Shining careers don\u2019t just happen; they\u2019re created by individuals wisely and strategically managing their professional lives. With a steady focus on maximizing their potential at every turn, executive standouts approach new opportunities with a distinct method, allowing them to scale the corporate ladder in a seemingly effortless fashion while building broad and deep resumes rich in the \u201cright\u201d experience. \n\nTheir advantageous approach is founded on two key concepts: an open-minded assessment of all new and often unforeseen opportunities; and an in-depth review of serious opportunities\u2019 inherent benefits and detriments. Throughout the process emotionally based motives such as unhappiness are kept in check. It\u2019s an optimistic and deliberate attitude where opportunities are mined so that hidden gems, positions steeped in potential that initially may not look promising, can be uncovered. The ensuing career trajectory is marked with rewarding positions and has few of those hard-to-justify tangents that create concern for hiring teams. For CIOs hoping to hit the \u201cshining\u201d mark, this mining attitude is especially critical. CIO roles vary widely in importance and function depending largely on their connection to the core business and whether they\u2019re considered a strategic, value-adding component. Sarbanes-Oxley and recent trends such as outsourcing are profoundly altering the role but the course of its evolution varies depending on the company. As such, fully comprehending the opportunity is an especially great imperative. To mine properly, you need to own the process completely, so that you\u2014not the recruiter or corporation\u2014are solely responsible for assembling the salient facts. The process itself will benefit you by refining career goals and building advantageous alliances. \n\nOpportunity MiningProspectEffectively mining opportunities first requires making sure the right ones\u2014those correlating to your expertise and interests\u2014are coming your way. Visibility to recruiters and other executives, especially CEOs, in your industry is essential. Here CIOs are especially challenged because they tend to have less exposure than other executives to CEOs outside their company. CIOs need an assertive approach to creating exposure by writing articles in CEO-oriented publications and speaking at or participating in CEO-attended events. Get their attention by expressing fundamental changes to improve business. Contact them in their preferred mode and let them know who you are. \n\nExploreRule number one: When contacted about an opportunity, always return the call, even if your interest is minimal. By not doing so, you may lose the contact\u2014and future opportunities\u2014for good. Capitalize on it. Call back and tell the contact more about yourself and, if possible, suggest other candidates. This last point is crucial. Being a resource to others is the essence of networking.Ask some basic questions, such as the nature of the role and the company\u2019s future plans. Scan the company website and review online resources such as Hoovers and Yahoo Finance. This quick research will give you a basic understanding of the role and the company so you\u2019re better equipped to decide whether it\u2019s worth pursuing. \n\nBore DownPhase OneIf your interest is strong, you must develop a comprehensive understanding of the job and the company. A \u201cdue diligence\u201d level of research and analysis is required. Numerous tools exist to help you do this research, including Internet resources, 10K reports, proxies, recent announcements, media coverage and conversations with executives formerly associated with the company. This will not only confirm your interest but, should you decide to go forward, give you what you really need for a successful candidacy: demonstrable, credible knowledge of the situation.\n\nRegarding the role, you need to investigate all relevant factors from the personalities and career histories of peers and management to the legacy left by your predecessor. Pay extra special attention to: \n\n\n\nThe role\u2019s specific day-to-day responsibilities, big picture goals and planned evolution.\n\nReporting structure. This \u201ctell-tale\u201d information indicates the position\u2019s status as well as IT\u2019s strategic value to the organization.\n\nThe balance of power. Find out how the IT budget is determined and who sponsors the IT organization on the business side. To assess the company, you need to: \n\n\n\nLearn about the company\u2019s financials, investors\/board members, management team, competition and clients. \n\nInvestigate completely the company\u2019s technology. Find out about planned initiatives and the technology being implemented. \n\nFurther determine how IT fits into the organization by reviewing:\n\n\n\nCommunication and teamwork between IT and business, with keen attention to their relationship and the perception of IT within the company.\n\nMetrics: type used, link with business, Service Level Agreements and assessment of investment metrics.\n\nGovernance: type and nature of strategic planning process, organizational structure, budget process and rationale for spending.\n\nFinally, look for cross pollination between business and IT, a strong indicator of IT\u2019s role within the company. Phase TwoFinally, assess culture and the deal itself. Culture is, bar none, the most important factor in considering a new situation. If the cultural fit isn\u2019t right, walk away or risk potential career disaster. A company\u2019s culture can be uncovered by speaking to former employees, meeting with your predecessor alone, observing executives\u2019 behavior and attitudes during interviews, and objectively reviewing company literature. \n\n\n\nTo evaluate the deal, you must know and understand the company\u2019s compensation parameters and compensation philosophy. Check remuneration for all executives through the company\u2019s proxy. For comparison purposes review competitors\u2019 proxies. A company\u2019s compensation philosophy won\u2019t change for you, so ensure that yours fits the company\u2019s and be realistic: Fairness requires that executive contract structures don\u2019t vary greatly from one executive to another. \n\nGem EvaluationOnce the mining is complete you need to evaluate the opportunity intellectually\u2014does it align with your career aspirations\u2014and intuitively, by listening to your gut and deciding whether it excites you and can provide positive career momentum. Don\u2019t shy away from significant departures. Be broad in your thinking and determine whether this new experience can enhance, even accelerate your career. In the end, you may conclude the opportunity is exactly right or wrong for you, a career gem happily uncovered or career misstep thankfully avoided. Either way, this open-minded and committed approach will have brought you closer to a shining career. Dora Vell is managing partner of Vell & Associates Inc., a global corporate and technology executive search firm specializing in C-level and Board searches for Fortune 200s, funded start-ups, private equity and venture capital firms. Vell also had a successful career in technology, authoring seven worldwide software patents during her tenure at IBM. She can be reached at email@example.com.