There are a lot of ways you can go wrong during your job search. You can fail to devote enough time to it, or you can get so involved you become isolated from family and friends. Those are among the most common mistakes job seekers make, according to a study by Connie Wanberg, Jing Zhu and Edwin A. J. van Hooft. The researchers wrote a paper on their study titled “The Job-Search Grind: Perceived Progress, Self-Reactions, and Self-Regulation of Search Effort,” which was published in the Academy of Management Journal in 2010. Though the study was conducted two years ago—Wanberg says its findings are still entirely relevant today.
The three scholars asked 233 participants to complete a baseline survey and then follow up online every Monday through Friday for three weeks. Particpants tracked 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.
“There is a significant amount of research available on job search, however there is little understanding of what job seekers do 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 revealed 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 found that 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.
Last August, Wanberg, Zhu and van Hooft won the 2011 Academy of Management’s Human Resources Division’s Scholarly Achievement Award, an annual distinction the Academy gives to the authors of the human resources article, published in recognized journals and research annuals, that it deems most significant.
More recently, Wanberg and van Hooft teamed up with Gokce Basbug of MIT and Archana Agrawal of TheLadders to follow up on the topic. They conducted a qualitative study on job search demand and wrote an in-depth paper, titled “Navigating The Black Hole: Explicating Layers of Job Search Context and Adaptational Responses,” which will be published later this year.
Click here to see 13 big mistakes job seekers make, and how to avoid them.