"You will be alright, (eventually) even if you don't get into XYZ company. It doesn't have to mean the end of anything." "I know, but the more time that goes by, I feel that I'm getting more mentally and emotionally invested in the process, in the possibility of what my life will become in this company. There's a part of me that started making plans of all kinds about that moment of when I know I've got in, the things I could do once I'm there... It's the shattering of all that, that will hurt- the knowledge that the things I gave up in pursuit of this job was for nothing."
The Placement season is a period of our B-School lives that most of us would look back upon with mixed memories because of the palace of illusions that we build, aided by the people and situations around us. If I had to break up the whole experience, I think the parts most of us got wrong had something to do with the following five factors, which naturally are subject to variation:
- The placement committee viewpoint: At the core of it, any Placecom essentially consists of a group of humans, in varying shades of grey. While a lot has been said of their ethics, we have to remember that it was the batch that decided they were fit to be entrusted with this responsibility. In the myriad of emotions we feel during the placement, it is natural to feel envious or maybe even betrayed by them for the information at their disposal or the contacts and skills they gain over the course of the season, but we often overlook the trade-off they make in terms of time and effort to get good companies to recruit candidates quickly. This isn't to say that there won't be a couple of seriously unfit people, but that there will be a few members who will try to take the best possible option for themselves, and yet have the decency to be candid enough to provide an explanation about reasons for shortlisting, finer details of a role, expected numbers to be recruited etc. in a way that is not unnecessarily fear-inducing. In this regard, it would be fair to compare a B-school with its appropriate peer to see where the placements stand with regard to the companies visiting campus and the roles offered, not the CTC. At the end of it all, it is when the batch understands their collective responsibility in the bigger picture of placements will things like attending PPTs professionally, participating in corporate competitions and attempting interviews with maturity, fall into place.
- The application decision: As much as we wish that bounded rationality did not exist, there are leaps of faith we take while applying for companies. We all usually have a plan B, but where we do get tripped up are things which are not in our hands. It's likely that we base our application or non-application on the past year's record. What we don't realise is that, much like the stock market, the past doesn't guarantee the future. If we take risks, we've got to be prepared for a negative turn of events.
- Interview questions: In the interview room, our brains don't function at their normal speed. So, when (at the end of the interview), we are asked if we have any questions, we actually can and should clarify queries we might have regarding the location, details of the role or incentive plan, the growth path envisioned by the management, possibility of a role switch internally etc. It is very important to realise that these questions need to be asked politely and possibly conversationally.
- Information is the key, backed up by technical knowledge: Having the GPA and the basic technical questions covered is one part of cracking interviews. The other and often overlooked part is actually garnering information about the job. Things such as the following:
- What does the role entail, day in and day out? Try to get a sense of your KRA.
- What are your working hours and what is the culture like?
- What's the credentials of your peers and superiors?
- What challenges are you likely to expect when you join?
- Where are your opportunities likely to open up post a certain amount of experience in the company. Which roles and companies have your alums moved to from this company?
- Details of the selection process itself. How many candidates are they looking to hire and what are they testing during the process? Based on the rapport you build with the contact, you can get as specific as questions you could expect in the interview.
These contacts could be your alumni, friends in other B-Schools, PlaceCom members, connections on LinkedIn, Professors etc.
- Friends turning into competition is a silly idea: It's obviously a weird situation when in a group, a couple of friends get placed really early, or in good roles versus the friends that get placed later or in quite lower-paying roles. You see, the time of waiting before people actually start going for their jobs is where the trouble starts. That's because it's a delicate time where most people don't really know what to do with their time. From my experience, a lot of earlier placed friends became assets for their later placed friends because the placed friends could be delegated tasks like scanning the newspapers for the company, pulling out information from other B-school contacts, and generally boosting morale. During that time, the unplaced people could focus on their profile and brushing up their subject knowledge. However, the friends you choose to open up in front of will matter the most.
So what if you do end up in the bottom 40%ile? A lot of the time, it is in no way an indicator of your profile's quality or employability. It could be because of your experience or interested domain. In that case, you have to have the endurance to wait and prepare yourself better while overcoming the self-doubt you will likely confront. As far as the assumptions you might have of your peers' placements, wait for the test of time to prove who is actually relatively satisfied with their jobs. If you can, try to remember your responsibility to your alma mater and your juniors, as you navigate the complex web of finding fulfilment in the corporate world.
May the force be with you!