Sramana Mitra SM ’95 is a high-energy entrepreneur and consultant whose books and blog, Sramana Mitra on Strategy, focus on market positioning, turnarounds, and strategic planning. As a columnist at Forbes, she’s been mulling over the cost of idle talent during the worldwide economic downturn.

Sramana Mitra SM '95

Sramana Mitra SM '95

In “India’s Idle Tech Talent,” she points out that tens of thousands of young Indian IT workers are benched–employed but have nothing to do because their companies don’t have enough work. This waste of talent is not just about the recession, though—“the large Indian IT companies always have 15% to 20% of workers on the bench and some companies bench up to 30% of their employees.” But even if benching is  necessary in the outsourcing business, why aren’t these people  “engaged in meaningful and productive work, rather than playing computer games?” Her message to the 100,000-plus idle in India: Take control of your destiny. Otherwise, [big corporations] will control it, and you will be in splendid mediocrity all your life.”

In “Building Your Personal Brand,” Mitra describes the difficult job climate that faces recent graduates. In an experiment last summer, she hired 25 unpaid interns to work on projects of interest them and to her. One, Saad Fazil MBA ’09, a recent Sloan School grad, did research on virtual worlds that sell virtual goods and ended the summer with three job offers.

Mitra’s takeaway? Young people seeking a first step on their career ladder need some guidance and a place to exercise their abilities. Internships allow them to invest their time in professional development and personal brand—and take the next big step. Go for it!