Surviving B-School Placements

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a sleepless man (or woman) in possession of a good CV must be in want of a job.

Panic. Confusion. Anxiety. Sleeplessness. Anticipation. Hope. Euphoria. Relief.

If anybody has spent some time in a fairly competent b-school, they would know exactly what I am talking about. It’s again that time of the year when young hopefuls, with their nose buried under a pile of cheat-sheets, checklists and hacks line up the corridors and every nook and cranny of these giant brick walls where destinies are made every year.

Yes, I am talking about the most life-defining, earth-shattering, nerve-wracking experience that younglings at b-schools will have to endure, not once, but twice in the course of 18 months…PLACEMENTS. It is THE word that drives you to a b-school, is spoken the most by everyone around you (the constant buzzing of which you can’t ignore), and drives your every decision. By the time you realize the fatuity of all the idle rumination, the hushed whispers and the paranoia-inducing colourful charts on every report, you are sucked way too deep into the tumultuous vortex of the placement juggernaut.

Not long after you set foot on the grounds of the Institute of your moony-eyed dreams, you are not merely a spectator but an active participant of the veritable bedlam. You soon realize that Albus Dumbledore’s wise words of ‘You always have a choice’ rings hollow amid the surrounding din. The madness ushers you into a deep, dark chamber of worry, anticipation, and hope. The dementors of self-doubt raise their ugly heads, the relentless competition threatens to disarm you with its unforeseen arrival, but you brave on through the tempestuous surroundings with your cultivated vigour and wondrous exploits.

Unsolicited advice and suggestions become a part of your curriculum. Everyone you happen to come across, from your peers, seniors, professors, canteen- bhaiyas, chai walas, and well-wishers shower you with stories of profound enlightenment. You attend conclaves and talks of person ABC from company XYZ, you listen, smile and clap while calculating at the back of your head, the number of hours before you can hang your boots and go back to your happy place.

You can identify the exact moment when alarm bells start ringing. That’s the first instance when you are notified in a somber tone of a meeting with the most important people in the college a few days after your orientation, the meeting that will set the course for the rest of your stay in the institute. I know not why every meeting henceforth would start with a sound dressing down, but it’s a tradition that cannot and shall not be ignored. Meetings turn into confrontations, confrontations turn to earnest requests, which in turn take the shape of emotional appeals to ultimately lead to a well-oiled barter system of one act of goodwill against another. Negotiation Skills need not be a separate course you take – it is the most profound skill that will ensure your survival, especially against the slippery slope that forms the relationship with the placement team.

It’s also a time when boundaries are drawn, friendships are tested and new bonds are formed. Friends at night become foes during daylight. You learn the art of jugaad, a lesson no amount of Marketing Ps and Cs would give you. Adjacently you also discover other hidden talents such as a keen fascination for mnemonics, an affinity towards poetic and pristine parlance and the propensity of surviving on copious amounts of caffeine, nicotine, and adrenaline.

The D-day is just an oft-confusing climax to all that unfolds in between. A crucial step is the CV preparation and verification with irate students running helter-skelter all over, perfecting every comma and every full-stop in order to impress the all-mighty recruiter who customarily devotes a ginormous 10 seconds of his eagle-eyed vision on every CV he lays his hands on. That’s also the time you realize that your life until now has only been about eating and sleeping and so you go scavenging for that one extra line that you could add in your CV. This is especially true in the case of freshers. Trust me, I would know.

In the words of my friend, ‘messy is an understatement to describe the chaos surrounding the leviathan called b-school placements. The only way to survive would be to tackle the bull by the horns and keep your safety gear in place.’

By the time you arrive at the week that defines your destiny, you realize that the months of planning, preparation, lectures, mocks and verbose paragraphs of points eliciting your awesomeness all boils down to 2 or 3 standard questions; ‘Tell me about yourself’, ‘Why should we hire you?’ and ‘Where do you see yourself in X years?’. The D-Day feels like an overly long emotional Bollywood movie running multiple crescendos of cortisol-infused mass hysteria. In this eclectic jungle, you will find irate professors frowning at you from corners for daring to deprive them of their beauty sleep, dedicated servers tending to every request of your highness, the recruiter; the personal bodyguards stuck like glue by the side of the alumni hoping for a personal recommendation at his company, one overly nosey recruiter always snooping around to find what the competitor is doing and there will be those bureaucrats who you will continuously offend for serving Coke instead of Pepsi or Hide-n-Seek instead of Good-Day.

Then there will be you, amidst the cacophony of the surrounding milieu, shepherded from one room to another, frightened, anxious, overwhelmed and totally out-of-wits for a situation nobody warned you of. You will go through multiple rounds of grilling regarding your very existence; hear simultaneous cries of jubilation and swears from across the hall, witness nervous breakdowns from the toughest people you know, encounter conflicting emotions of hopefulness, paranoia, and anticipation until you feel yourself functioning in a parallel universe. As you prepare to enter your zone of quiet contemplation before your turn, you will be startled to irritation by the booming voice of another peer hoping to make a mark from somewhere far off in the GD room.

But brave on, my dear friend. Remember, that it’s just a day in your life and don’t fret too much about others, the confusing graphs on the walls and the fat stipends. The world beyond The Wall might terrify you with its unprecedented, unknown and undefined existence but you, Lord Commander, shall take charge and pave the way for your freedom.

This is but a small test in the big ocean of experiences lying ahead of you. Don’t let yourself get lost in the sea of expectations and self-doubts. Listen, but learn to filter. Hear and be heard. Learn and be learned. But most importantly, feel, experience, live, thrive – for your dreams, for your soul and for yourself.

To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”

Anatole France



Medha Chatterjee