Prep Under Lockdown: How Management Students Can Use This Time

Students of management schools find themselves staring at an opportunity to work on themselves, to work on a self-development plan.

It is an unusual situation for management students… to have some free time in hand.  

Under the extended COVID-19 lockdown, while there is anxiety in the atmosphere, there is also potentially a quiet time for contemplation and for a focus on personal growth. Students of management schools find themselves staring at an opportunity to work on themselves, to work on a self-development plan. The time is now. Once there is some semblance of normalcy and students are back on campus, there would be an urgency to finish academic courses. Students may find themselves short of time to prepare themselves for the industry and for the placement process. 

While under lockdown, students could focus on 3 broad areas: 


1. Understand career interest: where are you headed? 

Management students fresh out of undergraduate colleges find themselves unclear on type of roles and companies they could apply for. Students with work experience, trying to change career track, also need to understand this space.  

Students would benefit from research on:

- Names of potential companies and roles offered 

- Required competencies and growth opportunities accompanying each role 

- Work culture, salaries/benefits that roles offer  

- Target company details like products/services/brands, clients/target customers, news bits etc. 

To explain further, students in finance domain may want to explore different roles like corporate finance, investment banking, consulting amongst others. Students in Information Management could deepen their understanding of roles like product management, IT consulting, Corporate IT and IT sales. Marketing and Manufacturing students could find themselves conflicted between applying for traditional FMCG companies vs new-age firms. Student will need to understand which roles are offered by companies on campus and the qualities/competencies they would look for in the interviewing process. Some roles may put a higher importance on analytical thinking, others on people skills, some on work experience and others on innovative thinking. Often recruiters comment on a lack of research that students demonstrate. Quoting incorrect data or the wrong brand name can put one in a tough spot, difficult to come out from. 

What can work? 

- Crowd-source research: Group of students can allocate companies within themselves and compile the research on a common drive. It would be a useful resource for a quick refresher before stepping into the interviewing room 

- Alumni sessions:  Students can request alumni for online sessions on roles/career tracks.

2. Practice presenting POVs (Point Of Views): what do you stand for?

Students must be able to articulate own POVs (point of views) on diverse topics in a certain managerial presence. While it requires extensive reading, students must learn to structure their own point of views and to articulate with conviction. Articulating an opinion in a group, with confidence and a pleasant demeanour is a skill to be practised. This confidence will help in group discussion rounds and interview rounds during the placement season.

For example, students must have an opinion on the prognosis of world and Indian economy post Covid-19, or on a common pattern of divisive politics based on racism around the globe. A marketing student should be able to argue a point on the impact of technology in the last mile delivery on the e-commerce sector. A finance student must understand and present own POV in the space of fintech and the evolution of customer service. Topics must be varied, from domain-specific to world affairs, from socio-political to abstract topics 

What can work? 

- Conversation groups: Group of students can get together with a common purpose of nurturing discussions. Every day, members could read up on a specific topic for a post-dinner discussion, using an online conferencing platform. This would work for the simple reason that when one reads to teach or debate with someone else, the retention is deeper.

3. Build own narrative: what is your story? 

Students need to reflect deeply and list down competencies that they can present in an interview with authenticity. To be interview ready, the student must: 

- Recall examples that can be presented as pieces of evidence of these competencies. 

- Structure these examples to demonstrate accomplishment 

- Practice communicating in a conversational way  

To explain further, if a student is asked about a time when he showed leadership qualities, he should be able to quickly recall a compelling example from his work or college life. The structure of the answer must demonstrate not just what he did (action) but also what he accomplished (results). He must talk about himself naturally, building the examples into a conversation. And this needs practice. 

What can work?

- Reflection and writing: Students must make a list of commonly asked interview questions and write down answers. The written answers are not important, but the act of writing is. Writing helps in structuring thoughts in an impromptu situation, an important skill to develop to face any interview situation. 

- Mock interviews: Next, they must practice in front of a panel, even if it is on an online platform. Reaching out to peers and seniors works well in getting precious feedback.

In a placement process, there are several factors that are not within the control of the students. ‘Being prepared’ is one factor that they can control. Students must commit to themselves that they would give their best shot, prepare and present the best version of themselves when the time comes. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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