Looking for work is never fun, but a new study reveals that how successful you are depends a lot on the attitude you bring to the process. People who come into it with a know-it-all attitude are more likely to get discouraged and give up more easily than people who approach the whole job hunt saying, What can I learn from this?
“Emotions and job search intensity change during the job search process,” explains Serge da Motta Veiga, an assistant management professor at Lehigh University and the study’s lead author. “Job seekers experience ups and downs as they navigate this stressful process.” These fluctuating emotions affect your motivation and how hard you look for a job, the authors explain. A candidate who approaches their job search as an experience they can learn from — which the authors call “learning goal orientation” in the study — are better off.
While you might think that the rigors of looking for a job would be inherently demotivating, it turns out that it’s not the stress that gets you, but how you cope with it.
Taking on the potentially daunting process of landing a job with an attitude of being willing to learn from it insulates you from those emotional fluctuations that can derail you and make you more likely to slack off than send out that next batch of resumes or follow up on that promising lead. “We found that a learning orientation helped job seekers deal with the ups and downs of the job search, and maintain or even increase their job search intensity,” de Motta Veiga says. In fact, people who want to learn from their experiences — for better or for worse — actually become more motivated when facing stress.
On the flip side, the wrong attitude can leave you idling at the starting line.
“We believe that an attitude that you already know everything may be detrimental to the job search,” de Motta Veiga says. It also probably won’t do wonders for your career in general even if you manage to land a job, the authors point out, but it’s especially detrimental to the job search, which invariably involves having to shake off rejection. If you can’t see the silver lining and tell yourself, hey, at least I learned something, then you’re more likely to take that rejection personally. “Individuals who are oriented toward learning from experiences are more likely to learn and improve than those individuals who are not,” de Motta Veiga says.
So if your job search is stuck in a rut, try changing your attitude before you rewrite your resume one more time and get upset that nobody appreciates your talents. Go into each interaction with an open mind and tell yourself that, come what may, at least you’ll learn something from the experience. It just might change your luck.