I decided to go for an internship towards my second year. No one really thinks about internships before that. That is when everyone starts, and I, too, wanted to try it out and see if it worked for me. Our intern season got extended because of lockdowns. Usually, it takes place in August, but it started in September, barely a week after majors got over for our year. In fact, the CV portal opened the very next day after our majors ended. When I had decided that I had to sit for an internship through TnP, I started looking at the rules. That time, I didn't really know what I liked, so I was going through the process of elimination. I had done a project during the first year summer break, which I didn't find very interesting. So I was mainly looking at management and analytics. I had done an internship in supply-chain in my second year, so I was looking at that too.
I didn't apply for a lot of companies. I was very selective, which may not be how everyone goes through. I didn't see the point in applying for a company that I knew I wouldn't find interesting, no matter how big that company was. I didn't apply for coding roles. I am in Production Engineering, so I also applied for companies such as ITC or HUL. I didn't have a very good CGPA, so I didn't get shortlisted. I wasn't drawn towards analytics either. A lot of people do competitive coding and quant. But I just knew the basics of quant and didn't focus much on coding. I guess I was lucky enough to get shortlisted, possibly because there is someone on the other side too. You don't know what works for you and what doesn't.
The internship season starts with the opening of the CV portal. I asked a few seniors to give me an overview of the entire process, which people usually do. Day 1 was around September 15. I had very little time to prepare, just two weeks. So, I decided to prioritize as I realized that I couldn't do everything. I decided to go for just a few things properly: supply chains roles and consulting, along with a few quants (such as AmEx because it wasn't very coding intensive). OCS portal CV is very different from what you have made before. So, I asked seniors to review my CV and look at their own CVs. Then came the companies. We had to apply for most of the companies through OCS, but some companies such as HUL, ITC, and even American Express accepted applications through forms. When you're making your CV, you make your CV in about three profiles, Consulting, Tech, Analytics, and Finance. For me, the last two were similar since I didn't have much background, but people have some separation for the two. For consulting, my options were LEK, Strat&, Nomura, and just a few from analytics. For my preparation, I had started doing guesstimates, which are the basic level questions they ask in consultancy firm interviews. There's case prep, and there are guesstimates (in interviews). So I was doing guesstimates and a bit of quant through practice tests that OCS offered. I also tried puzzles because someone told me they asked to solve puzzles in some interviews. I did not do coding at all. To be very honest, I wasn't really expecting any shortlists, but luckily, I got shortlisted for LEK, which was my only shortlist.
After the shortlist, I had 4-5 days for my interview. I was preparing intensely because I had to get the best out of just that one shortlist. In LEK, you're also assigned a buddy. A buddy is basically someone from the company who helps you prepare for the interview. In consulting, the interviews are a bit different. There is something known as the case interview, and there are guesstimates. My buddy told me that they were going to ask case prep in the interviews this year, so I started practicing the standard books for case prep. Day 1 was spread over two days. My interview was around 6 in the evening. I remember being very stressed about it. After the first round, I got a message 5 minutes later to join the second round. Someone at the associate level took the First round, and a manager in the company took the second round. I had got to know that I was through that night itself, although I had to wait for the official announcement the next day.
Consulting companies are open to all branches, and I don't think there's department bias. The CV shortlist is more or less random, and there are no tests in between. Every company has a different basis for such shortlists, and I don't think there is any sure-shot guarantee, at least with internships. Moreover, no one really has an amazing CV, barring one or two people. It is a matter of what clicks with the person looking at the CVs, but all in all, there is no department bias, at least in consultancy companies.
My experience was great. Compared to other consulting companies in India, LEK had just been starting to establish its presence in India, so it was like a small-knit family. They had just one office in Bombay, and I was looking forward to an offline internship, which eventually couldn't happen because of the second wave. The work culture was nice, and the people were really helpful. I could just ask anyone about anything, and it didn't matter if they were my seniors. They don't expect you to know everything, but they do expect you to be willing to learn. Since LEK doesn't have a very established presence in India, I had to deal with mostly foreign clients. This was another great experience because I got to work with their associates in the Singapore office. It was very interesting because you get a very different perspective about the work culture in different places and understand the differences. It was a good company with very welcoming and helpful people.
