Recently a few people have approached me privately about their careers, and how they can make the changes to allow them to do the kind of work they'd like to do, be it consulting or in a full-time role.
(In every case, I was flattered and surprised, as I never felt I had that much insight into career choices.)
The most important thing, I told each of them, was to use the network of people you know. You will always be more successful finding opportunities through personal contacts than you will through any agency or service. Always. You can expand that network by attending meetings, be they user group meetings, PTA meetings, scouting meetings, running club meetings, whatever, but you build that network by going to the places where people with like interests gather, and talking to them.
Now, the worst thing you can do when talking with people is tell them you're looking for opportunities. People in a position to provide those opportunities are very rarely activily looking for someone, they just want to attend the meeting to hang with people with similar interests. So how do you find out about them?
You listen. Plain and simple, you talk about your common interests, and you ask about their interests. What they do will come out. Ask about what problems they have. Ask about how they've approached the problems, about what's worked and what hasn't worked. Offer your experiences as it applies to the problems they're having.
If you've been truly interested, and your ideas make sense to the other person, they may be in a position to ask you to help them solve their problems. Ding!
The most important things you can do for yourself, is to get to know people, and to listen. People really do want to talk about their problems, and if you are perceived as the kind of person who will listen, you'll be the kind of person they'll want to work with to get those problems solved.
So, get out of your house at night and get to know people. Watch your kids play soccer, or baseball, or hockey, and chat with the other parents, and get to know them. Get out there and run with a club, and get to know the people you're running with. (My closest, most important friends I have in the world, are the ones I got to know while running. It's amazing the things you share when you're running for four hours together, training for a marathon. And I mean sharing in a good way.)
Once people trust you, they'll want you as part of their lives, and there's where your opportunities can come.