When to apply for a job?
December 26, 2008 3:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm graduating from college in May and will be entering the real world. I need a job, but how early should I start applying?


I'm all set to graduate this coming May. I need a job once I graduate, and I've begun looking on Monster.com, in my local newspaper, Craigslist, and through my school.

I've found a couple of jobs I'm interested in, but they seem to be looking for applicants who can start within the next month or so - this is not me.

My question to the hive mind is this: when should I start sending my resumes out? Is it too soon to start applying? (And, if I do send out my resume, should I mention in my cover letter that I want to start in May?)

I'm conflicted, because I have friends who already have positions lined up, but others are telling me that it's silly to apply five months early.

(If it helps:

*I'm graduating from Fordham University, with a Bachelor's of Science in Business Administration, with a concentration of Entrepreneurism.
*I've got a fairly solid resume and a 3.7 GPA.
*I'm looking to work in the Westchester/Putnam County, NY area, or nearby.
*I'm primarily looking for marketing work, but I'm flexible/desperate.)
posted by firei to Work & Money (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm in a different field than you and work at a medium-to-largish sized company, but I was phone screening college students for the May/June time frame in the last two weeks.
posted by j at 3:31 PM on December 26, 2008

Best answer: Start applying now. Even if employers are looking for applicants who want to start next month, they'll either just ignore your resume (most likely) or tell you they're not interested (less likely). Trust me, you won't offend anyone for applying for a job that you might not be a perfect match for. You won't find out if they'd possibly accept someone starting further in the future if you don't apply, after all.

It is absolutely not silly to apply five months early. In fact, I'd say those who say it's silly are going to find themselves in a bit of trouble if they don't start applying soon. I started applying for my post-college job starting in September the year before I graduated and only ended up getting one in May the year I graduated. Your resume, job hunting techniques, and interview skills will only get better after applying for jobs, which leads to a better chance of being hired.
posted by saeculorum at 3:33 PM on December 26, 2008

FWIW, my younger brother (graduating with his B.S. in business in May) signed an offer in early August to start next August. I think it's safe to say it's never too early to start looking, especially when companies are cutting back like they are now. Many large companies do their entry-level hiring in the fall for people to start in May/June, though many small companies I have experience with put off hiring till April for May/June positions. I don't think it hurts to be looking now at all -- go for it, and good luck!
posted by olinerd at 3:35 PM on December 26, 2008

Nope, start now. Not too early. You'll get good practice, be less stressed (hopefully!), and learn a lot in the process.
posted by Stewriffic at 3:35 PM on December 26, 2008

Companies with organized college recruitment schemes start interviewing seniors as early as October. It's absolutely not too early to apply.

Yes, mention in your cover letter that you will be graduating in May.
posted by phoenixy at 3:36 PM on December 26, 2008

Don't randomly send your resume out, but definitely start looking for a job early. This may be sort of a cliche, but you can (and should) start networking now. Use your existing contacts in marketing (or your existing family/friends/career counselors to make marketing contacts) to get informational interviews in the area/industries you're interested in. Use those informational interviews to educate yourself about the field(s) you're considering, and to ask the people you meet who else you should be talking to.

I did a couple of informational interviews in January/February of my senior year of college, and those contacts led me to the people who ended up hiring me (I contacted the person at my current company in about February, and he sort of forgot about me, so then I contacted him again at the end of the month, and then again in March, and I had an interview in April). I interviewed in April and started mid-June. I wouldn't have had that interview, however, if I'd started my job search in April. Maybe I would've found something else anyway, but I liked the security of starting the process early and getting some practice at it. Practice is good. Practice at talking to professional people like a job applicant rather than like a college student is really, really useful.
posted by Meg_Murry at 3:43 PM on December 26, 2008

Start now. You might come across something you like now. Do not procrastinate like you may with a paper or project. You will be a much happy camper if you know you have a job rather than trying to schedule interviews around finals.

I had my job lined up while I was still in school, one year before I started. That's common practice because of the major. But I'm glad I had that done and out of the way.
posted by toaster at 4:40 PM on December 26, 2008

I got my job in December of my last year at school. A few people I know got theirs locked up earlier. Many found jobs much later in the year/during the summer. So I don't think there's a "right time," but it definitely doesn't hurt to start looking as soon as you feel like you have some sense of which jobs you might be interested in.
posted by Hello, Revelers! I am Captain Lavender! at 4:40 PM on December 26, 2008

Best answer: As an opposing data point, I didn't start applying until May. My plan had been write LSATs early june, take care of my parents post-surgery June, then find work. I got hired late May after 3 phone interviews and a trip out West to do a real interview, all in May. Not grunt work, good job.

That being said, the reason I didn't apply earlier than may is personal-problems-related, and I strongly suggest you don't do what I did. Most of my friends were doing their interviews & such now-ish in the school year.

But if you end up not applying yet, don't lose hope.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:54 PM on December 26, 2008

I don't want to scare you but you need to get started immediately. I work for a large finance/consulting firm that interviewed candidates in October/November. All offers were extended months ago, and I don't think we'll be looking for any more grads.

I am a year and a half out of college now, but when I was in your shoes I had been doing on campus interviews for months, and I had been stressing out because I hadn't gotten an offer before Christmas break. Campus recruiting switches over to internships after the new year.

