Alumni Advise: Placement Season

Design by Swati Sheenum

Edited by Sharayu Shejale

With the placement season imminent, the placement batch finds itself in a unique situation of going virtual and attending interviews from their own homes rather than the bustling corridors of Cauvery. The high adrenaline filled ten days are now crammed into the confines of laptop screens and phone calls.

But along with the high stakes of placements, also comes along stress, anxieties, confusions, and fears, now brought into sharp focus due to lack of support one typically receives from friends and seniors on campus.

We at T5E in collaboration with CDC bring to you this comprehensive guide to help with your mental health during this time, compiling advice from alums and seniors to ensure you perform your best!

Addressing Common Student Concerns

Based on a form circulated by the CDC, we found common anxieties and fears students are dealing with. Another form was circulated on the same day among alum groups and last year’s placement batch, along with directly interviewing more than two dozen alumni for advice, tips, and general gyaan. This is what we found:

1. Fear of not getting shortlisted/placed

Ah, the dreaded imposter syndrome. What if I don’t get placed? What if I am not good enough? Is everyone smarter than me?

The Advice:

The alumni interviewed universally empathised. There will always be some fear in this situation since placements come only once during your time in insti.

But it is wise to maintain calm and be composed. Even if you do not get shortlisted initially, do not freak out. The number of shortlists or the day when you get shortlisted is not an indicator of your qualifications or your resume.

“Only 30% of the people will be placed through shortlists, the remaining will have their chance through walk-in interviews,” says Santosh, an alum. Have faith in the placement team, they will guide you for these opportunities. The companies will have vacancies on day 2 or 3, so they will try and fill up those spots by conducting short interviews, group discussions, or coding and aptitude tests. Make sure to keep an eye out for these opportunities. “Remember you are among the top students in the country, and you are privileged to study in IITM, one of the best institutes in the country!” mention two of the alumni, Vishnu (2014 batch, Software profile, currently working at Dream11) and Sreejith (2015 batch, currently doing PhD in Physics). It doesn’t matter on what day you get placed, just believe in yourself and your skills. Jealousy does no one any good, so don’t get disheartened if others are getting placed. Instead, take it positively and ask for their help and find out what their strategy was. Talking to your friends, seniors, and parents are one of the best ways to overcome this fear.

2. Handling Rejection

Rejection always hurts. But rejection from interviews is inevitable, so how to mentally prepare to carry on to perform well? What do I do if I don’t get my dream company?

The Advice:

Before the placement season commences, prepare yourself to get rejected. If you get rejected by a company, first take a breather, and then try to engage in an activity which you enjoy that will help you in relieving stress. Do not stall and lose your cool, and stay away from all the negativity. Talk to your friends and discuss what could have gone wrong. You can also ask the interviewer for feedback, which will help in reflecting on your further interviews. Don’t get discouraged because you didn’t get placed in your dream company. Down the line, you will get plenty of opportunities after 2-3 years. Nothing is permanent.

3. Maintaining Focus and Time Management

Too many interviews! How do I manage my time? Course work and projects are also impending, what do I focus on? Should I just pack placements and focus on applying for higher education?

The Advice:

Plan and organize the placement week. Create a list of the companies that you are targeting, and focus on them. Do some leisurely stress busters like going for short walks, listening to music, or anything else that you like. Spend time with your friends by talking to them and also talk with your parents. This will enable you to keep your mind off the placements. Make sure to eat and sleep well, because you may tend to neglect that because of the stress. 

Before the placement season begins, firstly finalize what you are targeting. You can talk to your friends, seniors, and your family. Discuss with people who have taken a similar course that you are planning, and take inputs from them.

If you are concentrating more on placements, you should properly plan and segment your days. Organize your day in such a way that you give more time towards placements, but do not ignore academics and your project.

If you are sure about getting a good college of your liking for further studies, focus on that. So you can inform the project professor 2 to 3 weeks before the placements, to put off the BTech or Dual Degree Project, you can catch up later. You can catch up on the courses later as well unless you don’t have time to prepare for the end sem exams. It is wise to sit for placements as a backup, even if you are planning for further studies. You can halt your prep during this week, and resume after the placements are over.

4. Performance during Interviews

I get nervous easily. What if I cup during interviews? How to be confident? 

