02 July 2015 15:28:58 IST

You are the brand of your college

Try to enhance it... but certainly don’t damage it

Nearly three decades ago when I did my summer project, which was an integral part of my PGDM course, I learnt an important, yet, painful lesson.

My project was with a shoe company and involved an observational study of buyer behaviour. I had to work between 6.30 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. as most of the shopping happened at these times. Being hell bent on a career in marketing, I thought to myself: "Let me do something more as I have a lot of spare time.”

I set up a meeting with the head of a large market research company, who looked at his busy calendar and gave me a date for the following Wednesday. I could not meet him on Wednesday as the boss of the company who gave me the official summer project landed up that day. So I didn’t go on Wednesday and landed up on Friday instead, thinking after all it was only two days later and I did have a genuine excuse – or so I thought. I was wrong. I have never been spoken to as I was that day by the boss of the research agency.

"Do you know what a deadline means?" He thundered. "Did you have an accident? Did you break an arm.... How can you cancel an appointment?” Everything he said was perfectly true even if his tone was particularly harsh. My chances of doing an additional project went out of the window thanks to my casual attitude. But I learnt an important lesson. Always communicate: You have to close the loop and not leave the other person guessing.

But have things really changed?

Let's cut to the present. My company, Brand-comm, was recruiting fresh post graduates and after an elaborate screening and interviewing process we recruited three people who wanted to join nearly 6 weeks later. We reluctantly agreed; after all we thought a post graduate course is pretty strenuous and surely the students need a break.

We designed an elaborate induction and training programme that was scheduled to start around their joining. Strangely, our attempts to reach the candidates chosen were unsuccessful as they did not take calls or answer mails. One would assume they’d be excited about their first jobs, clearly not.

My manager, understandably upset, reached out to the placement officer who had better luck than us in reaching the candidates. One of them, mailed on the joining date saying she was tied up for the next two months. The other two, threatened to join a week later.

Who knows what the future holds for us when it comes to management students? Now, I do understand that the students might have had second thoughts about us or even found better options. While that is possible, could it have been handled better? Remember for corporates, you are the brand of your college.

If you are smart and responsive your college benefits and if you are casual, like the people whom we recruited, however bright they may be, the college’s reputation takes a hit. I am wondering if I really should go to this campus next year, after all there are so many management schools. I could easily take my business elsewhere.

If I were a student today

Having the benefit of age, if not hair, would I do things differently if I were a student today?

I would certainly approach this business differently. I would follow the rules of payment instead of trying to work around them. If I had a problem with the placement rules, I would share them with my college not the company.

I would read everything possible on the company’s website, LinkedIn and blogs. If I did not like the opportunity I would not attend the interview. I would know enough about the company to ask sensible questions.

I would remember that I am the brand of my educational institution and would keep recalling that in every interaction with the corporate world.

While branding sounds macro, it is everything you do and that is primarily your attitude and being sensitive to others. Remember, we hire for attitude and train for skills.

In fact that is my key message to all of you out there. You are the brand of your college. Try to enhance it but for God’s sake don't damage it!

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