This is that time of the year when almost every first year MBA student is either placed, waiting for a shortlist or simply preparing for his/her summer placements since a pre-process can happen anytime. Phew, glad that I have passed that time and am chilling in second year now. But as I see my juniors today getting all worked up and treating getting-summer-placements as a ‘make or break’ situation, I wonder if it is all worth it.
Let’s start by analyzing what a student goes through in the first term of his MBA journey. So you have got admission in a B-school after loads of hard work. And once you come to the campus, you realize that first term is literally crazy with a student being required to juggle among heavy academic schedules, company presentations and clubs’/committees’ selection processes. As if this wasn’t enough, one is usually given so much of ‘gyaan’ on preparing for summer placements both officially and unofficially that one is bound to think this is how your success in a B-school is defined. And of course the pressure starts to build up when you hear that ‘chacha/uncle/maasi’ ka ‘ladka/ladki’ having graduated from a particular B-school in some year and doing so well because “Oh you know he/she interned with XYZ Co., got a PPO , is earning well and doing so well in life!” . Basically you might be made to believe that if you get a ‘good’ (who defines this exactly?) summer placement your life is set else it is doomed!
Great, so sometimes people around us already define that getting placed on day 0 and then getting a PPO is what defines you as ‘successful’ in a B-school and even in corporate life too. Okay, so let’s talk logic here.
Summer placements are nothing but a way for students to get an opportunity to apply whatever management theories they have learned so far, to experience what it is like to work in a corporate set-up and moreover to see whether they like a particular area (finance/HR/consulting etc) and hence want to make a career in it or not.
Yes, that’s it and that’s how summer placements should be looked at. It is the beginning of your career and not the end of it. It is meant to give you exposure and you are meant to learn as much as you can. No, it doesn’t determine where you will be after 10 years from now. Look around and see for yourself if you don’t believe me. But you can only make sense out of what you will be seeing if you stop getting trapped in the ‘hype’ being created around you, take a deep breath and just use your common sense!
Moving on, a lot of times one is clear what type of placement one wants and considers ‘good’. This means that one might not get placed on day 0 because the company one wants to get into may not come on day 0. But, as soon as one sees a friend / a batch mate getting placed on day 0 one simply wonders ‘how can he/she get placed or get placed before me or in XYZ company?’. So you basically turn into a typical Indian ‘padosi’ who just can’t mind his/her own business and has to poke nose in others’. Please refrain from doing this. Have faith in yourself and have clarity as to which internship will serve best for your career path. Nobody is better positioned than you are, to decide that.
Also, please have a plan B. It, in all probability, may not be needed to be exercised but it is required to be relieved of ‘what if I don’t get placed?’ syndrome and to rather shift your efforts to ‘better preparation’. A common plan B is ‘to get placed off campus’. You may do this by dropping resumes on different company websites and/or use your own/ parents’ personal contacts. Now, getting placed from campus gives one immense satisfaction and a feeling of self-pride but it is absolutely okay to get placed from outside the campus. It should give you the same feeling because it requires same (perhaps more) amount of efforts and preparation since even your personal contacts can sometimes only send your ‘resume’ to the HR and rest is determined by how you perform in the selection process. Let me repeat, getting placed off-campus is not a matter of shame and it is rather shameful if people consider it to be that way.
Lastly, I want to share a couple of tips which have mostly worked for me and the people I have shared them with. If even a few of them work for you I guess my purpose of writing this is fulfilled.
- Talk to yourself before you go for an interview. Your interview prep should involve writing/ talking (say through mock interviews) about your own self. You should always have a list of at least 5 things ready that define you and make you ‘interesting’. You can consult your friends and family (since they know you better than you think) to jot down the list or to confirm about things you have already jotted down. Your attempt should always be to plug in these points in any of your interview answers (for questions like ‘Introduce yourself’, ‘why you?’, ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses’ etc.) no matter what.
- An extension to the above point- Have a list of at least 10 strengths and 3 weaknesses ready and one instance each to justify every point. Please remember that all of us will mostly have similar strengths like ‘hardworking’, ‘good communication skills’ etc. but which instance you give to support them is what makes us different. I have observed that a lot of time people strive to form ‘unique’ strengths in order to impress the interviewer but they end up making a fool of themselves usually. Refrain from doing this.
