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How to better prepare for your job search? Check your emotions

The latest World Economic Outlook released by the International Monetary Fund in October predicts that the negative impact of Covid-19 on jobs and livelihoods across the globe will be felt for many years to come, even if the pandemic goes away eventually.

In the current climate, given the pessimism about the global economy, a jobseeker is likely to go through many emotions, especially negative ones.

In the current climate, given the pessimism about the global economy, a jobseeker is likely to go through many emotions, especially negative ones.

The latest World Economic Outlook released by the International Monetary Fund in October predicts that the negative impact of Covid-19 on jobs and livelihoods across the globe will be felt for many years to come, even if the pandemic goes away eventually.

With uncertainty, jobseekers will have to explore all available avenues to secure employment.

Some are tapping their network of friends and contacts, while others are seeking help to write a better resume or reading up on interview skills.

There is something else a jobseeker might want to take note of.

A person’s emotions, both positive and negative, and his "self-regulation abilities" — indicated by what are known as core self-evaluation (CSE) — affect the outcome of his job search. 

Core self-evaluation refers to a personality trait that includes shared elements of some of the most frequently studied personality traits, including self-esteem, self-efficacy, and locus of control (locus of control refers to the extent to which one feels one has control over the events that influence one’s life). 

In the current climate, given the pessimism about the global economy, a jobseeker is likely to go through many emotions, especially negative ones. 

However, there will be some positive ones that he encounters from time to time.

RESEARCH ON LABOUR MARKET ENTRANTS

A piece of research to be published in the Human Resource Management journal is useful for our discussion here.

It is based on 157 labour market entrants at a large United States midwestern university who were surveyed weekly for eight weeks. 

During their job search, respondents were asked about activated and deactivated positive emotions as well as activated and deactivated negative emotions.

Highly activated emotions (whether positive or negative) energise people and motivate them to take actions while deactivated emotions result in lower energy levels and discourage action.

To gauge respondents’ CSE, participants were asked to respond to statements like "when I try, I generally succeed" and "I determine what will happen in my life".

Emotive terms such as "enthusiastic, alert, excited" are deemed activated positive as these positive emotions provide energy and encourage action. 

On the other hand, deactivated positive emotive terms include "relaxed, serene and calm" as these positive emotions encourage people to take it easy. 

In the survey, the respondents were also asked to respond to activated negative feelings such as nervousness, stress and being tense. 

Deactivated negative feelings such as feeling sad, tired, and gloomy were also explored in relation to their search.

FINDINGS

Activated positive feelings such as excitement and enthusiasm and activated negative feelings such as stress were related to increased effort ("makes them work harder") only when job seekers had high CSE. 

Those low in CSE were not able to transform their activated emotions into action.

Negative emotion, high in activation ("activated negative")

When a jobseeker is feeling anxious and stressed (what we commonly perceive as a negative emotion), he or she can perceive that things are not going well but is "energised to take action".  

An example would be a jobseeker being anxious that his presentation or interview skills are bad, and he would get coaching or practise more in front of the mirror before his job interview.

Positive emotion, high in activation ("activated positive")

While activated negative emotion energises through perceptions that the jobseeker is behind and needs to increase effort, positive emotions result in perceptions that the goal is achievable and the activation gives her the energy to push towards goal attainment.

Negative emotion, low in activation ("deactivated negative")

In contrast, if a jobseeker is tired and gloomy about his job search, he still perceives that things are not going well.  

But the feelings give him less energy and motivation to act, and he might even stop making an effort completely.

Positive emotion, low in activation ("deactivated positive")

A jobseeker who feels positive (relaxed and serene) is likely to reduce the search effort.  

The jobseeker might have felt that good progress had been made and is "not energised" to act. 

This jobseeker is likely to judge the situation as safe and comfortable and hence perceive little need for further effort.

While a jobseeker’s emotions seem to affect the efforts put into job search, an individual’s temperament comes into play as well and is even more important to the success of job search. 

This is called CSE.

American professor of management Timothy A. Judge and his colleagues defined CSE as a stable personality trait reflecting a person’s self-evaluation of his or her capabilities and sense of control.  

It involves four personality traits: Self-esteem, generalised self-efficacy, emotional stability, and locus of control. 

A person with higher levels of CSE will have stronger self-regulatory capabilities, which allows for making the best of the situation, and even translating emotions into further actions or efforts, securing more job interviews and hence higher chances of job offers.

Throughout the job hunt process, jobseekers experience both stressful and exciting moments, and must invest a significant amount of effort to secure interviews and job offers. 

Although it is difficult for jobseekers to completely control their emotions, they must understand what types of emotions can influence their job search.

As seen in the research, activated emotions such as excitement (positive) and stress (negative) resulted in more effort and job search success for jobseekers high in CSE. Contentment and sadness (deactivated emotions, positive or negative) in comparison tended to result in lower levels of effort and job search success.

Jobseekers need to recognise that, contrary to popular belief, not all positive effects are beneficial, and not all negative effects are detrimental to their search. 

Although stress has traditionally been viewed as detrimental, it is important for job seekers to recognise that stress can spur job seeking.

They must also recognise that the way they are motivated during the job search is related to self-regulation as it intensifies the link between activated emotions and job search effort.

Thus, jobseekers are encouraged to increase their CSE. 

Some suggestions on how to do this could be:

  • Increase locus of control: Set Smart (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound) goals so that you have a clearer view of the steps you need to achieve your job search objective.

  • Increase self-efficacy: Focus on the job search process (not final outcome) and celebrate small wins or achievements in the process.

  • Increase self-esteem: Avoid dwelling on negative events; instead encourage positive thinking, practise mindfulness, go for career counselling and take up simple training sessions on interview tips or presentation skills.

The Covid-19 crisis has disrupted the economy in an unprecedented manner and has led to more people being back on the job search and having to do it virtually from home. 

Now, more than ever, it is critical for job seekers to understand and manage their emotions in a way that will help them succeed, and to reinforce their beliefs in their own capabilities.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: 

Foo Maw Der is a professor of entrepreneurship at Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University. Serge da Motta Veiga is a professor of human resources Management at EDHEC Business School, France.

Related topics

job employment Covid-19 emotions

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