Be your personal best.

To a dear friend,

I hope things are going well with your undergraduate studies in the city. As I watched the rains come down disrupting life I was most perturbed by the disruption and chaos in your life.

It must be an exciting time for you and your friends in the Senior year. For the first time you can catch the whiff of a real job and money. With the arrival of the monsoons the corporations in and around the city will descend on campuses with presentations, interviews and offer letters. Hiring is big business when all the investors care about is head counts and growth.

For your own college, this time of the year is a critical one. Placements with the top-notch companies guarantee that the campus will continue to attract the best students. Colleges safeguard their reputations (of 100% placements) by religiously following one single rule – if you have a written offer from a corporate that visited campus, you can no longer continue to apply for other campus interviews.

Things had worked out very simply for me. Of the twelve companies that visited my campus in 1999, I was very sure of the one I wanted. I researched the company through my seniors, attended their preplacement talk and only then did I turn in my application. Then began the gruelling process of tough tests and personal interviews. The morning after, I still did not have an offer letter. On that very day, a major services company were also hiring on campus. Unsure of where I was placed, I decided that they would be the next best thing. Mid way through the test I was told that my preferred company had made an offer for me and so I would have to give up on my application with the major corporate.

I gladly left the test area – I had made it with the best company on my list. My later experience with the company was greatly sweetened by the detail of my research into the organization, the high quality of the interviews and of course, by the fact that I truly believed that it was the best company to have visited my campus.

My own experience aside, in the depths your mind I am sure you prefer at least one of the following, to either enter the rat race or to stay out of it. If you were to stay out of the rat race, you could continue to be a student and decide to not create any value in the strict economical sense. If that is true for you, I believe you would not be too worried about getting hired on campus.

Unfortunately, you and your friends like you appear to be afraid. Watching the others send in their job applications with the big brand names seems to have weakened your resolve. It appears as if the entire class has submitted an application for every company planning to visit the campus!

I am sure that corporates are aware of this herd effect and covet the first interview slot on your campus. I also suspect that that slot carries a premium. Coincidentally, the same services company that could not have me, have booked the first slot on your campus. On day one of campus placements they had the best look at the top students. As the top ten students were being interviewed, you awaited your turn patiently. I was surprised to hear that the college then announced to those waiting that your preferred company would visit the campus in a weeks time. It no longer made any sense to sit through the current interviews. Subsequently, some of your friends deliberately failed the interview (some cleared inadvertently and were made offers).

What really baked my noodle though is what would the top ten students have done had they heard the same announcement, would they have preempted their own interviews? It only gets better. Within the first three days about 70% of your class had already been recruited and were eliminated. So what is your preferred company to do – they go ahead and cancel their campus visit. Your decision to wait for your choice of employer has now left you stranded. Who gets to decide what your future will look like? Why is it that the current answer appeals the least to me?

I encourage you to renew your faith in yourself. If you have decided you wish to stay out of the rat race, stand by your decision. If you later decide to change your mind, you can definitely apply around your campus placement office. Our current economy and job market only increases the probability that you will be placed with an employer of your choice. Do not be discouraged by the facade of tough interviews, long waits and other mental hurdles. Realise that you are unique. Search the right place for yourself, a place where you won’t need to fight change.

Be your personal best.