You may not know this, but as you are reading this there are dozens of researchers who are studying the best way for people to find jobs. These researchers study people who are successful in the job search process and try to understand what factors helped them find success. Instead of pulling tips for you from a blog or job hunting site, below we present (in layman’s terms) some of the most important findings from this area of research.
Research has consistently found that the best predictor of eventual employment is the amount of time and energy an individual puts into finding a job. Consider this inventory used by researchers to measure how active people are in the job search process. Typically researchers ask people how often they have done each of these things over the last few months:
- Read the help wanted/classified ads in a newspaper or online
- Listed yourself as a job applicant in a newspaper or online
- Prepared/revised your résumé
- Sent out résumés to potential employers
- Filled out a job application
- Read a book or article about getting a job or changing jobs
- Had an interview with a prospective employer
- Talked with friends or relatives about possible job leads
- Contacted an employment agency, executive search firm, or state employment service
- Spoke with previous employers or business acquaintances about their knowing of potential job leads
- Telephoned a prospective employer
- Used current within-company resources (e.g., colleagues) to generate potential job leads
How often have you been doing each of these things? A harsh reality is that looking for a new job–especially a job that can provide an opportunity for you to live out your calling–often demands the same amount of time and energy as will the job itself. One way to jump start an active job search is to meet with a career counselor who can help you devise a plan you can use to focus your time and effort most efficiently and effectively.
Nearly a century of research in psychology has shown that the more confident a person is in achieving a certain outcome, the more likely that outcome will be achieved. This also applies to the job search process. Feeling confident that you will find a job that is a great fit for you will actually help you get that job. Why? Two main reasons. First, confidence serves as a motivator. When you feel confident about anything, you want to get out there and do it. Second, confidence will bolster all of the interpersonal interactions you have throughout the job search process. When you exude confidence–whether it be to a potential employer, career counselor, friend, or family member–they will be believe in you and be more likely to support you. Of course, many people who struggle with low levels of confidence; there is no switch a person can flip to magically ratchet up their confidence levels. That doesn’t mean you cannot increase your sense of confidence, however, and researchers point to three main ways to make this possible.
- The most powerful strategy is to engage in mastery experiences, meaning you have real world success in a certain type of activity that makes you feel confident of future success in that area. In the job search process, the best way to experience these successes is to accomplish small goals–post your résumé, reach out to close friends, attend a job fair, organize a filing system for job openings, etc. Accomplishing these small successes will build your confidence, which in turn may propel you to the larger success of landing a great job.
- Second, we build confidence by being around other people who are successful at what we want to accomplish. Ask yourself, “who in my life has had success in job hunting?” Whoever those people are, seek them out and talk to them about how exactly they were successful. Hearing their stories will provide you with information that will help you accomplish your own job search goals.
- Third, people become more confident when they get encouragement from others that they respect. When you have important people in your life tell you that they believe in you, chances are good that you become confident as well, believing in yourself. This is why during the job search process it is critical that we surround ourselves with vocal supporters, who will highlight our strengths and never stop believing in us.
Researchers have found that certain personality traits link to increased job search behaviors and in turn increased employment down the road. Simply put, certain people are more likely to be active in the job search process and are more likely to be offered jobs because of their particular personality traits. Three traits that stand out are extroversion, conscientiousness, and a proactive personality. Extroversion and provocative personality refer to a strong tendency to be outgoing and take initiative. It is probably obvious to you why these might be helpful traits in the job search process. These types of people are very active, and when they do have the opportunity to interview for positions are engaging. Conscientiousness refers to being careful, committed and organized. Conscientious people are good at planning their search and staying task oriented. We recognize that it is not easy to just become more extroverted, proactive, or conscientious if this is not your natural personality style. However, research has consistently demonstrated that all of us have the ability (although it may take effort) to showcase even the most dormant parts of our personality when needed. So be sure to turn on your outgoing, assertive, reliable self when engaging the job search process.
Attempting to find a new job is in many ways is a solitary exercise–sifting through job ads, searching the internet, preparing a résumé, actually conducting interviews. However, the more you are able to feel supported in these activities by friends, family, and former coworkers, the greater your likelihood of being active in the job search process and eventually securing a job. These networks serve two major functions. First, they provide emotional support during a time where you are likely not feeling too good about yourself. This emotional support can help keep you motivated and help you cope with your lack of a job effectively. Second, they provide access to potential job opportunities. Because these are people who likely know you well, they will know what types of jobs might be a good fit for your calling. One technique that is often encouraged by career counselors is to send an email to your closest friends and family, telling them you are seeking a new job and telling them what type of job would be a great fit for you. Making your search process something communal instead of solitary is critical in securing a great job down the road.