“I’m graduating in the spring, and would like to start working as soon as possible after I graduate. If I’m going to start work in June, when should I start applying?”
Thanks for your question, Randall, and it’s an extremely common one.
When to apply depends mostly on the industry to which you’re applying. Big corporate companies often have a conveyor belt of new hires because they expect a certain number of people to leave or be promoted throughout the year. Smaller companies only hire when they need to fill a particular position. Even others hire seasonally, like ramping up in the summer to hire new graduates. Reach out to hiring managers, and spend some time researching the hiring procedures of places you wish to work. You may be able to pinpoint when it would be best to submit your application.
The rule of thumb, however, is only apply for a job when you are ready to start working there. Applying too early may hurt your chances more than help them; an employer will take a less qualified applicant who can start working immediately over the perfect applicant who can’t start for 3 months. It may be in your best interest to start applying only once you’re ready to start working.
Waiting until graduation to begin applying doesn’t mean you should sit on your hands until then! Use your remaining time in school to bolster your professional networking and ease the transition from student to employee. Research the big players in your field and in your area. Who are they? Where do they work? Connect with your professors and mentors, use your informational interviewing skills to pick their brains, and ask if they can put you in contact with their colleagues. If you have professional contacts in your desired field before your graduate, and your application comes across their desk, your name carries weight: they know who you are! This will greatly improve your chances of landing the job you want after graduation.
Best of Luck,