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As a veteran, one of your greatest resources is the professional network you’ve built during your years of service. Many veterans – likely some who you know – have gone on to find great success in the civilian world. Whether you’re looking for a leg up on your job search or you’re just looking for more connections and a wider net of opportunities, utilizing this resource can be of great benefit to you.

But there are a few guidelines you should keep in mind when making these contacts and expanding your network. While they aren’t hard rules, they will help you practice proper etiquette and, more importantly, ensure that there is an open and honest line of communication between you and your contacts.

First, be sure that you realize the importance of professionalism. Especially if the individual is someone you have served with in the past, it can be easy to fall into the trap of being too casual in your approach. Rather than connect through social media sites (like Facebook or Twitter), use LinkedIn or – better – send an email or make a phone call.

Related: The power of networking.

Also remember to get to the point quickly. At worst, an individual may feel deceived if they receive what seems like a social message or a call, only to find out that you are looking for a professional contact. Be direct – your contact will appreciate it. (Remember, you can always catch up after business has been taken care of.)

Finally, be sure that you are approaching them with an offer that could in some way be mutually beneficial. Prepare beforehand and have a solid “pitch”, just as you would when approaching any potential employee, customer, or client.

Keep these things in mind as you approach your fellow veterans. Above all, remember that you do have a special connection due to your shared history together, but that does not mean it should be exploited.

Follow the tips on how to make the most out of every job fair in this video.