This came in the email day before yesterday. Harish, as you can see, has mega-tons more experience than I do. And also runs a big company. So you should probably listen to him.
Further advice to the MBA Class of 2011
Dear Mr. Vadukut, and MBA students navigating placement season -
Your “Cubiclenama” of last week, containing advice for the graduating MBA class passing through the madness of placement season, made for inspiring reading. There is a strong case for making it compulsory reading at all business schools. I must clarify that I am from a very ancient MBA Class of 1987, but some of your sage advice is relevant to all MBA students and alumni, however young or bald they may be. I have indeed begun balding, but am yet to finally conclude whether this is on account of a quarter century spent in corporate cubicles, or a sign of true wisdom that comes from reading various pieces of excellent advice such as yours.
I agree with all the advice you have proferred to the new MBA batch, except your recommendation that they should forget Pink Floyd. This is simply because it is never possible to forget Pink Floyd, despite the fact that we first heard many of their songs in the midst of alcohol fuelled stupor or even worse. Hence, you are asking for the impossible. In any case I must point out that it is quite appropriate to sing their signature number “We don’t need no education” when we finally leave the portals of business school, which is possibly the last educational portal most of us will ever pass through. Many of us will say a very loud Hallelujah to that.
Now, there is further sound advice I would like to share with the MBA class of 2011 as they step into placement season, which builds on what you have told them. To begin with, you must not merely answer questions from the august panel of interviewers. Many of us who are part of interview panels these days also like to be questioned, since we get questioned all the time in our offices anyway. A day without questions is like a dancefloor without music, or Elizabeth Taylor without a husband. So ask your interviewers a few simple questions, such as :
“Are you really happy at your job, Sir ? And what makes you so ecstatic at work, if I may ask ?”
“Do you have really beautiful women in your Organisation ? I mean, even rough approximations of Katrina or Angelina ? Do you encourage dates, Sir, either blind or visually vivid ones, with colleagues ? And a last question, Sir, given the high costs of dining out, do you fund these dates ?”
“What is the best and worst thing that has happened to habitual latecomers in your fine Organisation ?”
You can gradually progress to more complex and interesting questions, such as –
“Sir, can you tell me how you segment consumers in your industry ?” (rest assured, questions on consumer segmentation can never be answered correctly)
“Sir, how can smokers light up in your Company, without breaking the law ?” (from my years of experience, atleast one member of the interview panel will be a smoker, and hence likely to be an implicit breaker of the law. You will therefore never get a honest reply.)
“Sir, do you permit the wearing of bermudas in your office ?”
Now, this last question may appear unusual, but it is a very important investigation to make. Reliable dipstick research has shown that offices which permit Bermudas are generally happy-go-lucky places which you will enjoy forever. If they permit quick tots of Jamaican rum, a delightful liquid close enough in origin to Bermuda, they will be even better. But if an Organisation says No to a Bermuda or a Jamaica, be doubly cautious about accepting an offer from them, because you may end up in a stuffy office which has never ever heard of Dilbert or Vadukut. Sadly, such places exist.
You must also enquire from the interview panel whether the Company parties often, and if so where do they go to let their hair (or what is left of it, in some of our cases) down. If the initial response to this question is positive, go ahead and offer to organize a party that same evening in your dorm. Here is a valuable insight. Most interviewers crave to get back to their campus lives, and there is nothing like a rocking party to soften them up completely. You can play Pink Floyd, mix drinks liberally, and provide colourful bermudas to the interviewers as well. The Chairman of your Placement Committee should be kept away from these happy events, and use good masks all around since these days photographs and leaks appear liberally on the internet, even if Julian Assange is in some sort of custody.
Masks are good advice, actually. Use masks during the interview. Mask everything interesting or illegal you have done on campus. Mask your mathematics scores, if you can, or attribute the dismal performances to the flu you repeatedly suffered during exams. Falling ill is the most natural thing that can happen in business schools, and is sound preparation for your later life in an Organisation.
But let me cut to the only serious point I really want to make, which is the direct opposite of masks. Unmask your passion at the interview, and say what you really want from your career. Tell the interviewers what excites you, what you want to really do in your life. Speak spontaneously. Stand up and speak, if you wish. Loosen your tie, and roll up your sleeves, even if this is considered heresy. Nothing will show you in better light than speaking about what really moves you, and how. Show them that there is fire in your belly, and that it burns brightly. All good interview panels look for the spark within you, but you have to unmask it first.
Here’s hoping you land a job of your dreams !
(Harish Bhat is Chief Operating Officer – Watches, Titan Industries Limited. These are strictly personal views, and are quite likely to be disowned by both his Organisation and Alma Mater.)