Years ago, people wanted to stay with one company for their entire careers. It was a badge of honor. Working for one company meant you could adapt and overcome. You could learn and grow. It signified loyalty which was rewarded by advancement and greater compensation. Follow the rules. Bury your head. Do what you’re told, and you’ll advance.

Forget the past. This is a very different job market.

Stay too long, and you will price yourself out of the market. Stay too little, and you will be prejudged; labeled. There is a delicate balance required to keep a career on the ascent. Career-minded individuals make decisions based upon the situation and available information. They have a strategy, and a lot of tactics. They’re opportunists. They seek out people and opportunities. They maintain an open mind, and they listen. Career-minded people are always candidates. They continuously validate where they are – and where they want to be – professionally. They understand there is never any decision to make until a job offer is extended. Everything else is research and investment in one’s own career.

Consider whether your passion has been fueled or doused in your current role, with your current company. Ask yourself if the promises have come to fruition. Be honest. Now, decide if you are career-minded, or waiting to make desperate moves when the decision is no longer yours to make.

There are no rules when it comes to job search.

A strategy that works for one candidate may not work for another. There is a lot of trial and error throughout the job search process, and market conditions can be the greatest factor in the overall success (or failure) of the pursuit. Timing and awareness of opportunity can be just as important as qualifications. If you’ve ever wondered how someone with questionable ability was selected  or ascended to his or her position, timing and awareness could be the answer.

Career-minded people recognize when conditions are ripe to capitalize. They leverage the environment to their advantage. They pay attention to the indicators. They seek out companies instead of vacant positions. They build alliances, and seize moments. Career-minded people possess the grit that is essential for a job search journey. They maintain stick-to-itiveness, and they make their own rules.

David Rose is Vice President of Recruiting with YELLOW DOG Recruiting. Follow David on Twitter @YELLOWDOG_01.