When Should College Seniors Start Looking and Applying for Jobs?

How early in your senior year should you start applying for job openings?

Here’s when you should start looking and applying for jobs, as discussed by experts.

Terry B. McDougall, PCC, MBA

Terry McDougall

Executive & Career Coach, Terry B. McDougall Coaching | Author, “Winning the Game of Work”

Seniors in college should start looking for a job as early as possible

It’s ideal to take part in campus interviews which on many campuses start in the fall semester with the intention of bringing new hires on after graduation in the spring.

The advantage of participating in these recruiting efforts is that these employers are showing a preference for hiring students from that school which provides an advantage over competing in the general job market.

For students who participated in internships, they should reach out to the companies they interned with to see if there are opportunities for full-time employment — ideally during the internship itself. Sometimes students can gain a commitment to being hired full-time upon graduation if they perform well during the internship.

The advantage of applying at a company where you’ve already worked is that there’s less risk — you know the employer, they have had the chance to see you in action, and you have already developed relationships there.

Begin networking with people that can help you in job searching

Finally, during one’s entire senior year, it’s smart to begin networking with people who may be able to help you gain employment after graduation. Research companies and reach out to individuals to ask for informational interviews so they can begin to know you and you can learn more about potential roles and the company to know if it’s a good fit for what you’re looking to do.

Tap into alumni networks, the networks of your parents and other relatives, clubs, former employers, etc. If you feel awkward about networking, read a book on how to do it effectively such as Unlock the Hidden Job Market or The Referral of a Lifetime.

This is a great habit to get into now because it makes sense to always be looking for your next potential opportunity even when you’re employed. You’ll need to have built your network before you need it.

Monique Mollere

Monique Mollere

Senior Vice-President, Talascend

Seniors should spend their senior year networking and making connections in preparation for their professional life after college.

Internships are a great way to get your foot in the door for a future full-time career, so staying in contact with these connections is key not only as references but also as a potential employer.

Three to four months before graduation

College placement offices are a great way to connect with future employers and many visit the campus for in-person interviews leading up to graduation. This also provides a great interviewing experience.

In our current economic situation in the US because of the Covid-19 pandemic, college graduates will be navigating unprecedented times. Unemployment is at an all-time high and jobs are hard to come by.

Networking will be key to securing an opportunity.

Talking to every parent, friend, and neighbor about their career aspirations and upcoming graduation will help to plant seeds. The more people you tell what you are looking for, the better shot you have of hearing about an opportunity. A warm introduction to company hiring is always better than applying online and hoping for the best.

Related: How to Find a Job Fast

Tara A. Goodfellow, MBA

Tara Goodfellow

DiSC Certified and Life Coach Certified | Managing Director, Athena Educational Consultants, Inc.

Seniors should start the process much sooner than they probably think.

Although it’s tough to actually apply for a role while you’re still in school since most employers want you to start within 2 to 4 weeks, you could lay all of the foundations.

While in school, try to gain experience by getting an internship and/or part-time employment. This could be through a college course, independent study, summer job, part-time job while in school.

This helps establish not only connections but also skills. This can help with resume content, having folks to reach out to for recommendations, build your network, and explore what you like/dislike and areas to explore.

Next is building your branding. This includes your resume and LinkedIn profile. There are 40K+ job titles, so certainly it’s not probable you know exactly what you want to be when you grow up unless your degree is very specific.

It is helpful to even conduct information interviews and job shadowing. This is easier to do when you can virtually reach out and network with folks. LinkedIn is a great tool for this, and free.

Closer to graduation, attend job fairs, reach out to recruiters or career services, and take advantage of all opportunities they provide and start the job search. I’d suggest January if your graduation is in May. You also may want to consider interview preparation and practice.

Related: A Complete Guide to Getting Your First Remote Job After College

Kelly Donovan

Kelly Donovan

Certified Job Search Coach | Principal, Kelly Donovan & Associates

8 months before graduation

A lot of Fortune 100, 500, and 1000 companies begin selecting college seniors very early in the fall semester of senior year, and many top universities host career fairs soon after students return from summer break. The intent is to recruit seniors for jobs that will begin after they graduate in May.

While eight months of lead time might seem excessive, employers know that the most promising graduates will likely have jobs lined up before graduation, so they want to snag them before anyone else!

During the pandemic, we might see a lot of these career fairs take place online. Whatever the case might be, you should be ready with writing your resume for the first time, setting up LinkedIn presence, and improving interview skills before you even start your senior year.

If you end up not starting your job search until later in your senior year, don’t be discouraged by the knowledge that some seniors are further along in the process. In job search and life, it makes a big difference when you maintain a positive attitude and avoid comparisons. Just focus on what you can do each week to make progress and build relationships in the field you want to work in.

