It’s December. What do you look forward to? Christmas? Vacation? Home? Celebration? Parties? New Year? Friends? Family? Of course. But there is one breed of people in India who don’t think of any of this. They have no choice but to wait till perhaps, mid December to even spare a thought for one of these things. 


Who am I talking about? The final year engineering students. That one section of our country that is deemed as the most intellectual.


So why aren’t our engineers-to-be not in the mood to welcome Santa? Placements. Yes, it is that time of the year when the cream of the country gets a job in the best of companies. Well, it isn’t just December. It starts earlier for some colleges. But, for a majority of them it starts now. Here is how I see the placement scenario as an outsider. 


Let me begin by saying I am an Arts student. My field has been ridiculed and mocked by engineers. But this time round, my sympathies lie with them. And with good reason.

These 20 somethings have spent about a year reading up for placement tests, interviews and group discussions. Case studies top their reading list followed by important HR questions.

Resume making is another procedure. While some of them stick to the truth, others gloat on how they won the first prize in a lemon and spoon race. Guess who gets the interview call? The lemon and spoon one. Well, maybe the company needed someone with good concentration and balancing powers. Or you write a long list of achievements and they are impressed. Or wait, just write something that they want to see there, even if you haven’t done it.


In top institutes of the country, it becomes worse. The credits overlap. The resumes look like photocopies of one another unless you work on additional projects, participate in big competitions and probably give up on sleep.


At the end of the day, even if yours is the best resume and you are probably the most suitable, willing candidate, it is of no use. 


“It all depends on luck. What the companies have in mind, we have no idea”, says one of them. 


They do have orientation sessions which brief them on the job profile and criteria for selection. But that happens just a month or two before placements, he adds.


So, let me get this straight. I am applying for a reputed MNC. Before the orientation, I thought I would sail through the selection round with my profile. Bam! They add a few more things they are looking for in our resumes. I have about a month before I sit for that company. How am I to prepare for entrance exams, add a couple of more “significant achievements” – academic and extracurricular and get a 9 point GPA? 


The worst hasn’t come yet. You tailor your profile for one company. But what if it isn’t enough considering the competition is maniacal? You apply for ten more companies. Each of them adds a couple of more things they are looking for. To be on the safe side, you decide to tire yourself out and ensure you are eligible for each of them.


And yet, after ALL that, you are still not confident because that neighbouring room mate managed to squeeze in a little more than the specified requirements.


Insane. This is just absolutely insane. 


It is a system where how much ever you do, it is never going to be enough. You lose sleep in your high school years spending time in academies that train you for entrance exams. You get through the exam and get the college of your dreams. Oh, but did anyone tell you, you are still far away from actually getting some sleep? 


Your final year is yet another repeat of school. Nothing’s changed. It is a rat race. This time, it is worse. It is a rat race with the best rats. It is purely crazy. You begin to wonder, is this what I signed up for?


While I am a strong proponent of an all-rounder profile, I believe that there’s a limit to how much you can expect from a person. There might be a duplication in the type of extracurricular activities which make the selection process harder, but isn’t that why there are multiple rounds of selection? After all, it isn’t like the person has a blank record. Eliminate the unsuitable ones as you go.

Lastly, the one thing that irks me about these placement procedures is their inability to see how unrealistic they are. Little do they realise, that most of the extracurricular activities that these students undertake aren’t because they like it, but because it’ll earn them a job with a six-digit salary. Passions, hobbies and interests take a backseat when it comes to placements, companies and competition. It is all about “what they are looking for” not “what I want to do”. 

I write this piece as I see some of my best friends freak out over their day of judgement. They are uncertain about their lives. Their morale dips when they aren’t placed but their batch mates are. Confidence reaches rock bottom as they begin to blame themselves for not doing enough. The worst of all, they wonder if they could have spent those few hours of leisure doing something that would earn them a job. 


While we try hard to boost their morale with pep-talks and little humourous moments, we know that beneath that flicker of a smile there is a lot of tension.


Hope. Nervousness. Guilt. Exhaustion. Disgust. Depression. Anxiety. This sums up the life of a majority of final year engineers who are sitting for placements. 


Quoting one of them, “Placements. Life. Death.”


So this December, will the placements be good to them? Or will it mercilessly murder their dreams?


Here’s a sincere prayer, hoping that all of you get through.


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