Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Wanberg tracked 177 unemployed people over the course of 20 weeks by sending them weekly online surveys. Those who engaged in more intense job searches exhibited better mental health than those who were more relaxed about looking for work. The researchers measured mental health by asking respondents to rate themselves on a six-point scale in response to questions like, “have you felt downhearted and blue?”
The study, which is published in the current issue of The Academy of Management Journal, underlines what is most difficult about looking for a job. It is a lonely, unpredictable process with no rules, no guarantees, no supervision and a huge amount at stake. As Professor Wanberg writes in the paper, “Looking for a job is an unfolding task that is highly autonomous, self-organized, loosely structured, and ill-defined. Individuals must decide on their own how and how often to search, and they rarely receive feedback about the effectiveness of the job-search activities and the strategies they are using.” In other words, both motivation and reward must come from within. When rejections start to pile up, it can be incredibly difficult to keep slugging.
One intriguing statistic from the study: Though career professionals say that job seekers should treat their search like a full-time job, participants in the study spent only 17 hours a week on their search at the outset. That declined to 14 hours a week at week 15, and then ticked up slightly after that. The lesson here, say the researchers: Track the amount of time you spend on your search and bump up your effort if you find it lagging.
A piece of good news: even in this depressed job climate, 128 or 72% of the study participants found a job within the 20-week study period.
The biggest lessons from the study: Not only is finding a job in your own hands but so is your mental health, which is directly linked to your ability to push ahead with your job search. Though looking for a job can be one of the toughest tasks in life, especially when you’re feeling down, it’s incredibly important to soldier on. Remaining jobless and not trying to find work takes a toll on self-esteem and overall mental health. Networking and going on informational interviews is horribly tough when you’re feeling low, but it pays off in self-esteem and ultimately, in your ability to land a job.
As I’ve written many times, job seekers should limit their time online and make an effort to get out and meet people face to face. Most people still find work through people they know.