Most career advice is highly subjective, offered by experts rather than researchers. A new study, however, suggests that there are methods and activities that can maximize your chances of success.
Researchers at the University of Missouri studied the efforts of 327 job seekers, ages 20 to 40, and found that developing and following a plan at the start of your job search, and having positive emotions later in the job search had a significant impact on success.
Conscientiousness appears to be key. Qualities such as self-discipline and dependability seemed to affect a job seeker's tendency to set goals and develop a plan, thereby directly influencing the number of job offers received, the researchers report. “Perhaps, conscientious job seekers conducted better quality job searches by scrutinizing their fit with prospective employers more carefully or more effectively following up with employers (e.g. sending thank you notes that emphasized qualifications),” the researchers report.
Likewise, positive emotions may have helped job seekers behave more confidently or cope better with stress, "thereby responding more skillfully in interviews than job seekers with less positive emotions," according to the report.
While the researchers acknowledge that job seekers cannot change their personalities, they note that individuals can change their behaviors and the display of their emotions. They recommend that job seekers "set goals, plan, and monitor their job search progress," as well as analyze their job interview skills. They also recommend that job seekers find ways to generate more positive thoughts and better responses to bad news.
Researcher Daniel Turban, a professor and chair of the Department of Management in the University of Missouri's College of Business, recommends that job seekers make plans for their searches, then regularly assess their progress. “Some of these recommendations seem like they are common sense, but they are just not that common," Turban says. "People don’t have strategies, they don’t assess their plans, and they don’t think about their strategies and reflect on whether it’s working or how to make them work better. They just don’t do it."