It’s easy to feel dejected and lean towards self-doubt when looking for a new job, especially if you’ve been laid off your current one. The reason is simple. Often recruiters simply reject you without giving you feedback on what went wrong or what you could do better to improve your chances getting hired.
A new study led by Connie Wanberg at the University of Minnesota along with Jing Zhu from Hong Kong University and Zhen Zhang from Arizona State University sought to find out how important managing negative thoughts and effort over time are while looking for employment following a job layoff. They found that having a more positive, motivational outlook helped in one’s job pursuit, especially at the beginning of the job search. However, the more important influence on maintaining one’s job search activities and increasing the likelihood of landing employment was the person’s ability to stay energised and keep negative emotions under control over time.
The findings indicate that effective self-management during a job search becomes more difficult over time. As Kanfer notes, “searching for a job isn’t like learning a skill, where maintaining a positive attitude may be easier as you see improvement with effort. Beyond landing a job, you get almost no feedback on how you are doing or what you might do differently to improve your chance of finding a job. You submit resumes, make calls and get no feedback on your progress until you get a job,” said Ruth Kanfer, a psychology professor at Georgia Tech and one of the study’s co-authors.
To successfully sustain motivation over time, it’s important to be proactive. The researchers suggest that candidates should seek increased social support and develop daily routines that can provide positive feedback and support positive attitudes toward the search.
The study conducted weekly assessments on self-management, job search and mental health among 177 unemployed people seeking re-employment over the course of 20 weeks. Participants spent an average of 17 hours per week looking for a job at the beginning of the study and reported a gradual improvement in mental health. By the fourth month, however, time spent on search had declined to 14 hours and mental health started to show a slight decline. Ultimately, 72 per cent of job seekers found employment by 20 weeks.
The study appears in the current issue of The Academy of Management Journal.