- Have a buddy/mentor who knows you well personally and can give you both professional and personal advice specific to you. You may find him/her in your parent, sibling, professor, college senior etc. but do have one and stick to him/her for all sorts of advices. Ensure that you pick a good buddy/mentor and then stick to him/her.
- Have at least one pep-talk friend. This becomes especially important during summers since there is a lot of pressure and tension all around and everybody has same set of discussions. This friend should be the one you go-to when you feel low and/or need motivation in life. He/she should be the one you can confidently confide in, who doesn’t judge you and knows you and your plans in and out. This friend can be again a parent, friend, sibling, teacher etc. and it would be great if it is not somebody from your B-school at least not from your batch (for obvious reasons).
- Have your priorities clearly set. Sit down, think over them, have drafts and finally have a list ready but do spend time on this and literally freeze the list once you have thought enough. This is going to help you when you feel low, confused or directionless. You might make changes to this but you should have a solid reason for making these changes. Eg- in a B-school, at least during first year, you might choose one out of or decide an order of priority for –academics, positions of responsibility and summer placements and then work accordingly.
- Always remember that any institute (especially a B-school) is what you make of it. It can only give you opportunities but it is up to you as to how to use them. No two people will ever have similar (forget same) experiences at and/or learnings from an institute. Moreover, your list of priorities(mentioned above) will help you choose which opportunity to grab and which one to let go because remember ‘time’ is the most precious resource you have in a B-school and you just can’t afford to waste it in trying almost everything out.
- Dress well for your interviews. It not only gives you more self-confidence but also helps in making a good first impression. It (unconsciously) conveys a feeling to the other person that he/she and his/her time is important to you. Please note that you don’t have to be a fashionista but you need to wear things that make you feel comfortable and look smart.
- It always helps to give mock interviews because no matter how well you prepare you need to see if you have a presence of mind and are not simply busy vomiting out whatever you have prepared (despite what the question is). Please ensure you give this interview to an experienced person and not simply to any friend, batch-mate or senior you come across. You may want to utilize mock interview sessions organized by various committees of your B-school for this.
- Please be honest in your interview. You are all that you have. At the cost of being philosophical I would want to reiterate that you can afford to let go a company which wasn’t convinced with your life’s truths but not afford to get into a company which doesn’t have same ideology as yours. Have a long term perspective. Moreover, you may end up forming great relationships (trust lays the foundation of any relationship, right?) even if you don’t get into some company. Remember we all came here to build ‘network’?
- Show genuine interest in the company and in the role. Don’t fake it. Just as it is always possible to find something good and something bad in a person, it is always possible to do the same for a role offered. You just need to get rid of your pre-conceived notions and genuinely be interested in a role before saying ‘no’ to it.
- “Stud admi hota hai, uski naukri nahi!”- This is something that my buddy has always taught me and never fails to mention whenever I have to make my career decisions (hence I would again want to emphasize on the important of having a buddy/mentor). Work hard but don’t take stress. Have faith in yourself and your destiny. In fact, don’t make a habit out of choosing what feels good over what’s actually good for you.
- Choose wisely whom you take advice from. In our country, in my opinion, one thing is for free and given without even you asking for it- ADVICE. So, it is very important for you to choose whom you take your advices from. To be specific, you might be tempted to take advice from a senior in college but remember he/she too is just one year old and has his/her own struggles (often which are similar to yours). So it is better to take advices and then use your own brain and heart to customize them for yourself or to completely disregard them than blindly following whatever advices come your way.
And (please give this analogy a serious thought once before you start laughing at it), ‘getting a job’ is like ‘getting married’. It is all about finding the right match or the right ‘fit’ (as it is called in management). There is a right company for you in which you would stay happy. A top company may be very attractive (read it as a handsome man or a beautiful woman) and/or may give a very fat pay cheque (read it as a filthy rich boy or a girl) but it may not be the one for you. You might just not end up being happy. So strive to find the company you are made for and which is made for you instead of getting into the rat race blindly. By the way the good news is that though life partner is one the companies that are meant for you are many. 😀
All the very best! J