communicates your points well. You can see examples of well-written messages on I LIKE NETWORKING’s Instagram.

Things not to say:

"I’d like to add you to my network" and other auto-generated messages are empty words. Make sure you tailor messages on whatever platform you use.

"I’d love to pick your brains" is a bizarre phrase and actually a pretty horrifying prospect! Just talk to people how you talk to them in real life instead of using cliched phrases.

Networking in-person

In most real-life networking situations, you’re not going to know who people are, what they do, or what might grow from a conversation with them. Even if you go to a sector specific conference, you’ll still meet people from different roles and departments that might be less relevant to what you do.

Whereas online you can be very targeted with your approach, in real life you need to accept that you are going to connect with people and then see what connections develop from those conversations.

If you really enjoy talking to someone at an event, contact them vis email or social media the next day to say… ‘’Hey, it was really great to meet you and speak to you yesterday. Would love to catch up about X, Y, Z” …and start the conversation from there. You don’t need to have a sales pitch pre-prepared.

Isabel also encourages everyone to think of three things that define you that aren’t work related. Connecting on a human level first can really help to put people you meet at ease. Her examples are:

  • “If you want to kill me, just put me near a cat (I’ve very allergic!)
  • I have more passports than Jason Bourne
  • I hate coriander!”

When you’re talking to people in a networking situation, it might not be clear how to connect with them on professional level straight away because they may be from a different sector or role.

As an example, Isabel explained that she once had a conversation about the Real Housewives TV show with the Director of the Venice Biennale!

Top takeaways

  • Networking is a two-way street, it usually benefits you and the person you are speaking to.
  • Show up as yourself, don’t fall into the trap of using corporate terminology.
  • Don’t be a lurker when networking online. Comment, share, give advice and be present in front of others from your industry.
  • Find your people – there are thousands of associations, clubs and events out there. If you’re targeting a specific sector, these can be good ways of connecting with people who share your interests.

The Women+ in Leadership programme is managed by Creative Shift with support from UAL’s Careers and Employability team.