In my own career, I started as a newspaper reporter and I was still building my portfolio as a newspaper intern during the second semester of my senior year.

Work samples were an important piece of the application process for the type of job I wanted, so I didn’t start my search until half-way through senior year after I had enough strong work samples. My approach worked; I turned down two offers before graduation and accepted the best offer three weeks after graduation.

Michelle Enjoli

Michelle Enjoli

Speaker & Career Mentor, Connect with ME

It is never too early to begin searching for career opportunities as a college senior

A career opportunity is defined not only as a job but any exposure to experiences that will teach you something new. These opportunities are available throughout your entire college career but should especially be taken advantage of during your senior year.

In today’s everchanging business environment, having hands-on experience can help college seniors in many ways. These opportunities can provide actual job offers or recommendations for jobs in a competitive market.

It can help them decide if they want to pursue a specific career path and acquire mentors that can provide invaluable insights into their industry of choice.

Ana Agneshwar

Ana Agneshwar

CEO, Aimient

Below are some interesting numbers on the number of new graduates followed by some tips on when to begin the job search process as well as what to do if their jobs are rescinded.

Current statistics:

  • New graduates: There are 3 million-plus new graduates entering the job market. During the 2019–20 academic year, how many degrees are colleges and universities expected to award? NACE, 989,000 associate’s degrees; 1,975,000 bachelor’s degrees; 820,000 master’s degrees; 184,000 doctor’s degrees.
  • Unemployed jobseekers: Labor Statistics are putting total unemployed workers at 30 million-plus.

Be familiar with the hiring cycle of the industry you’re trying to be in

College seniors should check with career services or research their areas of interest to understand their industry campus recruitment practices and the timing of interviews and hiring cycle.

Ideally, they have researched the kinds of jobs and industries they are interested in and are connecting with people within that industry for informational conversations.

Different industries have varied hiring cycles so get familiar with it. For example, large financial services hire summer associates who then go into the pool for full-time hiring.

There are other industries that may not have formal campus recruitment hiring cycles. In these cases — students should begin the exploratory interviews and share their interest in working for a company early into the senior year.

Many companies offer internships to juniors who are then given first dibs at interviewing for a full-time role.

As you can see, with the unemployment numbers so high it’s important to get a head-start The sooner you start, the better.

If seniors have received offers that have been rescinded due to the pandemic, here are some things they can do to position themselves to stand out as they renew their job search.

Network, network, network

Even in the days of social distancing, this is important. It’s just gone virtual. Get savvy on tools like Zoom, Skype, Facetime, etc. to network, network, network virtually. Join virtual job-seeker conferences on LinkedIn, for example.

Get creative

More and more companies are depending on digital and virtual hiring tools. Go beyond the resume! Explore resources like CovidHires which connects new graduates or job-seekers who have lost their jobs with employers who are hiring. Click on “I WANT A JOB” and take a short video interview. It also allows jobseekers to share their video profile with your network.

Look for alternatives

Look beyond the traditional jobs and channels. There are many platforms offering temporary jobs and freelancing gigs such as upwork.com.

Creating a profile on these platforms is super easy. Sign up for gigs that will get you one step closer to your dream job. For adventure seekers with an entrepreneurial itch — jump right into starting your own business while looking for that “dream job”.

If you are a wiz kid at creating websites there are so many small business owners moving to digitize, come up with a plan to monetize that.

Power up your digital footprint

Having a professional and creative digital presence is very important. There are a million ways to create a digital footprint — but you have to strike the right balance.

Chane Steiner

Chane Steiner

CEO, Crediful

College seniors should start looking as soon as possible, preferably in their fall semester

When looking for a job as a college senior, it’s best to get started with the application process as soon as possible. Many businesses will actually hire college seniors for post-graduation jobs as early as the fall months, and it could really put you ahead to already have work lined up before the spring.

In general, my advice would be to start looking at job opportunities in the fall to get a feel for your options, and at the beginning of the spring semester (January or February), you can start seriously applying. You don’t want to wait until May or June to start doing this, as the hiring process for some positions can take a few months.

Also make sure when doing this, you stipulate that you can’t start until after you graduate, as many companies are looking for candidates to hire immediately.

Jennifer Walden

Jennifer Walden

Director of Operations, WikiLawn Lawn Care

Especially in such a competitive job market as the one we’re currently in, that college seniors should start the job search as early as possible.

If nothing else, it gives them experience searching and applying within their field, and could give valuable experience with interviews, as well.

That said, they should always make it clear in their resume and especially their cover letter that they’re not available to start until after graduation if that’s the case.

Sometimes you may be able to work the training phase of a new job while finishing up your degree, but this is rare and depends on the industry. It also depends on whether or not you can balance school and work.

