Wake Me Up When You’re Done

(Warning: long post.
Disclaimer: Views are completely my own and independent of any of my personal and professional associations)


Another season of recruiting is almost about to come to an end. And this season again, I had the privilege of interacting with our bet for the future (the IITs, IIMs, etc.)

Lest people call me a pessimist, let me call out the positives first. The resumes and the interests these young students have are a lot more varied. The number of funny little clubs and posts held by students has increased too. And I have been pleasantly surprised to find a large number of them actually doing some work as part of those responsibilities. People have, generally speaking, started being better at speaking the working language- English. Their spoken English has improved with the advent of sitcoms like Friends and Two-and-a-half-men. They are more ambitious. And now, I think I am stretched too thin.

I have gradually come to hate campus recruiting. Companies have lost it (with 10-minute interviews to select, hoarding students in a corner so that other companies cannot meet them, etc.). And students have totally lost it (most of them come unprepared, with a lot of attitude, and want life to served to them on a platter). But most importantly, it reinforces my belief that our education system has become dumber since I graduated (and it wasn’t smart then either). The number of students who walk in and give you the impression that they are a mistake (on the part of their campus and their own self) and that they just don’t deserve to be sitting in that room has increased. I remember back in 2004-05 or so, campus interviews used to be more exciting and challenging, because the choice between really smart cookies who are passionate enough to give it their best shot was an interesting problem for us. It was a problem of plenty. These days, we have loads of people who might have been smart in 2004-05, but have since decided that they are done being smart or hardworking. Now they want things to be served on a platter to them, by Google or Facebook preferably. More people retweet than have their own share of links to share.

Anyway, based on the last few years, here is what I would suggest to the future breed of students. Assuming that they are not all about – I am god’s gift to humanity and I need to be treated such. And that being someone who looks at them from the other side of the table, I might have a couple of valuable inputs to offer.

1. Be realistic. Consulting/ Private Equity etc. are glamorous, but across the premier firms, the best case scenario is that some 60-80 people from your campus are going to be placed in these firms. At an IIT, it means only 8-10% of the people. And that’s the best case. Are you likely to be one of them? What have you done to deserve it? Before you ask questions like “why do you only look at grades?” and reveal that you don’t have good grades, ask yourself questions like “what have I done that tangibly differentiates me from others” or “What are the three reasons that a company X should hire me for?”. And, those reasons need to be NOT something that your entire campus will quote as differentiators.

2. Prepare. If it isn’t too much effort, do not watch the 55th rerun of Friends or Two-and-a-half-men or something like that. Instead spend an hour talking to your seniors about the interviews they had and what worked and what did not work for them. If you follow step 1 well, then your target list of companies cannot be more than 15-20 company long. Across 3-4 years, taking out 15-20 hours to read about these companies should not be a big effort. Assuming that the games, and EPL/F1 schedules allow you to. I know there is so much to invest time on and so little time.

3. Prove that you are smart enough to not repeat like everyone else – I want to do consulting because I am a good problem solver, and it offers me a lot of variety. The number of times field consultants may end up being at the same client for 3-5 years is not funny. Many senior Partners build successful careers by helping grow relationships at a single client by being that credible partner who is not bored of going back to the same client and solving their problems. Also, many-a-times, the job is about doing things right over and over again for a very long period of time, without losing your patience with a client, and that problem solving that gives you the kick in consulting, may end up being about 10% of the first 5 years of your life. Possible. Thought about it? Never? Why?

4. Learn to speak well. That guy next to you who occasionally talks in good and proper English (even on Facebook) is not pansy. Not even a “chom”. He or she probably has a better chance of having a more client ready conversation than you. Unfortunate, but the fact is that your ability to have a good conversation is about two things – listening first, and speaking second. Not speaking first, and not listening because you are the smarter one and can get away with not listening properly. Practice. In front of a mirror at times. Take those opportunities to be in front of an audience. And don’t worry too much about the “accent”. Even your bihari or tamil or bong or gujju or dally accent is fine, as long as you speak slowly, and clearly.

5. Be humble. God, in his infinite wisdom, has let so many people take birth that most of us have not bothered to keep the count of (unless we are doing market sizing). And while most of us are so, there are precious few of us who deserve to be treated as god’s gift to humanity. The person who is interviewing you from the other end has almost as much a right to be that gift, as you do. And both of you have no such rights, by the way. A 5-50lakh job does not make either of you extra special. So, stop acting like a snob. Give respect, get respect. That open button, that loose tie (bad knots), unclean shirt, unshaven look, punk dishevelled hair, etc. – yeah, we all were thirteen once!

6. A job is a relationship. If you did not get through, the company did not deserve you (in a good or bad way) and you did not deserve the company. If you want it badly, analyze and prepare again. Keep knocking politely. If it was just a backup, move on. Companies act big because you’ve made them something bigger than what they are. Just as IIT/ IIM students tend to act big, because companies have made them bigger than they are. In a relationship, both the parties commit and invest. Show your investment first before you expect the other party to invest.

7. Likewise, a job interview is an interaction. People ask you cases because they experience cases. People ask you mundane questions because life, in general, has a lot of mundaneity. Do you know how many times a Partner in a consulting firm might have to answer that dumb question – tell me something about yourself” in a day? With new clients, to new people, at new forums, without being prompted with a question, they always introduce themselves in a way that makes it interesting and relevant for starting a good conversation. Give a cue. Get people interested in your story. It’s your chance to sell your abilities and fit with your client (the interviewer). It’s ok to flirt without being cheesy or corny. Show your wit without rubbing it off snobbishly. Be relaxed, but not frivolous.

8. PLEASE set right expectations with your parents and yourself. Those newspaper articles that suggest a 70L salary to a B.Tech graduate etc, we know the truth, right? 2 people across forty three thousand five hundred colleges mass producing over a million engineers every year? Dollar salaries multiplied by 50? Median salary of the batch is still 6-8 lakhs at an IIT, I believe? On an average, an average person cannot be better than the average. Also, you were better than the average to get inside a premier college. That does not mean that you are still better than the average in the lot that you are studying with now. Chances are that more than half of you will be below average (not median), assuming pareto rule applies. So, if your parents and your society is going to harass you because you did not make the headlines, the real answer is that IT’S ABSOLUTELY FINE IF YOU DID NOT!!!

9. Use common sense. If you can. You have it. Just learn to use it.

10. Lastly, use your five sense. If you’re boring the person in front, stop. Right there. And adapt. It’s a date going wrong. If the interviewer has lost interest in your story, there could be a chance that they have lost their interest in you.

Otherwise, just wake ’em up when you’re done boring. You might’ve hit some oil that they failed to notice.

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About Amit
Conventional, boring, believer, poet, Shayar (to be precise), lover of music, musical instruments, and all that can be called music (theoretically or metaphorically), jack of all master of none, more of a reader less of a writer, arbit philosopher, foolish debater.. and many more such things.. like so many people!

One Response to Wake Me Up When You’re Done

  1. Arzvi says:

    Hey, please visit https://amitdas.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/short-story-ittefaq-coincidence/ – its a short story writing contest. Initiated by a blogger. No big prize or something, just to motivate to write.

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