When Should Students Start Applying for Jobs and Internships?

One of the most common questions we get is, “When should I start applying for jobs and internships?” We always encourage students to attend our career fairs in September and January, which match campus recruiting strategies nationwide. Most of the employers will be hiring students for summer start dates, but there may be some employers at the fairs hiring in December or hiring immediately.

It is important to note that the fairs may not be representative of every student’s interest area. Students interested in corporate organizations, large nonprofits, local companies, and government agencies will likely find organizations of interest at these fairs – and those months (September-January) are an effective time to apply to positions with those organizations for hire dates in May or over the summer. It is also important to note that, with these large organizations, getting an internship with them during sophomore or junior year will greatly increase the chances of getting hired for a full-time position upon graduation.

Students interested in organizations that do not utilize a national recruiting strategy will have a less straightforward timeline for applying to jobs and internships. Some of these organizations are small and do not have the budget to travel nationally to recruit interns and employees. Other organizations are so competitive that they have an overflow of talent already approaching them and don’t need to develop a recruitment strategy. While these organizations may not travel to campus, they still are very active in recruiting our students virtually through Handshake.

In both of these cases, the job and internship search for students needs to begin around the same time as the career fair timeline outlined above, 5-10 months prior to the hire day they’ve identified for themselves. With competitive organizations and smaller organizations, students need to invest time in their online profiles through LinkedIn, Handshake, or the Walter Center Success Network. Cultivating a strong network of industry insiders and IU alumni will be their very best shot at not only building awareness of opportunities, but developing the knowledge to thrive in future interviews.

While the idea of spending 5-10 months networking and building an online presence may seem a bit nebulous, our career coaches are skilled at breaking down big processes like this with students, helping them develop strategies, and keeping them accountable on their journey.

Regardless of a student’s summer or post-graduation goals, beginning to look at opportunities and discussing plans will always be easier with more time – they will have more time to research organizations, make decisions, and build a network. Students also tend to waver between different paths for themselves, and this is much easier to navigate if they have the time to really think through the pros and cons of their intended paths.

So, really, our answer to the question, “When should students start applying for jobs and internships” is…the earlier the better.

By Justin Zuschlag
Justin Zuschlag Senior Associate Director, Career Education