Victoria Salem – 21 October 2019

There’s no doubt about it, networking can be a terrifying experience – but that doesn’t mean it should be. At our latest event we were taken through some ‘top tips’ to help us achieve our networking goals and build stronger relationships. After all, networking is all about creating and maintaining relationships in the end.

With seven top tips, Victoria Salem from The Golden Network managed to demystify the concept of building a professional network in order to construct or generate (build is repeated many times) genuinely helpful and interesting new relationships.

1.      Prepare

2.      Define your networking goals and strategy

3.      Use social media effectively

4.      Bring business cards

5.      Be interested

6.      Be polite and smile

7.      Follow up

The first top tip might not exactly be a breakthrough, it’s something our parents and teachers have always told us to do… prepare…and yet, I was not prepared. In fact, a quick show of hands as to who had actively prepared for the event proved that many of us were falling at the first hurdle. We wanted to build our network, but we had no clue as to how, and hadn’t even thought about the why! Alongside this, Victoria also gave us the tip of defining our networking goals and strategy. Everyone in the room scribbled some goals for who we’d hoped to meet at the event and pretended we were as prepared as the best of them – one of my own top tips will always be ‘fake it till you make it ‘.

Using social media effectively was another key tip, and an easy win for attendees. Social Media is one of the top marketing tools for organizations, and it can be a great tool for individuals looking to build their connections too – plus it’s free! Social media platforms allow you to actively share your activity and expertise. It also gives others the chance to interact with you – developing an organic connection and dialogue.

It was great to see so many of our attendees had spotted the event on social media but only a handful had promoted their own attendance. Don’t forget that social media presents great opportunities for networking, using it as a tool to support ‘real life’ networking is a great next step. But how?

LinkedIn isn’t exactly the usual type of social media though and knowing when to ‘connect’ can seem like a struggle. Victoria emphasised the importance of following up as one of her top tips, and personalised messages on LinkedIn are a great way to do this in a more standardised way. With discussions as to whether it’s best to connect right there on the spot or whether to make your connections on the train home – it became clear that this was an area that wasn’t as easy to navigate as thought, so what is best practice?

It turns out it doesn’t matter all that much – just connect!

Victoria suggested that we all discussed one interesting fact with new connections, not only as a way to break the ice, but as an instant topic for follow up. ‘It was great to meet you at the event last night, not many people in pensions can say they’ve swum with sharks!’  does have a certain ring to it doesn’t it?

Many of our attendees were concerned that just the mention of pensions could be enough to inadvertently stall conversation though. And while actuary might not be the most engaging term – even for those of us in the industry – we quickly realised that communicating your role is just like communicating any other aspect of pensions, you just need to tell the right story. Very few people within the industry simply say their role or job title when networking, and Victoria’s quick trick of using ‘I help’ to contextualise your role was a game changer. Placing people at the center of our work instantly humanises and relates us to those we are meeting – both inside and outside of our industry.

After hearing all the tips from the experts, it was time for us to get up and put it into practice. We were all encouraged to meet and discuss interesting facts with at least three people, it didn’t take long for the business cards to be out and for the LinkedIn invites to start being sent. This event was a brilliant opportunity for members of NextGen to put their networking skills to the test with their peers, and it was great to see the top tips from The Golden Network being put into use at the event itself. It’s so important that more voices from younger generations are actively heard in the industry and getting out and about and building our networks as individuals is a crucial step in achieving this more diverse pool of voices.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway for me from the session though, was that I could hold value for others! Victoria explained that the important part of building a network was establishing reciprocal relationships – so don’t undersell yourself. Even if you don’t have the flashiest business cards – that doesn’t mean you can’t make the best impression – just remember to be polite, interested and smile.

Missed the event and want more guidance on networking best practice? Check out The Golden Network’s new online course here –

For more information on The Golden Network please view their websites here:

Man and woman sat on couch not speaking to each other


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