There was a time when people got a job right out of school and stuck with it until they retired. Those days are gone for good. Today, people have to be nimble about locating new job opportunities, preferably before they're forced to do it. Here are some new strategies to keep your career moving onward and upward.

1. Networking

It's known as the hidden job market: Many of the best jobs are never advertised. They are filled by candidates who learn of them by word of mouth from friends, former colleagues, and ex-bosses.

Key Takeaways

  • Networking, online and in person, is one of the best ways to stay on top of what's happening in your field, including what jobs are open and where.
  • Check in on job search sites frequently. For best results, look for one that specializes in your field.
  • Don't snub temporary or freelance work. They often lead to full-time opportunities.

Networking is another word for socializing. You can join professional associations, attend events for graduates of your school, connect with professionals who work in your field, and take every chance you get to meet up, in person or online, with others in your field.

Various online sites such as LinkedIn allow you to broaden your network to include friends of friends. The bigger your network, the more likely you'll find out about new opportunities.

2. Referrals

Some employers offer incentives to their employees for referring a successful candidate to the company. It's a win-win situation for everyone. You get a new job, and your contact gets a finder's fee for attracting a top-notch employee.

That's relatively rare, but there's nothing stopping you from asking a valued friend who works in your field to let you know about any openings. The working relationships you create at every job may open other doors years in the future.

3. Job Boards and Career Websites

Job boards used to be just that – a solid surface on a wall where vacancies were advertised for all to see. Job boards have moved to virtual format, and that's good news for all of us since their reach is far greater.

If you're just starting out, an internship or even a volunteer job can get you in the door.

Many state governments provide job boards and job banks that can be accessed by all. You can also use job search engines or any of a vast number of career-related websites that post job openings, such as Monster.com, Google for Jobs, CareerBuilder, and Indeed. Many other databases specialize in freelance and contract work, including People Per Hour, Upwork, Simply Hired, and Crowded.

There also are specialized job search sites for particular fields, like Dice for tech professionals and ArtsThread for artists.

These websites function in a similar way to traditional want-ads, but they have a far greater reach and a much quicker turnaround time.

4. Job Fairs

Job fairs are often targeted toward specific industries, although some job or recruitment fairs are more generalized. The promotional material will include a list of the organizations that will be represented.

Investigate any companies that interest you, bring a batch of resumes and business cards, and get ready to sell yourself. Consider any conversations with recruiters as mini-interviews that can set you apart from other applicants. Some organizations may even offer on-site interviews to candidates that match their requirements.

5. Company Websites

If you already have your dream employer in mind, go directly to the career section of the company's website. If you track openings on its site, there's a chance you'll find just the opportunity that you've been waiting for.

Create a list of employers that you'd like to work for and visit their websites often. If you're really set on working for a specific company it may take some time to find just the opportunity that fits your skillset. But if you've got time, this might be the optimal method for finding your dream job.

6. Cold Calling

If you don't see any job listings posted for a company you're particularly interested in, you might consider making a cold call. Phone or email people in the organization after finding their contact details on the company website. Ask about upcoming vacancies, and attach a copy of your resume.

Keep in mind that this kind of contact may not always be well-received. You'll be lucky to get any response at all. But there is always a chance it'll give you the inside track on upcoming vacancies.

7. Headhunters and Recruiters

If you're looking for some professional help in your job search, headhunters and recruitment agencies can help.

Many organizations hire through recruitment agencies to streamline the hiring process. Head hunters actively recruit individuals to fill specific vacancies.

Payment is based on commission. Make sure you know up front whether you or the company is paying it.

Keep in mind that many high schools and colleges have job placement services that can help new graduates to develop their resumes and assist both current students and alumni with job searches.

8. Temping or Internships

Temporary employment and short-term contracts often lead to permanent positions. It's a great way to get a foot in the door or at the very least provide you with useful business contacts to call upon in the future.

Many recruitment agencies can assist with locating temporary or casual positions and contract work.

Internships are a great choice for students who are just graduating from college. The job placement services of many schools connect their students with opportunities.

If you're just starting out and you can afford it, volunteering can be a great way to gain valuable industry contacts.

9. Creative or Outlandish Tactics

In a competitive job market, some job seekers have pulled out all the stops. Billboards, chain letters with a copy of your resume attached, or even pasting your resume to yourself and walking around the city as a human billboard are just some of the methods job-seekers have used to get noticed.

These methods may actually work, but be cautious. Be sure that your creative tactic is appropriate for the industry you're trying to break into.