23 May 2015 19:50 IST

Smarter way to leverage the placement process

What do institutes not tell you about campus placements? Find out

I am not a big fan of placement cells, in any institute.

First of all, the institute should focus on teaching you to be self-sufficient, and to learn, unlearn and relearn. In that context, placements have no role on the institute’s agenda. At best, it is a helpful add-on extended to students.

Second, the placement cell is similar to the sales and marketing department of an organisation. They are expected to sell a student’s capabilities and get them hired. However, are they authorised to influence the product they are supposed to sell? How can placement cells rate or rank students based on their employability? How many placement cells are allowed to influence the syllabus to ensure that it stays relevant to the employer?

Then why the inordinate focus on placements?

Wrong criteria

The fault lies with the students, who make choices based on placements, instead of the quality of faculty and instruction. Therefore, most institutes use that as bait to pull in students. If placements are the main offering of any institute, I would redefine them to be placement or recruitment agencies. In this case, teachers and faculty members have a limited role to play, and the placement cell dictates everything in the institute.

At this point, I want to set the record straight that I am not against campus placements or placement cells. I am only against the wrong expectations that are created in the minds of students with regard to placements.

So, what should be the right expectations and how can you leverage campus placements?

Working the process

Companies flock to institutes for placements because, from their perspective, it is the most cost-effective form of recruitment. This is in comparison to having individuals apply, and the HR team needing to assess each candidate and manage the hiring. However, in a placement visit, they get to manage this process in large volumes. This, naturally, leads to the selection of better qualified candidates, and those not selected get labelled as not being good enough.

The biggest issue students face when they try to get jobs independently is the inevitable question: “What happened at your campus placement?”

If you say you did not get placed, it reflects poorly on you. If you use the excuse that your institute did not have good placements, this, again, reflects poorly on you.

What should you do?

Develop a network

1. Get to know your placement officer and the cell’s industry contacts. Don’t approach this from the perspective of what job you can get. Approach it from the kind of industry inputs and contacts the placement officer can help you with.

2. If the competence and capability of your placement officer is not good enough, start networking with your classmates and, more importantly, with alumni. A word of caution; network to be in touch, and learn from these contacts. If you get introduced to someone and immediately send a mail asking for placements, it will be ignored.

3. Have a realistic and accurate assessment of yourself and what you are capable of. Validate this with industry expectations, and whether you can live up to the same. Realise that a degree is not a guarantee for a job. Therefore, work on developing your skills to meet industry expectations.

4. Placements are not the sole responsibility of the placement cell and its members. Take control of your life and career. Use the placement cell as a facilitator.

Set sights high

Let me end with an anecdote from my life. While doing my management program, I was bitten by the advertising bug and wanted to do my summer training in advertising. I set my sights very high and wanted to apprentice under David Ogilvy, one of the fathers of advertising. Obviously, the placement officer had no contacts with Ogilvy.

I read up on a wide range of his books and searched for a contact point to reach him, since the Internet was largely unknown at the time. After a lot of effort, I got Ogilvy’s postal address in France, and wrote to him with a reference letter from my placement officer. To my immense surprise, I got a reply from him, offering me an internship.

Hopefully this should drive home the point that your career is yours alone and you should leverage your placement cell to get what you want.

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