You know it's for real when the headhunter calls begin in earnest. Remember when folks were shy to say they were recruiters? It was a bad word after the bust. Like somehow those poor folks were contaminated with the filth of failure for an entire industry. Then the staffing industry went through a makeover, where unless recruiters (now associates) walked and talked like a consulting firm, they were considered riff-raff leftovers from an "I'd rather not think about it" era.
Me? I love headhunters. I love to talk to them, find out what they need, get a real feel for the kind of person they're trying to find for their client. Almost always I'm glad I don't need a job right now, but I always, every time I talk to one of them, hook them up with some people I know who are looking.
A good recruiter is like a blogger, and contacts are like hyperlinks.
The other good thing about headhunters is that when the velocity of their calls pick up, you know the job market is ever-so-slightly tipping to give job seekers an edge, at least in your profession. That's never a bad thing.
Not to fear, I've got my ears on, good buddy.