B-schools in India, precisely the IIMs are mostly known for fat pay packages and hot corporate profiles. For an aspirant, getting into one of those hallowed portals of higher learning is an entry ticket to a life long assurance of fat paychecks. For parents and family members of the ones who managed to scrape through the rigors of a tough admission procedure aka CAT, it is a matter of prestige and immense pride.
The craze about these institutions is such that if some day God had to grant a wish, all Indians would have asked for reserved seats in IIT-IIMs for their sons and daughters. India, as a society values education and intellect. Therefore, every parent wants his/her children to focus more on education rather than ‘wasting’ time on sports and hobbies. I don’t say that education guarantees wisdom… but that is what the perception is here in our country.
Now, the point here is… I also, like countless many, did engineering and then got into a B-school. For most MBA students, the biggest aim is to end up with a dream job at the end of the course. There is nothing wrong in that… more so because a B-School takes a significant amount investment, both in terms of time and money.
Frankly speaking I was never really bothered about too much money or a very high profile job when I joined IIM Lucknow. But, there was one thing that I was very sure of… that I would like to have a career in marketing. Never did I budge or even think about anything else. Marketing interested me because it did and it still does… I don’t have any concrete reasons for my fondness towards this particular stream. You may attribute it to my phobia towards anything remotely connected to Finance, but the truth is that I never saw myself being a corporate bank manager or an Investment Banker.
Last year, the global meltdown started and slowly but gradually news started spreading that the Sub-prime crisis was actually something more serious than a mere conception of an Economist’s mind. Even then it was a common belief in campus that nothing severe would happen… The great Indian Elephant, as was a common argument in classroom discussions then, would shrug it off and move forward with minor scratches. After all we are an emerging economy and Indian financial system is known to be stable and well regulated.
Although people interested in finance were a little worried because deteriorating financial conditions in the West would mean that prospects of having jobs abroad would decrease, no one really thought that getting a dream profile would be tough. I was even less bothered because I thought marketing jobs would be aplenty with few takers, as was the case before. I, for that matter any one in my batch, was not helped by the fact that we had the best placements record in the previous batch. The expectations were already high.
The scene started changing when banks in the West started collapsing… Some divisions got closed… markets started falling… economic outlook became worse than ever. Some PPOs (Pre Placement Offers) of students from other campuses, mostly offered by foreign recruiters (finance) to summer interns were getting cancelled. The media also left no stone unturned in ballyhooing the stories. The ultimate panic button was finally pressed when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy on September 15th, 2008. Finance enthusiasts, for whom Lehman Brothers was like the Mecca of I-Banking, were unable to digest the news… there was a general sense of gloom in the campus.
Suddenly there was some sort of urgency in the air and people knew that nothing was going good with the job scene. It was a known fact that getting jobs was going to be difficult… profiles were going to be shitty and packages were going to be dicey.
The summers’ placements process of our juniors also confirmed the fact that things were not going in the right direction… There were no signs of the Global economy showing signs of recovery. News, mostly baleful ones, started spreading from here and there. Finally when our turn came to suit up and face the moment we had always been waiting for (although we had not been waiting for such a scene to come in the exact sense… but even then), we realized that most of us were caught unprepared.
The placements week came… Tension was palpable and gloom was in the air. The waiting rooms were full of unexpressed distressing human emotions… It was as if a mammoth dark cloud had turned the weather sullen… There were gleaming rays of sun, but those were not enough for 300 pairs of expectant eyes, which were fast losing hope on anything & everything around.
On a personal front, I found it very hard to get marketing shortlists. My entire two years were dedicated to creating a CV meant for a dream marketing profile… I don’t know what was wrong with my preparation but the lists which came out with my name on them were very few. The companies did not like my profile or probably they did not go through my resume… I don’t know! And there were companies where I was shortlisted but they were more than difficult to crack, however numbered such opportunities might have been.
I could not sleep the night before I got placed… I had stopped being sad by then. However one thing that saddened me was that I gave sleepless nights to my parents… I probably should not have told them about the placements because the more companies I was missing out on, the more concerned they were becoming…
Throughout the entire process I tried to be very composed and I actually was. There was some kind of optimism which probably flows from my inner self. But I was angry… and I was pissed with the situations surrounding all of us. What wrong did my batch do to face this…? We were doomed and I did not want to accept that.
There was one time though, when I was scared. That was when I was sitting in the waiting room for my day to start on the day I got placed. I probably got drifted into a mild sleep and that brought me some nightmares. I suddenly woke up sweating and realized that I did not have much time left to get a job in my hands. That was a ‘make or break’ day for me. Thankfully, in the end it was a good day for me. I got placed and felt it was ‘good riddance’ for me to be out of that quagmire. And I actually felt blessed to have a job in my hand.
Worse than my own situation were cases where people who saw more than 10-15 interviews and were yet not placed… I felt bad for them. For me, it was a case of wait and watch till my time came… For a lot, it was like go & face the interview only to be rejected in the last round. That probably hurt more…
The economy is slowly turning around. People are getting jobs… Summer placements have shown signs of recovery… companies are suddenly in the mood of recruitment. People from my batch will be looking for opportunities now. Some of our very bright minds had to settle for ‘poor’ jobs out of compulsion because they did not have any other options left in hand… It will be interesting now to see how the batch starts adapting and competing. Mind you, we will have to compete with experienced people and our juniors for the same set of jobs in the market. We might emerge as the greatest survivors but there is an equal chance of us being the ‘doomed batch’ forever. People have conflicting view points… Only time will tell!
P.S: The ‘week’ mentioned in the title refers to a B-school placement week. The post written here reflect entirely my personal views.