I have an agent. I really, really like my agent for many reasons: honesty, open communication, thoughtful answers to my questions, enthusiasm for my work...
I reacted a little strongly at a local meeting when someone (as self-published individual) said "you really can't trust anyone in publishing any more". I beg to differ. You absolutely can. I trust my agent.
I targeted my agent specifically. I sought out an agent who had just what she has (experience with my type of book and my industry) and then I Google-stalked her to find out what she wanted from a writer. Then I did everything to become that writer.
And I got her right away. Now I'm not saying I was That Good. (<--woohoo, lookit me!) I'm saying I did my homework and spent time considering what needed changing and tweaking so that I could start with my best foot forward. (Not to be confused with sitting and stressing and worrying... but actual research, tweaking, writing and re-writing with purpose.)
It took about six weeks or so before I found her to when I signed with her.
My next literary goal is to finish my fiction manuscript. After that it's to find a fiction agent. I'm *hoping* that because I have proven that I can deliver a manuscript that I'll get just a fraction more than a first glance. I don't know if that's the case.
I do know that I'm starting my research now.