I am a college senior, planning to graduate this upcoming May. I am reasonably worried about the current job market and I am eager to get a jump start on my search. I am concerned about how soon is too soon to begin contacting companies before I am able to immediately fill a position.
Is it appropriate to begin contacting companies this early? Would it build positive contacts and possibly lead to job opportunities when I graduate or would it be more likely to annoy them? I do not want to waste any company's time, but many of my friends who graduated last year still do not have jobs in their field and I don't want to share their fate.
What is my best course of action at this point?
Most experts agree beginning a job search four to six months prior to graduation is a good an ideal time frame. It's not too early to annoy hiring managers and it should give you sufficient time to find something. If possible, try to get a part-time internship with an agency (I assume you are planning to go into PR). Many times these internships turn into full-time positions and if not, you have spent several months building a network of PR professionals who have contacts in other agencies and companies who could recommend you for any other entry-level positions.
With five months left until graduation, you should start building those relationships and being proactive. Go to your local networking events, Meetups and Tweetups, and ask for informational interviews with companies you would like to work for. Just because a company isn't posting their open jobs doesn't mean there isn't something available. Work on building your online networks and continue to develop those relationships off-line.