I would say it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing process, either. I’ve seen many college students get hired into their industry as a part-time or temporary employee, only to secure a full-time position after graduation.

While there are some companies that will use this as an internship period and not bring you on full-time, the possibility is there to essentially get on the job training while you finish your degree.

Willie Greer

Willie Greer

Founder, The Product Analyst

College seniors should start looking for jobs as early as possible.

Unless a break is in your plans, then you should get going if you want to have a job ASAP. The process involves researching companies, networking, crafting your resume, and applying for the position you want. And once you do get to be interviewed, sometimes you have to wait weeks to know if you landed the job. So if you want to save time, start checking off your “Get Hired” to-do list.

If you’re thinking that job hiring opportunities are paused due to the pandemic, know that it’s actually the opposite. With more and more companies transitioning to an online setup, there are increasing job opportunities for digital marketing, content management, and other related fields.

You should know, though, that there are employers that recruit early and those that recruit later in the year. Investment banking and accounting industries are known to hire as early as late November.

For other industries such as publishing and broadcast communications, employers tend to hire later in the year. So, an additional tip is to do your research on the companies you want to work for and find out if they’re hiring.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can College Seniors Prepare for Job Interviews?

Preparing for a job interview can help you feel more confident and increase your chances of landing the job. Here are a few tips to help you prepare:

Research the company: Take some time to learn about the company you’ll be interviewing with. Check out the website, social media, and recent news or press releases to get a feel for the company’s mission, values, and goals.

Practice answering common interview questions: Do some research on the types of questions you might be asked in the interview and practice your responses. Consider participating in a mock interview to get feedback and feel more confident.

Prepare questions to ask the interviewer: Be prepared to ask the interviewer questions about the company, the job, and the industry. This shows that you’re interested and engaged in the interview.

Dress appropriately: Make sure you’ve dressed appropriately for the interview. This will vary depending on the company and the industry, but it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

Bring copies of your resume: Bring several copies of your resume to the interview in case the interviewer needs one.

How Can College Seniors Stay Positive During Their Job Search?

The job search can be long and stressful, and it’s common to feel frustrated, anxious, or discouraged. Here are a few tips on how you can stay positive during your job search:

Practice self-care: Take care of yourself, both mentally and physically. This can include exercising, spending time with friends and family, or practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques.

Celebrate small wins: Recognize and celebrate small successes, such as when you receive a positive response to a job application or networking with a new contact. This can help you stay motivated and focused on your goals.

Connect with others: Stay connected with friends, family, and mentors who can support and encourage you during your job search.

Stay organized: Stay on top of your job search by keeping track of deadlines, applications, and networking appointments. This can help you stay in control and feel less overwhelmed.

Maintain a positive attitude: Focus on the positive aspects of your experience and stay optimistic about your future. Believe in yourself and your abilities, and remember that the right opportunity is for you.

How Can College Seniors Negotiate a Job Offer?

Negotiating a job offer can be intimidating, but it’s an important step to ensure that you get a fair and competitive compensation package. Here are a few tips for negotiating a job offer:

Do your research: Research the industry and company to get a sense of the typical salary for the position you’re being offered.

Know your worth: Be confident about your skills and qualifications, and be prepared to articulate why you believe you deserve a higher salary or additional benefits.

Be respectful: It’s important to be respectful and professional when negotiating a job offer. Don’t be overly aggressive or demanding, as this could turn off the employer.

Be flexible: Be willing to compromise and consider other forms of compensation, such as additional vacation or flexible hours.

Practice active listening: Listen carefully to the employer’s response and be prepared to ask questions or provide additional information if necessary.

Remember that negotiating a job offer is a normal and expected part of the job search process. Be confident and respectful, and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and your worth.

How Can College Seniors Use Social Media to Help Their Job Search?

Social media can be a powerful tool for college seniors looking for job opportunities. Here are some ways you can use social media in your job search:

Build a professional online presence: Use social media to build a professional online presence. This includes updating your LinkedIn profile and ensuring it’s complete and current. You can also create a professional website or blog to showcase your skills and experience.

Network with professionals in your field: Use LinkedIn to connect with professionals in your field and participate in virtual networking events. Join conversations and share content related to your field to build your online presence and make connections.

Research companies and job openings: Use social media to research companies and job openings. Follow the companies you’re interested in on social media to learn more about their culture and values. You can also use social media to stay up-to-date on job openings and application deadlines.

Showcase your personality and interests: Use social media to showcase your personality and interests. Share content and stories that highlight your passions and hobbies. This will help you stand out and connect more personally with potential employers.

Remember that social media can be a powerful tool, but you must use it thoughtfully and professionally. Ensure your online presence is consistent with the professional image you want to project, and avoid controversial or inappropriate content.

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