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Monday, February 20, 2012

The paradox of choice-how more choices make it difficult to choose careers on campus

Be it summer internships or final placements, students at India's #1 Bschool have a large number of realistic options(ok most of them do).  Indeed, in bschools where students have an upper hand, stuff like allowing to hold offers/reject PPOs/'dream on companies' etc all exists, and for the express purpose of maximizing choices on campus. But research shows that the more choices there are, the greater is the chance of sub optimal decision making. For instance in his TED talk on the Paradox of Choice(http://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice.html) , Barry Schwartz makes the point of analysis-paralysis and bounded rationality in the context of investments, retal, healthcare etc. Some interesting quotes from that transcript are
  1. The more options there are, the easier it is to regret anything at all that is disappointing about the option that you chose.
  2. When there are lots of alternatives to consider, it is easy to imagine the attractive features of alternatives that you reject, that make you less satisfied with the alternative that you've chosen.
  3. Opportunity costs subtract from the satisfaction we get out of what we choose, even when what we choose is terrific.
All these 3 points are quite valid in the context of campus placements, because while applying off campus, the offer universe might be much more, but the job seeker courts the companies instead of vice versa(atleast at entry level). Hence, the heady feeling of being wanted would boost the self image of the candidate. Anecdotal evidence is that upto 60% of top tier MBAs switch their jobs within 2 years of graduating from campus. Expectations mismatch may have a lot to do with this, which is turn fuelled by the opportunity costs of the options given up.

But should this be an issue at all? If recruiters want to give special treatment to some campuses by sending their A team to interview/courting students with food/freebies/calls-and therefore giving them more choice-so what is the issue? From the student perspective and campus perspective, more choice is better since it would give more confidence to students and avoid them rushing into a career. But sometimes, specific placement rules like company preferences/spot offer or offer window system etc nullify that advantage, making the whole process akin to speed dating.
My $0.02:- Sometimes, placement systems may seem like democracy(all other options are worse!) but they do work. However, they can do with more thought and improvement on both sides

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