Land a job by graduation with this job search timeline
We’ve mapped out a job search strategy so you can stay focused on schoolwork and still graduate with a diploma and a job offer.
Congratulations, it’s your last year of college! You probably want to spend all your time hanging out with friends and making sure you graduate with a great GPA, but you’ve got another task to add to your to-do list: Find a job by graduation!
And good news: it’s likely you can graduate with a job lined up. According to a 2016 Accenture study, 21% of the class of 2016 accepted a job before graduation, which is up from 12% in 2015 and 11% percent in 2014.
Wondering when (and where) to start? Use our timeline to find out what you should focus on between now and graduation day.
October to November: The research phase
- Identify the type of career and company culture where you’ll thrive. Write down what you’re good at, the type of company culture you want, and your personal and professional values. Nancy Halpern, a New York–based career coach recommends talking to people you trust who know you well, like favorite professors, mentors, and even your parents. They’ve been in the workforce and can help you figure it out.
- Find classes that will strengthen your industry-specific skills. Talk to your professors and academic advisor to learn the skills that will make your resume stand out. “Ask about typical first jobs in that field and what courses you should take to best position yourself,” says Halpern. Are companies looking for candidates who know coding, photography, statistics, or physics? As you’re choosing classes for next semester, sign up for the courses that will teach you the skills you’ll need to get the job and be successful.
- Create a target company list. Turn your company culture research into a list of companies where you want to work, suggests California-based career coach Alyson Garrido. Check your list of values and culture fit must-haves to make sure that, to the best of your knowledge, the companies are a good fit for what you’re looking for in a workplace. Create a list of about 10 companies and come up with a game plan for finding (and landing!) a job at each company, Garrido says. Also, spend time researching each company at a review site like kununu to get a sense of what it’s really like to work there from current and former employees.
December to January: The networking phase
- Start networking. Tap into your school’s alumni network to create genuine relationships before making your ask. You don’t want to wait and have to say something like: “Hey, I just met you and this is crazy but will you be my recommendation, maybe?” Stay in touch with everyone periodically throughout the year because there may be a job opening they can recommend you for closer to graduation.
- Attend informational interviews. Meet with people who work in your intended industry. “This is your opportunity to learn the real ins and outs of a job, what someone's day looks like, what they love about the job, and what frustrates them,” says Garrido. Informational interviews are a good opportunity to practice talking about your experience, skills, and aspirations, which will come in handy when you interview for jobs. And, while the objective is to learn about the industry, not land a job, you can still network. At the end of each informational interview, ask if there is anyone else they recommend you meet.
February to March: The preparation phase
· Create your resume and cover letter. Now’s the time to craft the resume and cover letter that will get you hired by graduation. Do your research to make sure you’re following best practices, and definitely take advantage of everything your college offers. “The career center can help with a template and guidance, and then you should show it to a few trusted professionals to get their feedback,” Halpern recommends. Monster can help too. Upload your resume for a free critique, and if you want to really take it up a notch, use our professional resume writing services and let an expert write your resume for you.
· Set up job alerts. Just because you’re not ready to apply to a job right this second, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be looking. Monster job alerts will deliver relevant jobs right to your email inbox so you won’t miss an opportunity. Then, when you are in “active hunt mode,” you can spend less time searching for jobs and more time actually applying to them, because you’ll have a pipeline of jobs in your email queue. Reading job ads for positions you’re interested in will show you the keywords that hiring managers are looking for on your resume. Take advantage of knowing what to look for and updating your resume for each job.
· Get interview-ready. Ask someone from career services or a friend to ask you the 10 most common interview questions so you’re not caught off guard when someone inevitably asks them during your real interviews. Take some time to focus on your appearance too. Your ideal interview outfit will vary based on how formal or informal the industry and company is, but buy at least one interview outfit that you’ll be comfortable in.
April to May: The application phase
- Apply Now that you’ve narrowed down your job title, honed in on some companies you’d like to work for and seen some jobs online, it’s time to apply! Most applications these days are online, so be sure that your resume is flawless and in a format that online screening software can read. It’s a numbers game, so don’t be shy. Apply to as many jobs as you can to increase the odds of getting a response—and an interview.
- Interview You’ve practiced the most common interview questions, now make sure you have answers to all of the company-specific questions like “Why do you want to work here?” and “Do you have any questions?” Start following the companies you’ll be interviewing with on social media and with Google alerts so you’ll be up-to-date on company news prior to your interview. Always follow-up with a thank you email and hand-written note, especially if it’s a job you’re really interested in.
- Negotiate your salary There is a common misconception that you can’t negotiate an entry-level salary because you don’t have enough experience. But guess what: You can, and often should, negotiate. Think of it like compound interest. Unless you switch industries or move from a large company to a startup, the amount you make at your first job will set the bar for the amount of money you make in the future.
June to July: The celebration phase
- Hand in your offer letter Don’t assume anything is a done deal until you have a signed contract. Most companies will send you a job offer letter and lots of paperwork. But, if they don’t, make sure you ask for one instead of accepting a verbal offer.
- Celebrate You did it! You officially graduated with a degree and a job! Savor your (short) amount of time between graduation and work, and get ready to start the next phase of your life: adulting!