Its Placement Season at Business Schools and for most, its judgement day, as the time approaches for what all B School students have been waiting for, preparing for and in many cases, dreading of. Each student tries to be unique, like everyone else. The most dreaded word is – Competition…the fear of being ousted by the person sitting next on the bench with you. The air of suspicion looms large, as trust, belief and loyalty go for a toss. Preparations for the next campus call are made with utmost secrecy, befitting a clandestine ops. Its like everyone trying to move ahead on a jam packed highway…no one succeeding, yet everyone making a lot of noise.
I am inspired to compare this situation to a very well defined concept branded as the blue ocean strategy authored by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne in their book by the same name.
Basics first! Red Ocean, simply put is competition. The ocean made red by the blood that erupts due to the fight among the sharks lurking around. And the Blue Ocean is serene and pristine, as it is vacant and devoid of any rivalry. Its not even a fully defined battlefield as it has neither been demarcated as a territory to be won, nor have the rules of the game been defined, as no one is clear if there really is a game going on.
And this is where I draw the corollary between the red/blue ocean and a student’s approach to career opportunities.
Embracing the blue ocean is an approach to creating a niche for yourself. And how does one do that? Well, here are some pointers:
1. Attitude: Towards what? well, that’s the fun. Towards everything. Employers are interested in the guy’s vision which shall directly determine his capabilities and potential. And how much can one see is greatly determined by how much one is willing to see, and learn from. And please don’t practice developing the right ATTITUDE. Its not something that you have, its something that YOU ARE.
Your attitude gets communicated across in many ways during the 20-odd minute interview. For instance, it can come across in your answer to the questions: Where do you see yourself 5-10 years from now? How do you think you can contribute to our organization? Why should we hire you?
It can even be reflected in your willingness to ask when given a chance by the recruiter. Rather than asking the salary (which they are going to communicate in any way) or the location where you shall be placed (which had been told in the pre-placement talk, if you had been paying attention), a question like : “How would the next two years see you in the organization vis-a-vis responsibilities and JD?” or “Which are the growth areas that the firm is going to focus on for the next couple of years?” would say volumes about the attitude you possess. Your willingness to focus long-term shall create a blue ocean for you that moment. Your differentiation is created when you forego the desire to dwell upon ‘red-ocean’ issues like CTC, location, designation, etc.?
And I shall repeat, cramming up the perfect “most unique” reply ain’t blue ocean thing, it still is red-ocean swimming.
Attitude is also the readiness for you to be a positive ‘value’ asset for your recruiter. Once you have this attitude of first contributing and then expecting, your focus shall shift to creating monopolizing traits, skills and capabilities that are unique to you. You shall possess a combination of ‘value enhancers’ such that you shall be catapulted from the red ocean to the blue ocean by the time the screening process is done with.
A lot of this attitude stuff comes in handy while preventing the ‘herd mentality’ from overpowering you. Students are subject to a lot of peer pressure about which companies to ‘sit for’ and which not to. How can you trust another shark in the red ocean? But the blue ocean is empty and there’s no one to guide you. That’s where the right attitude of surviving with yourself comes to your rescue.
One has to be comfortable with the responsibility of walking alone..that’s a prerequisite to the blue ocean strategy.
More on swimming in the Blue Ocean in subsequent parts.