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When you should start applying for jobs if you’re graduating from college

    Applying for your first "real" job can be exciting and nerve-wracking. If you're still in college but are eyeing graduation, you may wonder when you should begin applying for jobs.

    Continue reading as we dive into when you should be applying for jobs if you're nearing your college graduation and how you can prepare in advance to begin applying for jobs.

    How long before your college graduation should you apply for jobs?

    If you're looking to work right after you graduate from college, when you should apply for jobs before graduating depends on the industry you're looking to work in and the typical hiring timelines for the positions you're interested in.

    It's generally advisable to start applying for jobs three months before graduating, as this will allow you to begin a job search and position yourself for your first job out of college.

    Expect to start applying for some jobs even earlier, particularly if you're applying to competitive training or leadership development programs in finance, consulting, or other fields that hire a cohort right out of college every year. You might need to apply for these jobs as much as a year before you graduate.

    It's essential to conduct thorough research of the fields you're interested in entering and their typical hiring timelines and understand when employers in those fields tend to post job openings, conduct interviews, and make hiring decisions.

    You should also note any specific application deadlines or recruitment schedules for companies or organizations you're interested in if any specifics exist.

    Starting to at least think about applying for jobs relatively early will allow you to assess the job market, tailor your application materials, such as your resume and cover letter, and practice for interviews. It will also give you ample time to network, attend career fairs, and be able to have informational interviews with professionals in your desired industry.

    What you need to prepare to apply for your first job

    When applying for your first job, there are several things you can do in advance to prepare. Consider this prep work you can do before starting to apply for specific jobs, so when you apply, you'll hopefully have less to do.

    Get a resume ready (or several)

    Prepare a well-organized resume highlighting your education, relevant work experience, skills, and accomplishments. If you don't have much work experience, focus on your relevant skills, volunteer work, and extracurricular activities. If you're applying to jobs in various industries or are applying to several types of roles, you might even consider preparing multiple resumes tailored to different types of jobs.

    Consider updating or adding a profile to employment-focused social media platforms

    Many companies recruit candidates via employment-focused social media platforms, so as you prepare to start applying for jobs, it might be worth considering either updating your profiles (if you have any) or starting profiles.

    Prepare several cover letters 

    Write a few variations of cover letters geared towards different jobs and fields (if you'll be applying to jobs widely) explaining your skills and experiences. While you'll have to personalize cover letters when you apply for specific jobs later on, having these templates ready can be beneficial.

    Line up several references

    You might want to provide references from teachers, coaches, or previous employers who can speak to your character, work ethic, and skills. Get a few references teed up (in other words, ask a few if they'd be comfortable being your reference) so you'll be ready to go with references when applying for jobs.

    Get your education credentials ready

    Some job applications require you to provide copies of your educational credentials, including your high school diploma, GED, college degrees, or any relevant certifications you've listed on your resume. Getting official copies before applying to jobs can be helpful so you're not scrambling to get them at any point.

    Get a form of identification ready

    Some job applications require that you supply a form of identification, such as a driver's license or passport, for employment eligibility verification. Ensure the identification you might want to use isn't expired before applying to jobs.

    Prepare in advance for interviews

    Job interviews require that you answer questions, dress professionally, and demonstrate your enthusiasm and readiness to contribute to the organization.

    Some pre-work for job interviews can be done in advance. Prepare to be able to speak to your work and education history. Be able to speak to your skill set. Also, prepare for some commonly asked interview questions.

    Final thoughts

    As you begin applying for jobs, research the industries and companies you're interested in beforehand so you can stay ahead of any application deadlines and set yourself up for success. Good luck with your job search!