So in conclusion, get cracking. This is a no holds barred market right now. You need to use every resource available to you. On-campus recruiting and alumni networks are incredibly valuable. At one point I was actually going through my alumni directory and sending mass emails to whoever would read by cover letter. One of my friends got an amazing job with a top tier investment bank through the referral of a professor.
posted by prunes at 5:33 PM on December 26, 2008

Firms often have people do internships in the summer of their penultimate year in college, and then sign them up for after they graduate after the internship. So I'd say start now! Even if you're not sure about working for X Corp, if they offer you a job you've got a safety net, and you can always turn them down.
posted by djgh at 5:55 PM on December 26, 2008

Best answer: You should start applying now. There's nothing to lose by applying early, and everything to gain. After graduation, there will be a deluge of people who need jobs, and it becomes that much harder to separate yourself from equally skilled candidates. If the company is flexible, they may give you an offer letter (to lock you up) to start after graduation or you may start a part-time job or internship there. If the company needs someone to work now, it's better for them to have your resume on file (and maybe a good impression during an informational interview) so that when they need someone, they may contact you.

In big companies, it takes months for an application just to get out of the evaluation stage.

Also, even if you don't get any job offers, you get valuable experience interviewing. You don't want your dream job to be your first interview, your nervousness will be a huge hindering factor.

Once you're out of college, you're going to lose a lot of resources and availability that you're taking for granted now. It only takes a few months of unemployment to give you a bad attitude and a blank spot on your resume, both of which will make it harder to get the job you really want.

Don't listen to your friends, they know as little as you do.

Good luck.
posted by meowzilla at 6:34 PM on December 26, 2008

Now now now now now. I started applying once my adviser signed off on my last semester's worth of classes in December 2006, got a hit at a career fair at my university in March 2007, got a job offer end of March, accepted it the first of April and came to work after I got out the end of May. Don't get discouraged if your dream job or city don't lead you to any work, and be able to have some flexibility on what your heart is set to do. I wanted to end up being a networking tech, but I'm doing software support, and it's still fairly enjoyable. And if the first job ends up sucking, you can always look for the next desk at the next company as the money from the current one is pouring in.

Good luck.
posted by deezil at 6:50 PM on December 26, 2008

Does your school have a career fair? They're usually scheduled within the first six weeks of the semester, and all the companies there know you're in school and won't be available until May.

Dress nicely and bring confidence and copies of your résumé.
posted by Third at 8:05 PM on December 26, 2008

I started applying for jobs in January, 5 months before graduation. I only got a couple nibbles early, though I had an offer in hand by early March (IT consulting). Like others have said, you have nothing to lose by applying early. You will gain valuable experience in the entire application process, telephone interviewing, in-person interviewing, networking, ridiculous HR personality tests, etc.

Since you have time, though, please remember that you don't need to accept the first offer you receive. I ended up taking my first job offer, which propelled me down a job path I [in retrospect realize I] shouldn't have taken. Had I used that offer to boost my self-confidence and wait for others to come along, I think I'd be happier today. You have a better chance of getting to choose from multiple options by simultaneously starting early and remaining patient.
posted by Maarika at 8:08 PM on December 26, 2008

Now. Just say you're graduating in May and looking to start shortly after. Also apply to the jobs you're interested in even if they're looking to hire right away. You might get practice interviews, and it can't hurt for them to keep your name in mind just in case they might need you in a few months.

Although if you can get away (financially, and depending on what offers you get) with a month or two off after school, you should do that... it might be your last time in ~FOURTY years that you won't have to work for a whole month.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 9:37 PM on December 26, 2008

Make an appointment with your school's career counselor and find out what the norm is for your area and field.

For example, I'm studying Accounting, and most of the May 2009 graduates already had their jobs lined up by mid-fall, after they did their summer internships, so starting now would actually be kinda late for this field!
posted by Jacqueline at 10:52 PM on December 26, 2008

Not that you should have any doubt by this point in the thread, but yes, now. I graduated last year; some friends in my class who began applying for jobs in April are still unemployed.
posted by danb at 11:15 PM on December 26, 2008

Now. I own three separate companies. It has been a while since graduation for me. Question: why would you wait? Success comes to the proactive. The people who do not hesitate when they see what they want usually end up with the prize. Many good companies will wait for the right person. When I became a marketing consultant for banks, the company I was speaking to for the job interviewed me over a 6 month period. Never ever ever wait for anything unless true wisdom dictates caution.

Gosh, this post makes me feel old (43 yrs old)....

Don't wait!
posted by wts111 at 2:25 PM on December 27, 2008

I would start applying now. You might impress an employer (especially with that GPA!) that's willing to hold a spot specifically for you. Or they might keep you in mind for a position that comes available closer to the date you'll be able to start.

Also, a good way to build your resume and make sure it has the proper lingo would be to go to your academic and job counselors on campus. I'm not sure what it's like at your school, but at my university there are a lot of professionals employed specifically to help you build your resume and make your way through a job interview. They can help you figure out the proper 'key words' that employers in your area are looking for.

Also, the person above mentioned job fairs, which is a prefect avenue to network. I would also contact some of your professors and let them know that you are looking for jobs when you're finished. They may know companies that you could apply to. Also, you could set up some references for when you do get an interview.

Good luck with your search! Luckily I'm in graduate school and don't have to start the search for a job for another 3.5 years!
posted by DorothySmith at 8:22 PM on December 27, 2008

Response by poster: Just in case anyone was wondering how this worked out - I was applying for jobs since January. In the beginning of May, I got an interview for a part time job through a recruiting agency. Things worked out really well, because the recruiting agency liked me so much that they decided to hire me, as did the initial company I interviewed for. I won't have the most relaxed summer, as both positions add up to full time, but, money in the pocket is good for now.

I start tomorrow! So, thanks for everyone's help and advice.
posted by firei at 6:48 PM on May 25, 2009

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