Is it ever too soon to look for the real world job you want to have after graduation? No, but it does depend on what you mean by look.
If you take “looking for a job” in this case to mean applying for current job openings by sending a resume and cover letter and trying to land an interview, then there is such a thing as too soon. It doesn’t make sense for you to look for a job in this particular way until closer to graduation. After all, if you apply for a current job opening in, say, October but you won't be graduating until the following May, then you're really wasting both your and the employer's time and effort.
But it's never too soon if you expand the idea to include more future-oriented -- and usually more effective -- strategies. These search activities will help you, no matter when you start:
- Talk to People in Your Future Industry: Regardless of when you'll graduate, you can start learning more about your field and the opportunities it offers (both now and in the future) by talking to people who currently work in the field. This lets you build the important personal relationships that will help you launch your career and maintain it.
- Read About Your Field: What critical issues are emerging in your future industry? What are people worrying about or looking forward to within the field? Perhaps most importantly, where will the job opportunities be in the near and not-so-near future? You can find that out and more by keeping up with trade publications, journals, newspapers and other periodicals for your field. Monster.com’s Career Tools section offers Career Snapshots and career pathing information.
- Monitor Job Listings: Searching job postings and industry publications can give you a sense of the types of openings in your field. Keep your eye on current job listings -- not so much with the idea of applying for them, but to learn from them. What skills do the employers seem to be looking for the most? What experiences do the employers seem most interested in? And where, geographically and by company, are most jobs emerging?
- Network with People You Already Know Well: Graduating in May? It doesn't hurt to mention that now to your professors, your parents, your other relatives and everyone else you run into day-to-day. Start putting out feelers with the people you know, and tell them you're always open to hearing their suggestions or, better yet, learning about job leads they're aware of.
The timing may not always be quite right for you to apply for an appealing job that's immediately available, but it's never too early to start your job search in a behind-the-scenes way. The knowledge you gain and the personal relationships you develop will help put you front and center in the minds of potential employers. And that's where you want to be anytime.