Positive thinking, persistence pay off in job search: study

May 04, 2012 By Lisa Esposito, HealthDay Reporter
Positive thinking, persistence pay off in job search: study
Staying focused on finding employment is most important factor, researchers say.

(HealthDay) -- 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 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 .

In early 2008, the U.S. 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 percent.

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."

Explore further: Change 'authoritarian' football culture to produce future stars, says research

More information: The American Psychological Association has more about recovering from job loss.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The search for a job begins and ends with you

Apr 24, 2012

Staying motivated is always tough, but it certainly gets easier when you start seeing results. That's why keeping your spirits up during a job search can be extremely difficult. Candidates often face repeated rejection and ...

Satisfying job leads to better mental health

Oct 14, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- If you want to have good mental health, it’s not enough to just have a job, you should also have a job that satisfies you, according to new research from The Australian National University. ...

Recommended for you

Male-biased tweeting

18 hours ago

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Developing nations ride a motorcycle boom

20 hours ago

Asia's rapidly developing economies should prepare for a full-throttle increase in motorcycle numbers as average incomes increase, a new study from The Australian National University has found.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Milou
3.7 / 5 (3) May 04, 2012
Hitting your head on a brick wall to make a hole is also accomplished the same way. Stay positive thinking and be persistent. It can be done. Hope you have lots of patience and lots of rags to clean up the blood!!! Now a days your chance for the hole in the wall is a lot better than a job. Good luck.
Terriva
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2012
staying positive and being persistent helped people find work sooner
Oh, really? Why We Have So Much "Duh" Science It's a result of overemployment in social sciences.
Musashi
5 / 5 (1) May 05, 2012
I've gotten jobs being incredibly pessimistic about it... it just doesn't matter at all. If you really want or need something, you'll do what you have to do regardless of "positive thinking", as if that ever gets anyone anything. This article has a real "The Secret" vibe about it...

More news stories

Male-biased tweeting

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Not just the poor live hand-to-mouth

When the economy hits the skids, government stimulus checks to the poor sometimes follow. Stimulus programs—such as those in 2001, 2008 and 2009—are designed to boost the economy quickly by getting cash ...

Archaeologists, tribe clash over Native remains

Archaeologists and Native Americans are clashing over Indian remains and artifacts that were excavated during a construction project in the San Francisco Bay Area, but then reburied at an undisclosed location.

When things get glassy, molecules go fractal

Colorful church windows, beads on a necklace and many of our favorite plastics share something in common—they all belong to a state of matter known as glasses. School children learn the difference between ...

FCC to propose pay-for-priority Internet standards

The Federal Communications Commission is set to propose new open Internet rules that would allow content companies to pay for faster delivery over the so-called "last mile" connection to people's homes.