Summer Placements at Business Schools in India – Time for a Rethink?

One of the most important components of a Post Graduate Program in IIMs is the Summer internship – so crucial it is in the grander scheme of things that fresh students are brainwashed into getting paranoid about getting hired by the best brands. Some of the institutes also have a component of evaluation for the summer project, making it a crucial part of their program to work for. So the basic intent of a summer internship is provide students a dry run of being in the role of their choice. By the end of 2 months, the student is in a position to take a call about his experience at work, his compatibility with the profile, company and stream. It also helps a fresh pair of hands get a feel of how things work in an office – outside classroom and how she needs to condition herself in the coming 12 months. For the organization these 2 months serve in unlocking the potential of the candidate. It also helps them get a small organizational problem solved. Therefore ideally it shouldn’t matter where one has interned as long as the experience in fruitful and students have enough to substantiate their CV claims in interviews.

These 2 months of visibility are more effective in gauging the candidate than an interview, which is why some of the best companies have a strong Pre-Placement Offer/Interview Policy (PPO/PPI) and get the best hires – the motive behind good organizations having a structured program, a rigorous evaluation process which helps them choose the right people for the job.Since quite a few students have prior experience in IT and aspire to make a move across to other streams, a stint in their area of interest again makes sense. It helps them erase any preconceived notions about their line of work.

However the grind of summer-internship suffers from a few fatal flaws:

  • According to me an intern should be selected on the basis of his performance in Year 1 of MBA + his previous achievements. To the dismay of many, the Summer interviews are carried out after the 1st term. The interviews are mere formalities because the students are not expected to know much because they just have a spent a term. Considering this it might even be all the same if the process is conducted on the first day of college. Root cause – A structural shortcoming
  • Seniors play a part in spreading panic amongst the new batch by over emphasizing how important summer internships are. As a result herd mentality sets in and despite set goals to enter specific streams, all these plans fall flat and the entire batch typically ends up applying to every good brand that comes for hiring interns rather than focusing on their preferred roles. Essentially it is another battle where brand wins over rationality. This results in a scenario later where students are not interested in their projects which means lesser PPOs and more pressure on the placements committee during the final placements. Not to mention it has the potential to ruin relationships with companies. Root cause – Senior batches
  • After a grueling first year, a few lazy souls consider these 8 weeks as an opportunity to chill out(read: lose focus), forgetting that they are the ambassadors of their respective institutes. Instead of being proactive, they fritter away a great chance to network with the organization and its people & to showcase their capabilities thus defeating the purpose of an internship Root Cause – The Students.
  • Organizations who see interns as just temporary labor-force to get mundane tasks done are the ones who use their interns poorly. These organizations end up taking heat as far as perception of the company goes in campus – this is in an age where HR departments have a separate function for Campus engagements. These are one of the key points discussed by 2nd year students when they orient the joiners about summer-internships. All in all companies end up wasting cash and raw talent! Root Cause – the Talent and Campus teams of organizations with such policies

My suggestions

  • For new joiners: Students need to know the importance of learning in life. Most of us will have to keep on learning all our life at work for just survival and a summer internship is just the beginning. One of our alumnus, who started out at a lesser known organization like Zensar and now a very senior personnel at Mckinsey. said something interesting, “No matter how small an organization you may work in, there are always some really brilliant people who are present and it is up to you to reach out to them , learn from and build relationships with them”. Being a good brand-ambassador is also such an important quality of an intern. Just as one expects to reap the rewards of brand IIM, it is up to each individual to work hard towards building the credibility that one wants the organization to see in her and her institute.
  • For senior students: Guys, just because you blew it don’t get that negativity into your junior batch. Before any venture, one is always advised to keep a fresh mind. Therefore I don’t see a reason to burden the eager and enthusiastic minds of the new batch being killed by the sardonic orientation of the senior batch. Friendly advice/gyaan is appreciated but should be tread with utmost care because we have our own biases. Remember, there is a thin line between advising and influencing.
  • For companies: Short-term vision has never brought prosperity to any organization and it applies to campus engagement (read: summer internships included). HR managers will surely understand the benefits of having a structured internship experience. An apprehensive mind of an intern is made at ease with such a program with an assurance that assignments will be given on time, reviewed periodically and assessed fairly. From various discussions with B-school students, it seems quite evident that for an intern who doesn’t have enough time to adjust to an alien environment a structured environment proves more efficient and brings about positive association with her experience. Slotting of the internship interviews could be better arranged and interviews could be more relevant. All of it requires a grand overhaul of the current arrangements.
  • For institutes: As a concept, winter internships are more appealing and make more sense in terms of selection process because the students absorbed in companies are generally final placements. This results in more serious involvement from both the students and companies – not to mention the increased industry exposure. The flipside is reduced classroom time but then quite a few companies anyways have their own training programs and require students to unlearn what they learn in B-school. A winter internship may or may not be a replacement for the summer internship but certainly can be a worthy addition

– Charan Iyengar

(The author is an alumnus of IIM Kozhikode – Class of 2011 and has worked as a Technology analyst at HSBC and JPMorgan in the past. He is a consultant with Wipro Consulting Services)

Charan Iyengar

The writer is an alumnus of IIM Kozhikode - Class of 2011 and has worked as a Technology analyst at HSBC and JPMorgan in the past. He would be a consultant with Wipro Consulting Services

Comments

8 comments

CSH

I agree with your point that certain companies lack a structural and dedicated approach to summer internships (both in selection and internship phase), presence of which will definitely help in maximizing benefits derived by both the parties. Unfortunately, that's the only part of the article that made any sense to me.

