Tough year on campus: Worried about your entry into the job market? Here’s what you need to know, do

2020-21 seems to be unlike any other year—for campus placements, jobs and salaries for the graduating batch. However, that is not true. In 2008-09 as well as in 2000-01 after the financial and IT crashes, the situation was similar. Fewer recruiters and jobs, lower average salaries, job offers withdrawn, delayed joining dates, no jobs for some, terminated suddenly after joining, lack of jobs outside campus, competition from laid off employees, panic and internal disagreements in campus were common then and now. You are worried because your entry into the job market and your future career is affected. Here’s what you need to know and do.

Second order thinking

Think about the cascading effects of the pandemic. At the first level, businesses suffered when entire sectors like hospitality and travel shut down and sales dropped dramatically in other sectors while a few online players picked up. Employers were forced to cut costs, stop hiring, reduce salaries and lay off employees who could not find alternate jobs. Banks and financial players found it difficult to recover loans given to companies and individuals and thus did not want to disburse loans to those that needed it, without knowing whether they will pay back. As a result, graduating students found fewer and poorer income opportunities. Delay in joining and lower income in the first year means a net loss and a compounding effect on your lifetime wealth, as compared to other years.

Bad news, good news

Unemployment and lower income is always bad news for an economy and for your graduating batch. This knowledge in turn makes the placements worse. Your placement office or student placement committee reacts by introducing more rules that make life miserable. Their goal is to protect the brand of the institute and thus place maximum students in maximum jobs with lesser concern for your personal interests. You will be restricted in the number of applications you make, number of interviews you attend, number of ‘dreams’ you play, be prevented from applying to companies invited to campus by a competing program, and finally be forced out of the system when you get the first offer from any company even if it is not your choice of firm, function or industry. You are then stuck on a wrong career path. However, the good news is that your campus is putting in more effort than usual, that you need only one job irrespective of the overall situation and finally, you choose where to apply.

Hunter’s strategy

Since your opportunities are restricted by the market and placement system, your first goal is to increase choices and reach the interview stage. Know that no one owes you anything so discard an attitude of lazy ‘entitlement’. You will eat only what you can hunt. So, how can you find off-campus opportunities to add to campus choices? Reach out to your network of professionals and business owners, through family connects, alumni, friends from school and sports and any other network you can think about. Talk to them, meet them, increase your social surface area and thus multiply your chances of finding an opening. Use LinkedIn and Twitter to follow, reach out to and connect with strangers and decision makers. Your goal is to be invited to a job interview through prior trust, instead of having your resume compete with hundreds of other job-seekers.

Post campus challenges

Like it happened in 2020, across 100% campuses, despite your best efforts, you may find yourself jobless. Or, the company may withdraw its job offer or continuously delay the joining date to reduce costs. Finally, you may be summarily terminated, a few weeks into your new job. Recognise that this is not a reflection of your competence but circumstances you cannot control. However, you can choose your back-up strategy. Do you have a ‘job / income loss’ plan in place? Reach out to your campus placement cell who may provide assistance for a few months and simultaneously tackle job search in the open market with advice from people who have work experience. For finances, figure out your savings, personal safety net through family and friends and alternate sources of income to keep you going.

Money, status, freedom

Identify your biggest personal need and pursue it relentlessly. If it is freedom to choose, and you have entrepreneurial dreams, go ahead right now. Though times are challenging, you will be forged by fire. Make sure you are guided by reason while you pursue your passion. If you are embarrassed to let your family and friends see you sitting at home, you are stressed by the impact on your social status. Seek opportunities to contribute whether in the social sector, a new start-up or a family run business where you are gainfully occupied even if there is no income. Alternatively, go for further education and return to the job market when things are better. Finally, if personal circumstances dictate that money is your top priority, then do not refuse a job offer that comes along. You are free to continue your job search alongside and upgrade later. Until then, accept paid internships, contract work and monetise your skills and hobbies through a side hustle after work and during weekends. The experience, network and skills will add up over time and give high returns in two to three years.



Your campus placement system is not a free job market. It is a system of rules that allow/restrict you, in order to get the maximum jobs for the maximum students. It is not designed to help YOU get the best job you deserve or need. Understand the current placement rules thoroughly and decide how you will choose options and avoid penalties.


How is the employer conducting its selection process? Do they require a CV, online application, cover letter, assessment test, group discussion or case submission before shortlisting for an interview? Get past material and data from your placecom, previous batches and other campuses and be in control before the application window opens.


When you have an interview shortlist, the ball is in your court. Demonstrate to the company, that you stand out from the competition. How do you prepare? News, financial reports, websites, twitter, public communication, chat with employees—of the company, competition and industry—can put you miles ahead of the game.


What is the interview format to expect? Recruiters need to follow a fixed process across campuses and across years and it almost never changes. Find out. A consulting firm may have two steps—case studies for analytical skills and personal discussions for attitude, interpersonal skills and communication. Do mock interviews accordingly.


Almost all interviews are likely to be on video. This may lead to shorter but multiple rounds. You are already used to remote classes but your video interviews require a professional approach. Rehearse and ensure everything is working and dress up and behave as if you are attending an in-person interview.

(The writer is a career coach, mentor and the author of

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