THURSDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- A study that followed
recently unemployed people for five months -- or until they landed
a new job -- found that staying positive and being persistent
helped people find work sooner.
"It's very, very tough," said study co-author Ruth Kanfer, a professor of psychology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "It's not like learning a skill, where maintaining a positive attitude can be easier as you see improvement with your effort. You submit resumes, but get almost no feedback on how you're doing or what you could do to improve your chances of finding a job."
Not surprisingly, those with a positive, go-getter outlook did
better than those who were more fearful and anxious. But
personality traits were secondary to self-management in terms of
success. From week to week, those who did the most to develop
routines, seek support and keep self-defeating thoughts in check
were those who put in the most hours on their search.
The findings are published in the April issue of the
Academy of Management Journal.
The study took place between January and July 2008. During that
time, 128 of the 177 people (72 percent) found new jobs.
In early 2008, the U.S. unemployment rate ranged from 4.9
percent to 5.6 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics. In March 2012, the unemployment rate was 8.2
Eva Parsons is an executive coach. "Over the years, especially
in the last few years, I have talked to quite a few executives who
have been laid-off or downsized in an organization," she said.
Parsons recalled one client: "He was a pretty senior executive
in a global company and he was laid off. And he went right to work
and he said, 'I'm approaching this as if this is my job now.' He
was at his desk every day and he had a list of things he wanted to
accomplish. Mostly networking initially, but also revisiting his
resume or his CV and making sure that everything was current."
Study participants had not been fired or quit, but were laid
off, downsized or otherwise let go. All received Minnesota
unemployment benefits, were between the ages of 25 and 50, and had
at least a bachelor's degree. Most were white. Sixty percent had
recently lost professional, technical or managerial jobs; the rest
were in clerical, sales or other fields.
On average, they put in 17 hours searching for a job each week,
but that dipped to 14 hours toward the study's end. Mental health
gradually rose, and then declined slightly with a final uptick.
Weekly online assessments of participants uncovered either an
"approach" attitude -- striving for personal growth, developing
skills and energetically pursuing goals -- or one of avoidance.
"Avoiders" had a more defensive posture and were most concerned with avoiding failure and emotional disruption. They were also more sensitive to criticism.
Kanfer said self-defeating thinking includes: "'I can't do
this'; 'I'm not likely to find a job'; 'I keep getting nos'; 'No
leads,' allowing those thoughts to dominate you."
Parsons said job seekers "have to do the usual things that
people do to stay healthy and to keep their spirits up: eat
properly, get enough sleep, exercise, all the things you normally
do to manage stress."
She added: "When they feel like they've been hit in the gut and
they've gotten this sort of bad news -- a lot of people's initial
reaction is to want to curl up and go hide in the corner. People
need to do the opposite: Reach out to friends. Keep making that
part of the discipline."
If a job search drags on, Parsons recommended finding or
starting a support group, "so that you can have other people to
share your strategy with and touch base with on a weekly or
biweekly basis, and compare notes and keep each other motivated. If
it's too solitary a process, it can be really hard for people."
The American Psychological Association has more about
recovering from job loss.