job search, career management, hidden job market, target companies, target industries, research, Over the years, I’ve enjoyed coaching my sons’ basketball teams as they are growing up. One of the greatest joys I get is watching the kids learn to keep their head up and see the options of dribbling, passing or shooting. Typically when kids first start playing basketball, when they get the ball, their tendency is to collapse on the ball and cover it up, because they are afraid to lose the ball.

Their initial instinct is to “hunker” down and protect what they have. However, because there is no movement, it is easy for the players on the opposing team to surround the player and take the ball away. It is fun to see the light go on, when they realize that having their head up and looking ahead toward the basket, they can see options of passing to open team mates, or open lanes where they can aggressively drive to the basket.

I have found that this correlates strongly with the job search. I find so many people hunkering down, trying to protect what they have, but do not have their head up to see opportunities. Too often I see professionals in transition not taking advantage of many powerful job search tools or resources such as participating in professional associations, thinking they cannot afford to participate because they are unemployed, or being unwilling to leave their comfort zone.

How can you get to the open opportunities in your job search by keeping your head up and focusing on your goal?

1. Actively participate in professional associations – in this, I don’t just mean attending networking meetings, but join the organization, and get involved with a project, committee or board position. This will give you visibility in a professional capacity and allow you to spread your reputation as a subject matter expert or successful professional

2. Research, research, research! First it is important to have target companies and industries. Next, research the companies and industries to determine trends that would indicate growing opportunities, identify problems that you could position and brand yourself as a solution, and network your way into informational meetings with key decision makers in your target industries and companies

3. Leverage the power of social media to add to your research and help build and expand your reputation as a subject matter expert and solution to the problems of your target companies.

By doing these things, and keeping your head up, you will be able to see opportunities where you can drive an open lane all the way to the rim, and land your next career position.