The Advice:

The first thing you need to understand is the interviewers are not intimidating and they don’t want to scare you.

Of course, you need to dress properly and look smart. The major thing one needs to keep in mind is that do not lie or boast about yourself. Honesty and humility are key factors that you need to inculcate during your conversations. Prepare HR questions in advance with your friends. If you can, rehearse with your friends. Remember to get honest feedback from them – check whether the answer you prepared is too casual or too professional. Do a background check of the companies. Try to contact alums who are working there and went through the same interview process. Be clear on what the company is looking for and what kind of mindset you need to work there. And most importantly, sound confident. Even if you do not know the answer of a question the interviewers do check how you approach it.

5. Anxiety for the future

What happens next? Is this struggle all worth it? What if I find out I do not enjoy my job after getting placed, how do I change careers?

The Advice:

Changing jobs is natural and it is alright if you don’t feel like working in the company you are placed in. You can always do your PG and higher studies even after 2-3 years of work.

After all, this is only the start of your long career and experimentation is an integral part.

Always remember that this is not the end of the world. You need to think about our advantage of being in IITM which is the top institution in the country. Self-motivation or motivation from others during this time would go a long way in brushing aside anxiety.

6. Postgraduate Specific Concerns

How do I balance my research and placements? How do I get good profiles? 

The Advice:

Chandan Manghnani (MTech Core 2018-19) says that for MS junta who have been working on their projects, placements would be a bit easier, assuming that they can explain what they have been doing in their research. MTech students need to plan their problem statement, the scope of the problem and then pitch on solving the problem statement (companies don’t expect the research to be complete given the situation). Try for companies that are aligning to your research and then pitch yourself to the companies.

Passing on the Fundae

In the form circulated with alumni, we asked what the best piece of advice they received when they sat for placements, that would like to pass on. Here are the greatest hits:

“This is just your first job. Even if you don’t land a good one, you have thousands of opportunities as an IITian.” (alum, DD graduate)

“If you are targeting a core company, don’t just prepare technical topics. Aptitude and reasoning are as important as technical.” (Vishnu, MTech/MS graduate)

“The first job is just a stepping stone into the professional, it’s not the end goal. Most of my friends changed jobs or went for higher studies within the first 1-2 years of graduation. Have an open mind and just give your best.” (Sravan Kumar, DD graduate)

“Trust yourself and more importantly know yourself. You should never forget that an interview is just an interaction with another individual. At the end of the day, they are also humans and if you show your abilities and knowledge to them they will surely be impressed.” (Kshiteej Mishra, BTech graduate)

“I had a senior tell me that placements are super hyped up and a lot of students get pressurised by just that. It was true and as all of us went through the process, we did realise that if we considered it like any other insti course in which you want to score well, you can do it easily with timely and systematic effort. Also, it is easy to compare yourself to your peers or neighbours during placements, but please know that it is really not necessary and harms your mindset. Try to avoid getting into comparative discussions especially a week before placements.” (Ashutosh Raj, DD graduate)

  1. “You may take placements seriously. But do not take them personally.
  2. Interviews are primarily conversations. If you can talk and connect with the interviewer, that’s what forms the basis to cracking them. So communication is more important than you think.
  3. Connect and relate your project work or any work that you may have done with real-world scenarios that might happen in the company.
  4. Coat suit is overrated. Dress neatly. That’s enough.” (alum, MTech/MS graduate)

“Be honest, you can’t fool experienced professionals taking your Interview.” (Shubhankar, MTech/MS graduate)

“Slots or day 1/2 etc doesn’t matter. Focus on yourself and your interests, and do your best, things will work out fine. At the end of the day, which slot you got placed in doesn’t matter as long as the role suits what you’re looking for. Rankings, prestige are nothing but a facade. “ (alum, DD graduate)

That’s it, folks! All the best from the T5E team for your placements, we hope this helped!

DISCLAIMER: All advice presented is sourced from alumni, either through an official from circulated through the CDC or through personal interviews. Please take this advice at your own discretion.

Special thanks to all the alumni who contributed to the CDC form and those who agreed to be interviewed. Also, a shoutout to the CDC team and the Placement Team for all their help with the article!

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