While I was in j-school my professors told me networking will play an integral part in my professional career. I was taught to use social media as a tool for networking and ended up making great connections through Facebook groups and Bumble business. I joined blogging groups, beauty groups, and had no idea how beneficial they would be to me. I stumbled upon a female networking group called Monday Girl. It’s a group where women can post about job opportunities, internships, and can as ask for career-related advice. I thought it was a genius idea since my professors failed to mention networking events are super awkward. The group has been especially helpful during this quarantine, where they are no awkward networking events to attend. The co-founders of Monday Girl, Istiana Bestari and Rachel Wong actually created the group after attending a bunch of unpleasant networking events themselves. One day while sitting down for coffee they were contemplating where they could meet other like-minded women? They decided to host a brunch by inviting their friends and asking them to invite their friends. They had 50 women show up and were surprised it was such a success. They started the Facebook group just four years ago and it now has almost 3,000 members. However, Monday Girl isn’t just a Facebook group. They also hosts large and exciting professional networking events with speakers and fun activities in Toronto. They have a bi-weekly newsletter that includes helpful resources and job openings and they just recently launched a mentorship program for black women.
The duo work full-time jobs while Monday Girl remains a side hustle for the both of them. However, their passion for empowering women motivates them to keep going. Rachel was inspired to name the group Monday Girl, in an effort to make Monday’s the day you’re excited for instead of dreading it.
“Even if you don’t love what you do, you should treat every day as a new opportunity. We love Mondays!”
While chatting with Istiana she tells me about the importance of networking. She currently works as a videographer for Luxy Hair, a content creator, and a singer/songwriter. She shares that the relationships she’s built with others led to many opportunities for her. Below she shares her best online networking tips and gives freelancing advice to those who are their own boss.
1) Where should one go to try to make connections online?
“I think LinkedIn is a great tool and Facebook groups of course. Monday Girl is a great resource. It is a community full of talented women in the city who are involved in cool projects and have different skill sets.
Try posting thought-provoking questions or comment on other people’s posts. Of course, Instagram is also another great place to network. Leave comments on the posts of people you look up too, respond to people’s stories and send DM’s to show your consistent support to start making connections with people.”
2) How should one initiate a conversation?
“Well, first you should always have an idea of what you’re looking for out of a partnership/collaboration and determine how you’ll be valuable to them. You must have a reason for reaching out, whether it’s asking for industry advice, a referral, or inquiring if they’re interested in collaborating on a project.
Start with a compliment, mention how you came across their page and tell them why you’re reaching out. Give some background on who you are and how you’ll be valuable to them (ex. Here’s my platform, this is what I do, and here’s how I can support you.) Insert your ask and remember to acknowledge their time and busy schedule. Be very accommodating to their time End with a call to action by asking if they are available this week to chat more about the subject.”
3) How to develop an online connection into a genuine or beneficial connection?
“I think the first step in developing a genuine or mutually beneficial connection is by expressing why you’ll be valuable and what you can offer the person. You have to give before you get, and keep giving to keep on getting. Engage with their posts on social, share their posts or anything they have going on, offer assistance on a project for free, or pay for their coffee. Once you’ve figured what you’re offering them, ask them how you can further support them in their endeavours.”
4) How do you make the connections you make or meet last?
“Moving online to in person, have a video call or a coffee meeting with them to establish a more personal connection versus an email or direct message. Always follow up after that conversation with some next steps, a thank you, or a summary of your chat. After they helped you by giving a recommendation, or a referral, or advice, don’t just thank them and forget them. It’s important to keep engaging with their social media or reaching out every few months to check-in.”
5) What about when you’re networking and you connect with someone who wants to collaborate, when should you say yes and when should you say no?
“I think you’ll always know when it’s a yes. If you like that person’s work, or you vibed well together, thats usually an indicator that the collab is mutually beneficial. Sometimes for women, it’s hard to say no to projects or collaborations even when you don’t want to do it or you may not like the person’s brand/vibe/idea. I think the best thing to do is to gracefully say no. For example, you can say, “Sorry, at the moment, I’ve just got too much on my plate but I’d be happy to refer you to someone else I know who might be interested.
See if you can find an alternative way to still offer them value so you’re not just throwing away that relationship or connection. It’s always important to keep good ties with everyone, even if you don’t see yourself ever working together or collaborating.”
6) You used to work as a freelance videographer, what tips would you give freelancers who are trying to gain clientele?
“When trying to build a clientele for your freelance business, no matter what your service is, it’s about building relationships. The first thing I did as a videographer/photographer was build my portfolio by offering people/small businesses to shoot for them for free. This way I built a portfolio and a relationship with those people who then hired me later and also ended up referring me to other paying clients because they liked my work and had a good experience working with me.
A couple of other ways you could do this if you already have a portfolio and say business is slow…value-first content is a huge winner in my books. For example, you could feature people that are in your target audience on a content series on your channel (interviews, IG lives, video series, takeovers, etc.) or some sort of initiative that gives value first to help you build relationships and establish you as an expert in the industry (while being someone who is also lovely to work with). If you give, you’ll always get! “