A slow holiday week provides a great opportunity to be a bit more proactive in your job search, and one of the best ways to be proactive is to spend some time researching your competition for fresh ideas, resources, and networking. This research can not only help you become more informed about your industry, but it’s a useful career management tactic, which will prepare you to be a lifelong learner in your field.

Analyze the work history of similar professionals

Begin by using LinkedIn’s ‘Advanced People Search’ function to search for local professionals with similar backgrounds and experiences to your own. You can search by location and job title, and your results will be categorized by companies on the left-hand menu. There, you can identify the employers with the largest number of employees meeting your search parameters.

You can also look at individual profiles to view the previous employers of each person. This can reveal new target companies, and you may discover new opportunities that you didn’t realize were available.

Find new groups and associations

Examine profiles for ideas on new online and in-person networking groups and professional associations of interest. The more networking you can become involved in, the more your visibility in the hidden job market will be enhanced. Regardless of your profession, there are likely several possible groups and associations you can consider. When you network, remember to focus on building relationships and helping others, and realize that the more time you invest in high value networking relationships, the greater your rate of return.

Review professional development options

Look at which certifications your competition has. What courses do they take? Which thought leaders do they follow? Look for fresh ideas to stay relevant and up to date in your field so that you remain competitive. You can also consider online education sites like Coursea which offer free courses and tons of professional development opportunities.

Connect and network

It’s wise to network with your competition, especially since some of them may not be actively looking for work and can refer you to recruiters who approach them. Don’t forget to tailor every connection request and message that you to send to others. No one wants to feel like they’re being spammed. Instead of choosing between “quality” and “quantity” connections, try for both: reach out to as many people as possible while making sure to maintain a quality interaction.

Many companies slow down during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, so your requests to connect may be met with more success than busier times of year. Take advantage of this slow point to build your network and get your 2014 job search off to a strong start!

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