JobSeeking and The Gambler’s Fallacy

rouletteLike many of us in the profession I have been looking at changing jobs over the last year or so. I am lucky in that I started my career at a time when it was easier to get that first entry level librarian job that is so elusive now but I have reached a stage where I need to make a change and move up. It’s been a long process as I applied for jobs both within my system and outside of it and altogether I have had about a dozen interviews of some kind or another and am still stuck in the same rut that I was in when I started the process.

This is obviously very discouraging. I spent some time beating myself up over it, going back over to consider how I “blew the interview” (something I am normally quite good at) or otherwise misstepped and didn’t get an opportunity. After a few months of this I had a realization, I was falling victim to the Gambler’s Fallacy and I needed to change how I was looking at things.

The Gambler’s Fallacy is a term for the belief that past performance will impact future results. As an example say you are gambling on the roll of one six-sided dice. You put your money down on 1 sure that it will win and the dice comes up 6. OK you lost, no problem, but this is where the fallacy sets in. If you then think “OK no problem that will just increase my chances because we’ve already rolled a 6 so now my odds are even better” then you are falling prey to the Gambler’s Fallacy. The fact of the matter is that the next roll of the dice has the exact same probability that the first one did. There is just as good a chance that it will hit 6 again as there is that it will roll 1 for your win.

This is also called the Monte Carlo Principle after a really famous incident at the casino at baccarat-9Monte Carlo when a wheel at the casino hit black 26 times in a row. People lost millions of dollars that night predicting that “this time it HAS to land on red” when each subsequent spin of the wheel (25 times over) had the exact same probability as the first one. Each spin of the wheel is unique, each spin has the exact same conditions and odds and each spin has the complete range of possibilities. It doesn’t matter how many times it lands on black, the chances of it landing on black the next time around are exactly the same.

I will admit that I like to gamble, I don’t do it much but I do OK when I do. I love roulette but have mixed results, have been doing well of late with Baccarat, and while I enjoy craps I am no good at it, just ask Carson Block. I’m actually amazed that it took me this long to make the connection here.

crapsIf you have been on five interviews you still do not have a tick list that you are working down/ There is no punch card where you go on ten interviews and you get your job for free. It’s discouraging to go out on interview after interview and not get hired. This can start to be a self-fulfilling prophecy though as you go into interviews gun shy and nervous for reason the interviewer does not understand.
I would like to submit to you that the Gambler’s Fallacy can actually be very freeing as you look at your job hunt. Each roll of the dice is unique and different. You have just as good a chance of getting that great position on the 15th job you apply for as you did on your first. Try and see each application, each interview, each opportunity as a unique one and apply yourself to it wholeheartedly. Your chances are just as good no matter how many times you spin the wheel.

Leave a Reply