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Graduating Seniors -- Plan Your Job-Hunting Timeline

By John R. Platt

Tick tock. The clock is counting down to your graduation ceremony, and then it's time for you to enter the so-called "real world." Are you ready? Of course you're not. You're just a senior in college, and you still have plenty of college-type things on your mind. But there is a deadline looming ahead, and while you may not be able to give it your full attention, you don't want to ignore it either. Finding a job takes time, and finding the right job might take even more time, so there are several things you need to keep in mind when you do get around to starting your job quest.

First off, what kind of money are you going to need to bring in immediately after graduation? If you're going to be living with your parents again, you might not need much. But if you're hoping to set out on your own, your monetary needs climb dramatically. Food, rent, car, entertainment ... it all adds up pretty quickly. Ask yourself, by what date do you need to be making money? Set that as a deadline and work backwards.

How far back? Your real work starts at two, three, or even four months before that deadline.

Let's look at it from the point of view of your potential employer. They have a position to fill, so they advertise it and start collecting resumes, which will stack up for a few weeks before anyone starts to look at them. After that, they'll take a few days (at least) to pick a few candidates to call and schedule interviews.

After the first round of interviews, it all starts over again as the better candidates get called back for second interviews. A few more weeks go by, managers ruminate on the best candidates, and finally, a few months after the job was first advertised, a job offer is finally extended.

But wait -- it doesn't stop yet. No one expects a new hire to start the day after they accept a job. So let's say it's three more weeks before you actually start your job.

That's it, right? Nope! Remember, you were counting back from when you need to have income. It depends on the company, but your first paycheck could come one, two, three, or even four weeks after your start date. That's the most important date of all in planning your timeline -- when you're actually going to be paid.

So ... three to four months between submitting your resume and getting your first paycheck isn't all that uncommon.

Of course, let's not forget -- the first resumes you send out might not even land you interviews, let alone job offers. It can take yet more weeks -- or months -- of scanning the job listings and sending out resumes to find the right job.

Through all of this process, don't let yourself get discouraged. Job-hunting takes some time, and rejections aren't personal. Just move on to the next job opening and keep trying.

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