When to Start Looking for a Job for College Seniors

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How early in your senior year of college should you start applying for post-graduation jobs? Prospective graduates often wonder when they should begin applying for jobs, since they won't be available to start work until after they have graduated.

Recruiting windows for college seniors will vary significantly by employment sector, so the answer is that it depends on the type of job you are applying for—and it's never too late, even if you didn't start your job search early.

Some students will elect to wait until the spring of their senior year to get serious, while others will begin planning as early as their sophomore year.

Employers With Early Deadlines

Many organizations with competitive training programs will begin recruiting early in the fall and start making offers in late November.

Industries such as investment banking, consulting, and accounting are well known as early recruiters. Investment banks now recruit very heavily from their summer internship programs, so juniors should start applying for these opportunities early in their junior year.

Hiring managers from these fields often begin recruiting early, because there are multiple rounds of interviews and testing to complete.

Additionally, those who are typically interested in banking, consulting, and other business management roles are usually involved in a business track with internships or development programs, making it easy for companies to recruit already-interested students.

Employers Recruiting Later in the Year

Seniors who start late shouldn't give up hope, since there are still many opportunities available during the spring semester:

  • Smaller companies that don't have training programs tend to recruit later in the year.
  • Employers in fields such as broadcast communications, advertising, public relations, social media, the arts, and publishing often hire later in the year.
  • Some employers also prefer to wait until the spring to hire recent graduates after promoting current employees internally and assessing their companies' needs.

In addition, many graduates start in positions that are filled after vacancies occur, including:

  • Trading assistants
  • Human resources assistants
  • Editorial assistants
  • Gallery assistants
  • Broker's assistants

These support positions usually are not based around a fiscal year or busy season, so these vacancies are great starting points for students year-round.

Start As Early As Possible

Start your job search as soon as possible, and invest as much time and energy as you can if you are committed to finding a job by graduation. Since many graduates find employment outside of their college's formal recruiting program, it makes sense to start as early as the summer before your senior year.

If you start early, you will have plenty of time to review job descriptions, understand company missions, and get a better understanding of what you want for your first role after you graduate.

Companies today are working to make their entry-level roles seem enticing, and many will offer the chance for personal growth both vertically and laterally. However, you can still find a great opportunity late in the game, even if you have not quite decided what you want to do for the rest of your life.

Depending on your interests, you might be hired by a company as a part-time executive assistant with the opportunity to move to a full-time human resources specialist role after an initial probation period.

Applying for Unadvertised Jobs

When reaching out to employers that haven't yet advertised a job, you can send a resume and cover letter indicating your interest in an entry-level position. When you follow up, ask when they might be scheduling interviews for their entry-level jobs.

If the interviewing period is several months away, you can always send an updated communication at that point. It's always better to be early than to miss a deadline.

Introducing yourself early is a networking strategy that can demonstrate your interest, tenacity, and determination to be considered for a position.

Build Your Experience

Not sure how best to use the time before graduation? In addition to applying for jobs, networking with potential contacts, and polishing your resume, you can continue building your experience:

  • Volunteer with organizations that are meaningful to you, and include them on your resume: Employers learn a lot about you from the type of volunteer work you do.
  • Learn new skills, and package the ones you have: While you’re in school, you’re constantly adding to your skill set. Take opportunities to add new job skills, and don’t forget to showcase them on your resume.
  • Freelance to build expertise and gain experience: Investigate freelancing opportunities in your industry while looking for employment. You can get started freelancing in many fields with very little capital investment. You may even decide that you want to freelance full-time.

How to List Your Degree on Your Resume

If you haven't finished your program yet and are wondering how to list your degree on your resume, you have a couple of options.

It is acceptable to list the month and year of your expected graduation next to your degree and the date:

Sampson College, Sarasota, NY
Bachelor of Arts, Business Administration, May 2021

Another option is to write:

Franklin University, Martinsville, SC
Bachelor of Arts, Marketing, May 2022 (Expected Graduation Date)

Employers know that you won't be formally graduating until the graduation date on your resume.