Everyone knows that networking represents one of the most important skills (perhaps the most important skill) for building a long-term career. However, like any social interaction, it comes with a lot of potential pitfalls. There’s a lot of opportunity for misreading cues and for good, old-fashioned embarrassment.

Networking involves a lot of unspoken rules. You’re expected to act a certain way while building your professional connections. At the same time, you need to stay away from some well-established taboos, to avoid alienating your potential contacts.

These rules aren’t necessarily obvious if you’re new to networking or just haven’t practiced enough. It takes getting used to, and often a little trial and error before you feel comfortable with all the subtle facets.

However, there are some fundamental rules you can follow when you’re getting started, which will help you side-step the biggest faux pas. With that in mind, here are some of the basic do’s and don’ts of networking:

Do: Keep in Touch

Just like your Facebook page can get filled with “friends” you don’t know, your professional network can become log-jammed by stale and tenuous connections. Avoid this by periodically reaching out to the people on your list. Adding regular personal contact keeps them from becoming mere names on a list.

Don’t: Be Shy About Introducing Yourself 

The hardest thing about social situations is making initial contact. Even extroverts get nervous when it’s time to meet someone new. However, you have to get over this common fear. To expand your network, you have to meet new people.

As such, take every opportunity you can to introduce yourself to new people. You may have to force yourself in the beginning, but it will get easier over time.

Do: Prepare Your Elevator Pitch

Meeting new people gets easier if you have a predictable script to follow. Put together a summary of your current position and your background, as well as a short description of your near-term goals.

Have these “lines” ready to go when it’s time to exchange info with someone new. It makes the process of introductions go more smoothly and helps ease into relevant professional conversations.

Don’t: Seem Desperate 

Tapping your professional network involves attempts to get something: new jobs, updated information, or fresh opportunities. It’s all part of the process.

However, if you push too hard, you’ll turn people off. When you approach people in your network, proceed with patience and tact.

Do: Follow Up

Don’t let opportunities rot on the vine. Once you meet someone new, don’t wait too long before cementing the relationship. Follow up on fresh connections before your new contact starts to forget you.

Don’t: Overdo…Anything 

You want to keep in touch with the people on your network, but there’s a cost for pushing for too much contact. Stuffing inboxes with ice breakers and updates risk turning yourself into spam. You’ll wear out your welcome long before you truly need to tap into your network.

Do: Use Social Media

Meeting people keeps getting easier, thanks to the constant evolution of technology. You don’t even have to leave your couch. Take advantage of these modern conveniences. Use social media to make new contacts, learn about your industry, or keep tabs on the people in your network.

Having the right professional contacts and drive your career to the next level. Or you can team with a top-ranked recruiter, like SmartTalent. They can find you the type of positions that maximize your talents and provide an on-ramp for accelerated development.

Contact SmartTalent today to learn more.