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I was spurred by this insightful blog post by Cal Newport, on why undergrads gravitate towards some jobs with a herd mentality. It makes very good points, so I'll let you read from there rather than regurgitating. A similar phenomenon in the IITs has been a source of much debate.

The way graduating students go job-hunting has a lot to do with the pressure to land a "secure" job, and the way they've been conditioned: over a decade of conditioning by their parents and a few years of opinions among their peers. Many students don't consider it to be their chance to explore, or try something they find interesting. A significant factor in the uncertainty is that most people are not aware of the different options available, apart from the notion that they've been equipped well to break out and do something new. Most students don't have an idea of what a career entails, or the growth prospects in their line of work, or the subtler aspects of a certain job... which leads to a herd mentality. In many cases, this realization strikes them a couple of years into their first job, after which some might choose to quit and try something different.

I wonder if the option of deferred placements will help in this regard, where students could choose to sit for placements any time up to 3 years after graduating. That lets them take on possibly risky ventures and gain some work and life experience. This is almost like extending the undergraduate degree to a longer duration, but the student will have a degree in hand, and hence better standing. This will also increase the number of people "starting-up" or taking a crack at solving hard problems. At that stage, the goal needn't be success in solving the problem, but small progress and an appreciation for the aspects involved. That sets the tone for a career-long pursuit to make headways in that direction. It is what some would consider an undergraduate thesis to be, but much more comprehensive and will give a flavour of the real world and some life experience. This is roughly how internships are supposed to work, but a couple of summers in the middle of one's undergraduate education are not sufficient to get the breadth or depth of experience.

It's entirely possible that after a couple of iterations, companies might start valuing this experience and maturity in their recruits, leading this to become part of the new "process" of getting the right placement.

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