Initially you suggest that internship is an important learning process which effectively augments the classroom learning by giving you some hands-on approach. But then you go ahead and make a suggestion like "winter internship" which appears to side-step this philosophy and act as pseudo-selection process for final placement. In such a case, how do you intend to address a student's desire to apply only for large and well-known organization, since you are implying that such winter internships will lead to employment in respective organizations.

I think we need to face some harsh truths here:

a) Summer internships, while do provide some learning experience, have lost their ideal form. They are either approached as mandatory requirements (as you correctly mention) or as a stepping stone for final recruitment. Had they been a more holistic in approach, students would have been required to look for their own learning avenues by asking them to approach the companies on their own (as is the practice in many b-schools in western countries)

b) Brands matter. While there are many stories of people moving from smaller companies to bigger ones, the fact remains that starting your career or for that matter doing an internship at a major firm distinguishes both you professional and personal growth. Had brands not mattered, people wouldn't have hogged so much for getting into an IIM.

c)Seniors are really our only way of getting any knowledge about how any selection process (internship or finals) works. And please realize that the seniors people would seek advise from won't be the ones who "blew it" but those who "made it". Yes, the students must employ a "caveat emptor" attitude when following such advice, and smart ones do exactly that. They know how to best extract helpful information from all that has been laid out in front of them.

d)Summer internship interviews are not "mere formalities". I don't know why this myth is propagated so much; may be this is also a reason why many students are not well prepared when facing the company. I appeared for at least 4 interviews of major companies during summers selection and none of them was remotely a cakewalk. While certain people might have experienced lighter interviews, it is wrong to assume that this is the norm.

A note to site owner/moderator: While it is understandable that you wish to establish credentials of your authors, use of name of corporations implies some sort of professional input to have gone into this writing. I'd suggest that you either not use direct names and only describe the author's occupation (e.g. consultant at a major Indian business consulting firm) or at least add a disclaimer saying that "the views expressed here are entirely personal".

Charan Iyengar

@CSH, thank you for your views…some more points as a reply

a. A suggestion for a winter internship is just an add-on because of the structure of the PGP program. Unless there is consensus by IIMs and companies overhauling the system is going to be impossible. Hence a winter internship (an addition) seems more viable. However I never mentioned that it solves the shortcomings of summer internship.

b. Brands matter – but to what end? It is again the concept of someone failing once at Std X and never getting an opportunity to standup. Ideally looking for brands as an option is a lackadaisical approach by us, practitioners and recruiters to sidestepping the interview process. Isn't it really about the cover of the book and not content. Sadly marketing has overthrown that concept and made brand as the sole motivator. Remember, IIMs are a brand for a reason. Quality students. No one judges you by your face but by your actions.

c. I would totally second this one. People are more forthcoming that what you imagine. They would like to know what went right from the people who 'made' it and what went wrong from the people who 'blew' it. That's how you get the whole picture. Sadly if you go to people who 'made' it you could only get a hunky-dory picture and probably end up as an under-prepared candidate as you correctly mentioned.

d. Interviews not being mere formalities are far and few in between and that too for those companies who are really serious about their interns – again the same thing I've been harping about throughout. Take your interns seriously! For a good no. of companies it is a mere joke. And let us talk about the majority and not some handful of companies because my article wishes to make a generalization and not based on those few elite companies (they are on the right track so to speak).

Ankit Doshi

I do not mind if Summer Internships are academic in nature. But the truth is that they are not. For a lot of people 3 months in to an IIM, their career path is decided or they decide it themselves. Think about it, you start properly in July…by November you're in the best companies even before you've gone beyond your basics.

It's the companies who are having a party here. The only thing that matters to them is if a person has cleared the CAT. I'm sure companies will recruit in July if given an option. I don't think they care what is taught in the institute or the quality of the education. They just want aptitude.

A summer internship is totally pointless for people with over 2-3 years of work experience…if your argument is that they do it in a different domain…sorry 40 days is too less a time to know anything about a company or to decide whether you'll like working in a new domain

According to me, it should be made optional or people should be allowed to do other stuff like working in a NGO, doing workshops etc.

Charan Iyengar

People should be allowed to pursue internships in offbeat fields and more importantly they shouldn't be judged in their finals based on their internship. This is one of the biggest negative fallout that students are warned when they intern at smaller company.

And as you say that before people move beyond basics they are placed, it says a lot about how companies end up feeling about b-schools. For them the 2 years of education doesnt matter, it is just the brand which counts. Also, when a person gets a PPO, she has the license to just spit over the entire program and make merry for the rest of the 2nd year.

Kartik Vyas

About Winter Internships: They do make a lot of sense, but sadly the only Top B-school that used to have it – NITIE has apparently decided to scrap it.

sandeep iyengar

Thank You Charan for a good insight….

I am joining XLRI BM this year..

The areas of further articles in this regard we would like to eagerly see from you would be

1)How do we decide which field we would like to intern in… wat qualities are necessary for particular fields..

2)Nature of interview in summer intern

Also is there any PM facility that i could contact you charan i had a few personal queries to ask.. could you pls mail ur mail id to the mail id i submitted here

Nice work insideiim and team