There are many reasons to apply for jobs.
You might be in the latter stages of grad school, busy getting those last experiments done so you can focus on writing your thesis. You might already have a job, but want to move to a different location or step into a new field. Or maybe you’re happily employed, but want to ask for a raise after putting in a lot of hard work. In all of these situations, being in the job market can maximize your chances of career success!
You shouldn’t wait until you have an exact graduation date or an immediate need for a new job to start applying.
Some Jobs Are Put on Hold for Any Number of Reasons
If you apply to a job that sounds like a good fit, it could still take months for HR to process the application, interview you, and ensure they have the funds to hire.
As an example, I applied for my current position last February. Because of internal organization shifts, including the lab being relocated, I didn’t actually hear back until September! Even though it took most of a year, I’m incredibly glad I applied as early as I did because I wouldn’t have otherwise found such a great fit with other positions being advertised that fall.
Sometimes Getting a Job Offer Can Speed Your Graduation
Who wants to be in grad school forever? If you have already completed the experiments necessary to graduate, there’s no reason to hold back on applying to jobs.
Many PIs and employers will work with students that opt to write their thesis while preparing for a new job. And if you have trouble with procrastination (like me!), having an official job start date can provide that extra boost of motivation to wrap things up.
Finally, keep in mind the number one point of being in school—to get great jobs afterward! Even when you are just starting to think about wrapping up, your focus should be constantly oriented toward getting a job that you love. Never pass up opportunities to apply to your dream job(s) a bit early!
You Might Graduate Earlier Than Anticipated
It is not uncommon for lab funding problems to catalyze graduation rates or for unexpected company financial issues to cause layoffs. Or—on a more positive note—maybe your experiments will work out perfectly or the results may be easier to interpret than you’d anticipated! Either way, staying on your toes and being ready for the job market is a crucial skill to have.
You Get Practice
It takes a LOT of work—more work than you initially anticipate—to apply for jobs. If you prepare job applications often and early on, you get in the groove of it. You get to see your cover letter, CV, resume, LinkedIn profile, and other materials in different perspectives over time. You figure out how to best organize your applications. And you get a whole lot better at it! Really, you do.
You Can Better Negotiate Your Current Salary
This one doesn’t even necessarily require the hard work of applying, interviewing, or getting an offer! Simply being aware of your qualifications and what kind of salaries are available allows you to better assess what you’re worth on the job market. Glassdoor.com is an excellent resource where you can compare typical salaries across companies for similar job titles. Read more on negotiating and be sure to check out other valuable resources before you set up a meeting to negotiate salary.
You Get to Meet and Interact (Read: NETWORK!) With People
We all know how important networking is before starting a job search, but the mere act of applying to jobs provides an opportunity to meet new people and companies that align with your goals. While interviewing certainly isn’t easy and requires a lot of preparation, it does provide a structured approach to meeting and connecting with others in your field.
In addition, prospective employers and recruiters often keep applicants in mind for future opportunities, even if they aren’t a 100% match for the job. This is especially true for phone conversations and in-person meetings!
It NEVER Hurts to Apply to Something, Even If It Might Not Work out in the End!!!!!
Keep your doors open and apply to those dream jobs that you think are a shot in the dark.
What’s the very worst case scenario if you apply to a job too early? Okay, the real worst case is that you don’t get a call (but you get practice applying). The second worst case is that they call you, you have a discussion about where you’re at in regards to graduating, and it doesn’t work out. That’s it! So apply to things early and frequently. You never know what doors might open for you!
If you are definitively NOT at the stage where you should be venturing toward the job market, there are a plethora of other important reasons to be proactive about your career planning.
Are there other good reasons to apply to jobs early and often? Tell us in the comments below!