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When Should Seniors Start the Job Search?


Which is to say — there’s no “right” time. There’s the time that works for you and what you want.

That search for the post-college job has no standard timetable or template.

What this means for you is

  1. There is no “too early,” “too late,” or “perfect.”
  2. You can start your search any time. Now is good.
  3. The job search is a process, and submitting your resume for a particular opening is just part of it.
  4. There’s a lot of variety in how organizations hire.
  5. The people you know with jobs lined up already have no bearing on your likely success or failure. (Some companies, particularly those that come to the campus career fairs, do entry-level hiring at a scale that requires they closely follow the academic calendar and start making offers in the fall. Many business and organizations don’t work that way.)

When most employers have a job opening, they’re hoping to fill that position within a few weeks.

Sometimes hiring for a particular position takes a lot longer, sometimes it speeds up. Sometimes it’s possible to negotiate a start date to accommodate things like finishing college (but that’s something to work out once the offer has been made).

If you’re graduating in December, right now (October) is a good time to start submitting applications for jobs that interest you. If you’re just starting your job search, it’s also a good time to do the things we recommend for May graduates. It’s a process, and it almost never goes as smoothly or linearly as one would like. That’s okay.

If you’re graduating in May, right now (October), may not be a great moment to start submitting applications, but it’s a good time to

  • read lots of job ads. Schedule time to browse job boards (Handshake, LInkedIn, Indeed, Idealist, more specialized sites) just to explore what’s out there. Scroll down to the list of “requirements,” even for jobs whose titles don’t grab you immediately — you may be surprised by what you’re qualified for. Make note of job titles or organizations that sound particularly interesting, so that you can look for similar opportunities when you get closer to graduation.
  • do some informational interviewing.
  • brush up your resume. Do an inventory of all the kinds of jobs, activities, volunteering, projects, leadership you’ve been a part of and make a list of the skills you’ve demonstrated. Make sure your list includes specifics of your position titles and the dates, so that you’ll be ready to create resumes specific to particular jobs when you need them.
  • contact people you will ask to serve as references to let them know you’re applying for jobs and make sure they’re willing to speak to potential employers on your behalf.
  • create (or update) your LinkedIn profile with a headline that emphasizes your skills or career aspirations rather than your status as a student and a photo that shows you as career-ready.
  • come to the HPRC for more advice customized to your particular situation — everyone’s is different.