February is well upon us. The winter chill is receding, the fun and frolic of night-time is moving away from the confines of cosy hostel rooms to terraces and the open spaces outside tuck-shops. Students are finally shedding wolf-skins, furs and other garb better suited to Himalayan expeditions and daring to walk to class without looking like creatures on their way to hibernation.
The ability to distinguish friend from furry critter is certainly a big positive, but that isn’t the only reason the shortest month in the Gregorian calendar (with no offense meant to those who find other calendar variants better) finds itself awarded a place of high honour in a B-school student’s life. For February is the month of jobs, where all those unlucky buggers who couldn’t wrangle a pre-placement offer and the ones from whose eyes the scales of entrepreneurship have fallen with the rise in their loan interest payments, come together in a Royal Rumble to fight it out over the plum (and oft-times less than so) tasks that greedy, evil corporates would deign to pay them for doing. (As a side-note, the wrestling reference feels quite valid as most Group Discussions would look the same if you gave the participants sledgehammers, steel chairs and tables instead of pens and notepads. Companies should actually start charging admission fee for these ‘events’.)
All that being said, the placement process is of vital importance. It’s a culmination of your two-years in the institute, if not of everything you may have accomplished or learned in that time. At the risk of repeating what many others have said in the past, the process should not be considered a measure of one’s ability. It’s often a random throw of the dice where the capriciousness of luck and felicity may help you find the recruiter in a better mood or be asked the exact same question you had mugged the night before and tip the balance in your favour. Of course there is a lot that rests on the individual; presenting yourself in a flattering light, having the fortitude to go through process after tiresome process, not letting your shoulders droop after being rejected by the organization that you most wanted to work for; these are some of the most critical factors that decide whether you can make it out on your own no matter how battered you are, or if the cycle will chew you up and spit you out.
Having just witnessed the conclusion of such a cruel process from the relatively comfortable vantage of not being a participant (and thanking my stars for it every time I glimpsed a look of disappointment flash across a face), I saw much of all that I mentioned above and more. There were tired feet and haggard faces. There were smug looks at landing yourself in one of the elite and also sighs of relief at just making it out of the process with adequate offers. There was disappointment at failing yet another interview and the determination to trudge on to the next one. There were people offering support where needed and some who were better suited in the privacy of their rooms. There were tears and there were tantrums. And there was happiness, tinged sometimes with a hint of dissatisfaction.
I may be termed a pessimist for saying it, but for me the true wickedness of the process (some may call it a great leveller) is that it ensures there are no real winners. The names in the list of the most-desired companies are less than numerous and haven’t changed much over the long years. They deign to hire a few from the plethora of applications that they receive, and leave the others to fight it out over the middle-tier companies that follow. Thus, the majority of students are compromisers – they tried their luck at landing those ‘top’ offers (often half-heartedly), couldn’t make it, and therefore settled with something else, with the aspirations to move on to those yearned-for places as soon as possible. It’s rare for a person to analyse before the process whether he/she would actually fit in with the company they’re pining for.
And this is our biggest failure, our blindness in the face of peer pressure and the desire to satisfy the egos (and spirits) of our ancestors who have always wanted to see us working in the biggest places so the joy may ease their passing to the other side (they don’t pass on though, first you need to get married and have a gaggle of kids). For the time being, they derive pleasure from lording your great achievement over the neighbours and accepting their congratulations muttered along with thin-lipped smiles.
But maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel after all. The newer trend is the majority of fresh hires changing jobs within the first two years of joining, including those who got the ‘best’ campus offers. Reasons include more money, more independence, better work culture, or the desire of some braver souls to strike out on their own. And the realization has not been lost on many aspirants today. Some of the biggest smiles I saw during the post-placement celebrations were from people who had ditched the elite, and opted instead for younger, leaner start-ups.
The way placements pan out over the next few seasons will make for some interesting reading, and hopefully some heartening new trends.
For now though, congratulations to those who have got their job offers and all the best to those gearing up for the battle.
And remember, Don't Panic and Carry a Towel.
Nadeem is still trying to make sense of Life, the Universe and Everything now coming to the end of his wonderful MBA journey. You can read more of his work at nadeemraj.insideiim.com
He's an amateur storyteller at 42shadesoctarine.wordpress.com