There are a lot of ways you can go wrong during your job search. You can fail to spend enough time at it, but you can also get so involved you become isolated from family and friends. Those are among the most common mistakes job seekers make, according to a new study by three scholarly researchers, Connie Wanberg, Jing Zhu, and Edwin A. J. van Hooft. They have written a paper titled “The Job-Search Grind: Perceived Progress, Self-Reactions, and Self-Regulation of Search Effort,” which also shows that signs of progress can make you relax too much and that you should have diversified ways of searching.
The three scholars asked 233 participants to complete a baseline survey and then follow up online every Monday through Friday for three weeks. They were asked to indicate their emotions, the time they dedicated to their job search and the level of confidence they felt about finding an acceptable job. They all had been out of work for about 16 weeks.
“I have been doing research since 1990, and I didn’t understand what job seekers did on a day-to-day basis,” says Wanberg, a professor of human resources and industrial relations at the University of Minnesota. “I found that there are a lot of ups and downs in the process, and I would say that one of the biggest mistakes that job seekers make is that they don’t regulate their emotions. They often start off angry, especially if they were let go from their previous job. Once they start the application process, they become very confident. Next, they get frustrated by their rejections.”
The study reveals that more than 40% of the participants dedicated less than three hours a day to their searches, while another 40% spent more than half their day at it. Wanberg warns against taking either too many or too few breaks from the job hunt. “Some people tether themselves to the computer and become isolated,” she says. “It is healthy to take time out to exercise or have lunch with a friend.” On the other hand, the study finds, progress tends to induce loafing, as some job hunters take lengthy breaks after a particularly productive day, feeling complacent or wanting to reward themselves.
Wanberg says job seekers tend to make these kinds of mistakes because they don’t always have the help and resources they need to conduct a successful job search. “A lot of unemployed people go into the process without talking to people or researching effective methods for finding a job,” she says. “For instance, many people are not aware that they need to diversify their approach.”
She stresses the importance of using different search methods, including networking, online searches and making phone calls. “Sticking to one method is one of the biggest mistakes job seekers make,” she says.