All you have to do is sift through that firehose for jobs that match your expertise, at companies you wouldn't hate to work for, at rates and hours you'll accept, and that don't seem like they're just jerking you around. Then after you've expended that effort you can begin the actual process, which may fall through for any one of a billion reasons, not the least of which are that most recruiters are jackasses with little understanding of the actual field of work.
For anyone with a slightly complex set of skills just getting to square 1 of having a recruiter or HR person be able to understand your skillset is damned near impossible. And there's no way they'll actually be able to have a proper appreciation of your competency except in the crudest, most oblique manner possible (e.g. years of experience, "big" projects completed, expected wages, etc.) It's hard enough to have a conversation between talented, highly knowledgeable software devs which actually parses the differentiation between various job roles (like, say, systems engineering and web dev), which can span enormous ranges of differences. Trying to get the human resume regex parsers we know as recruiters and HR personnel to understand such things, good fucking luck. And yet today those people often stand between you and a job.
I could only imagine the state of the industry without word of mouth referrals.