I’m still an undergraduate student. I don’t live in NYC, and I can’t start a job until May. Does that mean I have to wait until I can move to NYC to look for jobs? Will publishing houses go through the application process with current undergrads?
Most everyone has this problem, regardless of field, unless they happened to go to college in the same town they want to start their careers in.
First, while there are a lot of other things you can be doing to prepare for job hunting, there's not much purpose in starting to actually apply for jobs, until you're about 2.5 months out from graduation. So for Elaine Ruth, that means she can start in March (she graduates mid-May). In this industry, particularly for entry-level jobs, once you've been offered a job, they'd really like for you to start in about two weeks. They can be a little more flexible, up to a month, especially if you're moving, but if you need more than that, they're probably going to go with someone else. Entry-level publishing jobs are all being someone's assistant. When they get to the part of the hiring process where they're making someone an offer, the position has already been vacant for at least a month. And being someone's assistant, while important, isn't brain surgery, and there are a lot of other people who can do it so they're unlikely to hold it. It's a sad fact but it's also important if you don't want to find yourself with pulled offers and an unreasonable start date you can't comply with.
Not being in NYC is also, obviously, tricky. While it's possible to have a few phone interviews, the majority will want to meet the candidates in person. And companies don't pay for people to fly in for entry-level interviews. That means it's going to be on your own dime. I have found decent last-minute flights, and I recommend The Pod Hotel as reasonably priced and located in Manhattan. It's small, no-frills, with most rooms having a bathroom down the hall. Talk to the career center at your school. Are there any English majors from last year who are in NYC? Anyone you can crash with for a night or two? (Keep in mind, you might have to have more than one interview—and no, not back-to-back so you might need to make more than one trip for a single job opening.) Figure out what your budget is. Job hunting expenses are tax deductible so keep track of everything. (So are costs for moving for a job!) I was able to stay for a week with a friend who was attending grad school at Princeton University and commute in from New Jersey every day. Another friend in Manhattan let me crash on her couch when I was apartment-hunting. But on more recent trips, I did The Pod.
You no longer need to put your address on your resume. Really, it isn't a necessary field. And everyone these days keeps their old cell phone number so it's very common in NYC, especially with twenty-somethings, for an out-of-state area code to mean nothing. Although you can also set up a Google Voice number with a NYC area code. You can even use a friend's address (if you clear it with her first) although be judicious with this as you don't later want to say you need four weeks since you also have to find an apartment and move, and have them giving you side-eye, thinking you lied on your resume about living here. Do note that your graduation date is "expected," as that ought to clue them in (but not highlight it).
Talk to your parents. Talk to your career center. Talk to your friends in the city. See if there's an alumni Facebook group you can join for NYC. Get on LinkedIn and look up recent grads from your college that live in NYC. If you went to a small college, you can even hit up virtual strangers who went to your college to see if they know of anyone subletting a room/with a sofa to spare/have a spare room themselves. Be wary of Craigslist listings as NYC is ground zero for scams.
The way the time frame works is that you don't want to try to find a closing date for a job listing and wait until then to apply. You want to apply as soon as you see an opening that fits for you. Hiring managers and HR tend to look at applications as they come in, and when they have enough good candidates, pull the listing. They tend to bring candidates in for 2-3 interviews (some do just one but more companies do at least two). Depending on the time of year and schedules, it can take about a month for the hiring process. That's why you really don't want to start earlier. In fact, 2.5 months is even a bit far out, but some companies' processes do move more slowly.
Another option is to not job hunt now. If you had a reliable summer job at home that will have you back, and if your parents will let you crash at home, it's not a bad idea to not job hunt on top of finishing up college. Go home and work your summer job. Save money. Apply for jobs in the fall. There are more openings then and less competition. And you don't have the worries of exams/honors theses/finishing school on top of job hunting, which is already a stressful experience by itself. Postponing for 3-4 months would not be a bad thing at all, and at least it's a good back-up plan in case things don't work out in the spring.
The timing won't work out perfectly. Resign yourself to that fact now. You might have more time at home after graduation than you'd thought. You might have a job fall into your lap that wants you to start before graduation! You might end up crashing on that friend's couch in the city for longer than planned. The only thing you can know for sure is that it won't go the way you'll ideally like it to.