How Early Should You Begin Your Job Search

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January 1st, 2011

One of the most frustrating sights that a career counselor can see is the line of seniors lined up outside his or her office in March, only a few months before their graduation day. It seems that so many students put off the job search too long, or they seem to think that it will be a much less exhausting and complicated process than a couple months. By the time they realize it, they turn to the university for help. Unfortunately, a career services officer cannot be of much help in March if your goal is to graduate from school and begin working in June.

So when is the best time, then, to begin your job search?

The simple answer is this: the earlier, the better. But that's probably not very helpful, especially because many students do not often have a clear idea of their ideal career path, much less intended major their first or second year in school. Or if they do, these things can also change as they are exposed to new and interesting subjects and experiences in their college career.

So, that said, I assert that it's a good idea to begin your job search once you have officially declared your major, probably around the last half of your second year in school. By the time you are a rising junior, many schools require you to declare that major and begin your upper class study. If you know your major, then you also have a decent idea as to what sort of job that major could prepare you for.

Use your courses in the major to investigate areas and subtopics that might help you narrow your job search. Visit the career center at school and talk to them about preliminary job search ideas. Often, they will ask you to brainstorm a list of attractive jobs as well as a list of interests that you have. It's a good idea to also do some self-reflection as well on some of your life goals, as these could also help you determine a good career path.

Once you have these goals and ideas in mind, you should use the career office as well as your favorite professors to gain insight as to specific steps you could take towards preparing for and finding a job in your area of interest. Create a schedule for the next two years that can parallel your academic track. Keep up the job search as you're going to classes and constantly think of ways you can use your class work in your job search and vice versa. If you can keep up a steady search, you'll have much better luck than your fellow classmates that March. In fact, you just might graduate with a job waiting for you on the other side.

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