Campus Placement Conversations

[These are my conversations with students who are graduating this year].

I have always laughed when people said what you also mentioned, “Most people who are coming for pre-placement talks are saying that [you should] look for the right fit into the organization. Join an organization where you find yourself culturally fit.”

How do you determine in a short time of 15-20 min that the campus interview allows you [and the interviewer] to assess the ‘culture’ and the ‘fit?’ Anybody who says that he understands is telling you something that is akin to infatuation! 😀

Just as if you like a girl [or a boy! Why talk of only one side?] does not mean [as many have discovered after marriage] that you love her [or him], what appears in the interview does not really reflect the reality of the organisation. Neither culture nor fit. Get that clear first.

And, therefore, if any interviewer is telling you that he can understand the fit [when he interviews students], he is bragging and boasting at the least [if he does not understand the intricacies of assessing culture fit] and outright lying at the worst [if he understands the intricacies].

So what is the truth? You can perhaps make enquiries and come to the conclusion that the organization is a good place to work. This is obviously based on others’ experience. You just reduce the risk of a ‘misfit.’ There is no substitute to experiencing an organization, in my opinion. This may mean that you may have to change a [or a few] jobs to find an organization which is fit for you. In other words it allows or better still, ensures your growth as a person and as a professional. Remember every plant has a natural habitat. Similarly, not all good organizations suit all people.

What matters is whether you vibe well with your boss. Gallup also says the same thing when they say ‘People join an organization but leave the manager!’ So you join say, ITC or Marico because they are good companies to work for. But some good persons have left those organizations because they were unfortunate to get a bad boss there. A good boss ensures your growth. And that comes out of meaningful contributions which you are required to make.

“Won’t the learning be more in an organization where he is a misfit and where he will have to struggle and learn things to survive? Won’t it give him an opportunity to learn a new culture and how to excel in it?”

You are looking at the world from a very theoretical frame, and I guess it comes because of your inexperience so I do not find fault with you. The truth is people want to succeed. They want to contribute meaningfully. So they can take pressure of work, any amount. They grumble about it but they love it too. They do not mind disagreements when those can be sorted out through a reasoned dialogue. But they hate work which many bosses give without explaining the purpose. [Partly executives themselves are responsible for this situation – do you recall my mentioning that I used to ask my executives ‘what are you bringing to the table which a smart B Com graduate does not?’]. And they hate when boss treats them like ‘a pair of hands.’

You are also presuming that culture is same everywhere within the organization – not really. There are sub-cultures. Some departments are terrible places to work, others are very good places to work. And the leaders there make that difference. If you have say four regional sales managers and ask sales representatives that if they had a choice who they would like to work for, they will just choose one. I have seen this happen. I have also seen some employees with long service leave the organization when they got a bad boss after several years of service. [I always say that there are three persons you cannot choose in your life: Mother Father and the Boss! They are God-given!!].

And learning happens; it is a bye-product. If you are going to join an organization to learn, you have got your bearings wrong. You are offered a job so that you can contribute. Learning happens as you contribute. But when you are unable to contribute meaningfully what learning are you going to talk about?

“And why not organizations also look for misfits (misfits by choice) while hiring rather than looking for fits?”
You have a point here, though you have not been able to express it well. People who are ‘not of the same feather’ can bring in very different ideas and perspectives. I was party to selection of a certain student of marketing who was not typical ‘two-left-brains’ type which organisations look for. Jokingly I and other panel members said that he perhaps had two right brains! We debated for over 30 min whether the system will reject him. Mind you we did not debate whether we should select him or reject him for his innate talent. The final decision was that we selected him but we made a conscious decision to ensure that he is supported, which we did. But I would not say that we could make a great use of his talent. We discussed this case though to raise awareness about not ‘type-casting’ selections. [The person thinks that he is a swan among ducks and his colleagues think that he is a duck among swans!] This is easy said, but all choices have concomitant supportive actions essential to make it a success. If the recruiters do those, the person will have good chances of success.
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The campus selection is a process where people behave like mad men [or women]. Many students who have a ‘view’ on taking up a good job fall prey to the temptation of a fat pay. Any pay which is better than his or her colleagues is considered good. All this is distilled nonsense. The recruiters on their part are equally foolish.

“Multiple people during PPTs have said that the choice you make about where you start your career from, who you start it with, is one of the most important decisions you will make. But how does one decide where one wants to be??”

You are right and I feel I have answered your question already if you read my answer. I have said, “There is no substitute to experiencing an organization….. Remember every plant has a natural habitat. Similarly, not all good organizations suit all people.”

To explain this point further, let me tell you what happened with me. I joined Tata Power because my father used to work there and I was offered a job. I realized it was a great mistake because I had nothing much to do there, no work at all. The then Chief of HR completely ignored me. I had not even heard of Asian Paints then. But my classmates told me about it. [AP was already no.1 in paints then for a decade!!]. The Personnel Manager of AP had interviewed all students in my class [no exaggeration here] and I was the last to apply after spending 18 months in Tata Power. I was told before joining by my classmates that the Personnel Manager was a crook. [He turned out to be a great soul and later my mentor].

When I joined AP all seemed to be waiting to receive me, courtesy this Personnel Manager. [In an interview to Economic times much later I said that AP tries to give a taste of success to the newcomer – I was only referring to my experience]. I knew this was the company where I would like to work. I realized this after making two changes. [I had joined Crompton Greaves from Campus].

This may sound strange to you because you perceive the world only through reason and logic. Everything must be planned, everything must be logical. There is no place for the unexplained, for accident. Life is not like that. There is ‘incrementalism’ [one-step-at-a-time] in life. You take five steps and you see five steps ahead, and so on. But as I explained to our class once, the word LIFE contains an IF, and so half of life is IF, if you see that there are just four letters in ‘life.’

The problem is that you forget that there is 35 years of career in your life. A bad organization to begin journey is surely NOT the life’s worst decision! And it can be corrected. And that sooner you stop seeing yourself in relation to your class-mates better it is.

Someday we can discuss what is meant by ‘success.’ It is necessary to discover that meaning, because your questions ultimately emanate from it, right?

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