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A computer screen with a job listing.

Carlson School researchers have found that people who look more intensely for jobs were more extroverted and more comfortable cold-calling.

Understanding unemployment

From eNews, March 23, 2006

As a professor of human resources and industrial relations at the U's Carlson School of Management, Connie Wanberg has conducted extensive research on the psychological experience of unemployment, job-seeking behavior, formal mentoring programs, career transitions, and the socialization of new employees.

In her research involving the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Wanberg led three studies that have helped the department better understand the behaviors of unemployed individuals. "The State of Minnesota has many experts in the job search process," says Wanberg, "but we helped them broaden the types of variables and questions they were looking at. At the same time, they also helped us expand some of the questions we were looking at."

First study To find out why some people became reemployed faster than others, Wanberg and her colleagues studied 1,775 unemployed people from 48 work centers and looked at how intensely they looked for new jobs. "We looked at the number of openings in their field, their years of experience, level of education, personality, and social networking skills," she explains. "We also looked at other factors like whether they had transportation, child care, and the hours they were willing to work, as well as their economic need."

The researchers found that people who look more intensely for jobs were more extroverted and conscientious and more comfortable networking and cold-calling, had a greater financial need to work, felt that work was very important to them, and had high levels of social support.

On the flip side, people tended to take longer to find jobs and to exhaust their unemployment insurance if they were minorities, older, employed longer in their last jobs, had lower self-reported qualifications, were less conscientious, and had lower levels of economic hardship. Women with children took the longest to find new jobs, says Wanberg.

The study, "Predictive validity of a multidisciplinary model of reemployment success," was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, December 2002. Based on the research, Wanberg developed a survey tool to help Minnesota job seekers "self-diagnose" the areas in which they need help.

Study No. 2 To learn how people approached the job search process and why they might work harder one week in finding a job and not so hard the next week, Wanberg and her team surveyed 903 people at nine work centers and followed up with them by phone for several weeks to see how intensely they were looking for jobs.

Wanberg's tips for job seekers

"Have a clear goal, look for a job full-time, network, be persistent, use self-affirmations, and ask for support from friends, family, and mentors," says U professor Connie Wanberg. "In addition, you need to be very clear about the type of job you want, so you are happy once you do find work."

"We found that people with higher levels of optimism, self-esteem, and control were more likely to persist in their job search over time despite various rejections and difficulties," Wanberg says.

The study, "Job-search persistence during unemployment: A 10-wave longitudinal study," was published in the May 2005 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology. According to Wanberg, the study is currently the most extensive look at job-search behavior over time.

"Our research results show the importance of having a strong social network and support system in place when people are searching for a job," says Wanberg. "People who are continually rejected for jobs can get out of whack and say 'I don't want to do this anymore.' Job-support clubs, spouses, and friends are important for offering support."

The final study Although a substantial amount of research has been done on the impact of unemployment on a person's well-being, that didn't stop Wanberg and her colleagues from pursuing the topic.

Previous findings portray unemployment as impacting both an individual's mental and physical health. This is not the case for everyone, says Wanberg. Whether a person's mental or physical health is affected, and how much, depends on a person's financial status, level of support, ways of coping, importance of the work to them, and his or her personality.

"There is a big improvement in mental health and life satisfaction when individuals return to work, if it is a good job,"she says.

The study, "Psychological and physical well-being during unemployment: A meta-analytic study," was published in the January 2005 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology.