Accountants Suffer from Choice Overload

choice overload accountants

Job security isn’t something most accountants worry about. Everyone needs an accountant. Even with technology doing more of the grunt work, someone needs to be able to turn that garbled mess of numbers into decision-useful information. Yay, go us. We don’t need to worry about paying rent.

But, having more choices does not equal greater happiness. In fact, I argue that too many choices make you less happy and more overwhelmed. I remember when I started looking for jobs after I left public accounting, recruiters bombarded me. I was dumbstruck that so many people were looking for CPAs. I know, it doesn’t seem like it’d be a bad predicament to have, until you live it, and have to go to all the interviews and try to decide what to do with your life.

Even within public accounting, the options are daunting. Once you start to question if public is right for you — usually midway through your first busy season — the floodgates of indecisiveness open. Do you stick with audit, tax, or advisory? What about random subcategories like risk consulting or mergers and acquisitions? If you transfer departments, will your life get better? Will you enjoy going to work more?

There’s some evidence to support that choice overload is a legit problem. In one study, shoppers were judged on whether they purchased jam more often when there were 6 or 24 jam options. Here’s what happened:

At times, the display showed 24 varieties. At others, it included only six. Iyengar found that, yes, 60 percent of customers found themselves pulled to the large display while only 40 percent stopped at the small one. But with 24 possible options, consumers questioned themselves and only 3% made a jam purchase. At the small display, nearly a third of consumers who stopped by bought a jar of jam.

Psychology Today cast some doubt on the concept of choice overload, pointing out the flaws in the research. Regardless, I think we’re onto something here. My “first job after college” hunt got a lot easier when I decided to go all-in with public accounting recruiting and eliminated industry roles right out of the gate. I even remember getting the advice to narrow the list of firms down to three or four, and then apply to only those firms. That way, when offers come around, it’s less intimidating to make a choice. (Of course, that assumes you get more than one offer, so take that advice with a grain of salt.)

Bottom line, all this choice leads to a bunch of restless accountants, ready to job-hop for a raise and better work-life balance (the unicorn that it is). So is the grass greener on the other side? And which pasture do you choose if there are 10? Or 20? Or 30? Who knows! But happy hunting. And may the odds be ever in your favor.

Image: Photo by Letizia Bordoni on Unsplash

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