A common question among soon-to-graduate college seniors is, “When should I start applying for jobs?” Unfortunately, there is no single clear answer to that question. It really depends on the circumstances of your internship experience, the industry you’re entering and your ideal career path.
For example, if a company you interned for suggested that there might be a role for you when you graduate, you can consider starting that conversation as early as the start of your final college semester. On the other hand, if you don’t have any prospects lined up, you may be confused as to how and when to begin your job hunt.
Start as early as you can
As a senior, it’s important to start thinking about your career and job prospects as early as possible. Even if you don’t hit apply on a single job posting, simply looking for opportunities on a daily basis will put you miles ahead of your peers. You’ll begin developing a strong perspective on what skills are highly valued in your desired field.
You’ll also learn about the health of the hiring market for your preferred role, as well as different facts about salary, benefits, and bonuses. All that information will help you make smart career decisions.
Pro tip: as you find opportunities, save them to JobHero so you can return to them later. Use the JobHero Sidekick to save jobs from any website in just a click or a couple of quick highlights.
Use your last college summer
The best time to start thinking about your post-college job search is as early as the summer before your senior year. As you’re deeply engaged in your latest summer internship, start looking at job listings that sound like they fit with what you want or might want to do.
As you read through the various job descriptions you find, take notes on the skillset that each listing asks for, looking for a common thread between them. This will give you a strong understanding of which skills you need to flesh out before you graduate.
Create a plan of action
Another benefit of focusing on your job search early is that you’ll be able to plan your last internship and last two semesters accordingly.
If you discover that you haven’t learned enough of the skills you need for success in your field, you can change your course schedule and find some on-campus research and internship opportunities that will allow you to further flesh out your skillset.
Knowing your shortcomings as early as possible will allow you to optimize your last year of education. With that extra effort, you can become a more attractive prospect for employers.
Find your fit
Planning early isn’t just important for the sake of developing the necessary skills. It’s also for the sake of knowing what you want to do and where you want to be after you graduate. Your first job out of college will be an important milestone that could dictate the direction of your career. Making a mistake in company, culture, or role, can cause a delay in your professional development.
Too many young professionals make the mistake of joining a company they don’t respect or a culture they don’t fit into. So use the early planning time to research companies, industries, and roles that fit you. Your focus should be on fit in terms of your skillset, ideal location, company size, and company culture.
Create a list of fit metrics. Then rank them based on their importance to you. In doing so, you will have created laser-focused criteria by which to evaluate opportunities. This will guide you toward finding companies that fit your goals.
Two to three months out
Plenty of companies are willing to have the hiring conversation early, but for the most part, hiring decisions need to be made quickly and candidates available to start soon get preferential treatment. That’s why, while you shouldn’t shy away from job listings that encourage soon-to-be graduates to apply, you should hold off on most other applications until two to three months before you graduate.
During the run-up to those last few months, get all your career-related documents and information in order. Put together a stellar resume. Figure out how you want to frame your experience in your cover letter. Do some mock interview prep with your college career services, or with a friend.
And start thinking about the people in your professional and college life that you can ask to be your references. Contact them early to ask them if they’re willing to support you in your future job search. It gives them time to think about what they’ll say about you, and it’s a sign of respect for their time.
Finally, begin to tap into your growing professional network for your first job search. Start reaching out to any of the professionals you met during your internships and college courses. Talk to them about your career plans and ask for help and guidance.
Senior year is an exciting time full of fun and memories. It’s a time to conclude your education, solidify your friendships, and start making plans for the future. Take advantage of that last year to take proactive steps and prepare for the start of your career.