I Like Networking is a new space for women and non-binary professionals to make connections

Networking. Many of us don’t want to do it, most of us aren’t good at it, but for almost all of us, it must be done to get ahead in our careers. But what if networking could be a more friendly, enjoyable experience – especially for those of us who start off at a disadvantage?

23 June 2021

A New Angle is an editorial series that aims to give a platform to creative industry changemakers who make it their mission to disrupt the status quo. Each week we’ll chat to a person or team doing important work in the sector, making it a fairer place, championing vital causes, supporting underrepresented groups and tackling pertinent issues facing creatives everywhere

This week we chat with I Like Networking (ILN) founder Isabel Sachs. Launched early last year, ILN is a platform that looks to support women and non-binary professionals who are either trying to enter the creative industries or are already working in the field but need help.

Prior to setting up ILN, Isabel realised the need for a more accessible way of getting your foot in the door and staying afloat in what can often feel like a dog-eat-dog world. “I wanted to make the whole idea of networking nicer, more gentle, and more open,” she says. What started as a free mentoring scheme has quickly grown to include physical and online events, group mentoring sessions, a podcast, and a plethora of free digital resources.

Below, Isabel retraces this journey, explaining how ILN took off and where it’s headed.

It’s Nice That: What about the creative industry are you hoping to change and why does it need changing?

Isabel Sachs: I initially wanted to change the thinking around “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. There’s often this invisible barrier in the creative industries that you need to know someone on the inside to even get an opportunity. So I wanted to make the whole idea of networking nicer, more gentle, and more open.

But once I got into the research, the truly abysmal diversity and inclusion rates made me consider that as well – how can we make this industry better for everyone? I also wanted to focus on the experience we have as women. I’ve had my fair share of sexism and we are now going through one of the worst recessions for women everywhere. The pandemic has put an augmented lens on how far we still have to go when it comes to women’s rights.

But, at the end of the day, I wanted to support the creative workforce at a time when everyone seemed to deem us useless, even though everyone uses our “products” daily (from films, to books, to TV shows etc) – perhaps even more so in a pandemic.

INT: What have you built, and how does it tackle these industry issues?

IS: It all started with a free mentoring scheme, where industry experts would not only mentor individuals but also open their “black book of contacts” and ensure that their mentees left the programme feeling supported in the industry.

However, the demand for the programme surpassed my wildest dreams and I decided to find other ways to support creatives, share expertise, and foster spaces for networking in different manners – so now we have online events (and some IRL soon!), group mentoring sessions, a podcast, and tons of digital resources which are completely free. Earlier this year we also launched our membership scheme.

We’ve upskilled over 2,500 people so far through all of that. And we know we got people into jobs and got them promoted, but we also saw people collaborating with others for the first time, feeling more confident to go after their goals, and starting their own things, so that is very exciting.

I am not, however, addressing many systemic issues of the sector: the low pay, the practice of free internships – which should be illegal – etc. But I do believe, perhaps naively, that by getting all of these amazing individuals together, people who want to build a better industry, we have more chances of changing those things from the inside.

INT: What other organisations are out there like yours, and what sets yours apart?

IS: I don’t really know what to call I Like Networking. Is it a career platform? Who knows. There are many organisations that are also dedicated to opening up the sector to make it more diverse, more inclusive, and fairer in different ways. We have Arts Emergency and the Creative Mentor Network, Press Pad for journalists, Creative Access and Socialfixt for recruitment, membership schemes like Found & Flourish… so many brilliant people and initiatives. It’s a huge issue to solve and we need everyone doing their part. Perhaps what sets us apart is that we combine curated content and opportunities with amazing people like no one else. We’re a tiny but powerful aggregator of all the great things out there – especially considering how young we are and that we have zero resources.

INT: What are the major challenges you’re facing?

IS: When it comes to a new business, the number one challenge is always funding and finding the best systems to generate revenue. And more brands should understand that, even though we’re here to save the world creatively, we still have bills to pay and we don’t work for free. There are also people out there who just want to copy you and that is hard to stop, especially in the digital space. But I think we just need to have trademarks and tough skin!

INT: What can the creative industry do to support your mission?

IS: Put your money where your mouth is. Are you against child labour? Are you worried about climate change? Then stop buying into fast fashion and look for brands that are truly ethical. Shop small whenever you can.

Do you believe in diversity and inclusion? Then stop asking people to work for free. Support your favourite organisation, independent magazine, or small business with £3/month.

Share things and promote good ideas. It makes a huge difference when someone reviews your podcast and sends it to a friend, or when someone tags a couple of friends in a post. Actions matter and we, as consumers of ideas, services, and products, have power over our daily actions.

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About the Author

Daniel Milroy Maher

Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.

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