It was an online internship, and I didn't really hang out with my colleagues. The best thing that I liked about the company was that they worked on very short cases, which took about 4-5 weeks. Luckily, for my first case, I got the opportunity to work on it from the beginning of the case till the end. Since there were very few people and little time, it was very hectic. It was all work. But when the case ended, we had a full case-team event. Usually, when things are offline, you have a case-team outing for a weekend or a vacation. In our case, it was a virtual one, and we played games like Skribble.
Moreover, on the last day of the internship, the full-time associates (the entry-level position in consulting firms) kept a meeting with us to get to know us. They were asking us our stories and telling their own stories. Some of them were lucky to be there offline and told us stories about how they worked in Peru and other foreign clients. My career coach (appointed by the company) told me that he was in Vietnam 15 days before the lockdown.
Takeaways from the internship:
I learned skills like Excel and PPT, which you don't realize you need, but you do. People might laugh at this, but Excel is definitely a skill, and many people don't know a lot of things about Excel. When I started, I was really slow at doing stuff and eventually gained speed. But managers were already very quick with it. Something that took me one hour to do could be done in barely 15 minutes by the managers. It was more of looking at managers and how they did stuff and imbibing those skills. I also did a lot of data collection and primary and secondary research. I also learned a lot of communication skills.
I'm not very up-front about asking questions or doubts. Through my internship, one crucial soft skill that I learned was that it's okay if people think you're stupid, but at the end of the day, you have to learn for yourself, even if they scold you. Even if it's someone at a very senior level, you have to ask them. They won't mind telling you the answer, even if you ask for the fourth time. Just standing up and asking is what I learned. Before this, I never really worked in a very formal setup in college, so I wasn't sure how to talk to people. I wasn't sure whether I could joke around with my seniors at work. There's a time when you can, but when you have to work, you have to work and maintain the balance. Apart from that, I also learned a great deal of time management in meeting deadlines. We all experience this in college, but I just realized it more through the internship.
Moreover, when you're working with someone, there are certain things which they do differently and efficiently, so learning to imbibe that is also something I started doing. Before this, I never used to bother how people were doing things or if there was something I could pick up from people. But that changed after my internship.
Skills needed to bag an internship and advice for juniors:
There are lots of differing opinions about CV. My opinion, which I gathered from my various experiences, is that people look for a well-rounded personality because, in companies, leadership and communication skills matter more than technical skills since MS Excel and other technical skills are easier to pick up. They're not looking for people who are exceptional at coding or academics. That's where clubs, PORs, and activities come into the picture. That is how I developed my personality.
I think CGPA matters a bit in the sense that you need to cross a minimum threshold, and I think having a CGPA above 8 is a good base. It also shows that you can balance things well. One's personality is reflected in the activities they take part in and their internships. You can't really say that you have had a good research internship in the third year yet. Seniors might say that Debating, foreign internships, etc. are good, but I didn't have it anywhere in my CV. I think what matters is how you are projecting yourself. Also, shortlisting is somewhat random because you don't know what's clicking with them and what's not.
I had also prepared very well, so my actual interview felt like a mock interview. I would certainly credit my interview. The interview was something I felt was entirely under my control. My interview was something I had gotten out of, very proud of myself. It felt like I had given my best, and I was satisfied.
Any interview in your life should be like a conversation and not a viva. You need to make the person want to get to know you. Even if you haven't done a lot, how you project yourself should make them want to know more about you. And all this happens within the first five minutes of your interview. If you build a rapport with them, the whole interview goes pretty smoothly, and you also gain confidence due to that.
What lies ahead:
I wanted to explore things through my internships. Research and core were out of the question since I didn't really enjoy my courses. Consultancy felt like a field I wanted to work in. Had it been an offline intern, I would have stayed, but the cons outweighed the pros in the online setup. It wasn't a meaningful internship in the sense that all we had to do was work and meet the deadlines. We could not get to know people, and there was no mix of that "chilling" and working. It went like working for a couple of hours, meeting my deadlines, going offline for 2-3 hours, and returning. I felt it was weird. Specifically, the online experience was something that I didn't enjoy.
As far as short term post internship fun is concerned, I haven't spent a lot of money that I earned during my internship. The first thing I did was get a gift for my parents and my grandma. I am not stepping out of home lately, but I have offered to throw parties to all my friends.
Written by: Sampan Manna