Unemployed? Watch out for those pleasant feelings

Anxiety is a natural consequence of being unemployed. Regular MinnEcon readers know we’ve heard some harrowing tales of life in the recession.


But there’s some unusual research out of the University of Minnesota that examines our brains, feelings and motivations when we’re out of work.

Maybe the most interesting takeaway: A good day of job searching — and good feelings that come from it — can be hazardous.

While it might make you feel good, the U research shows you’re likely to use it as a reason to back off.

7/23 UPDATE: Minnesota Public Radio’s Mike Caputo has opened a discussion thread on this issue at MPR’s Minnesota Today site. Please jump in and share your experience.

We’re reading through the study — “The Job-Search Grind: Perceived Progress, Self-Reactions, and Self-Regulation of Search Effort — which is set for publication in next month’s issue of the The Academy of Management Journal.

We’re also trying to talk to one of the study’s authors, U prof Connie R. Wanberg, for some additional questions. If we do we’ll post more.

The study and the quotes from Wanberg provided by The Academy of Management Journal, though, are pretty fascinating.

“The standard advice to the unemployed,” Dr. Wanberg observes, “is to treat a job search like a full-time job. Yet, only about 7% of our sample devoted six hours or more daily looking for work, while over 60% devoted a half day or less.

True, research has not determined how many hours a week is optimal, but it has shown that the more hours per week or per day one devotes to a job search, the greater one’s chances of finding a job.

In any event, spending three or four hours a day or less certainly doesn’t amount to a full-time effort.”

Wanberg also warns that job seekers tends to “take breaks after progress in their search. Some individuals have a tendency to put ‘all of their eggs in one basket,’ and presume after applying for and researching a given job that they can take time off, because they are convinced they will get that particular job.”

At MinnEcon, we’ve talked to lots of unemployed people over the course of a year. We’re sharing the findings with some of those folks to see if it matches up with what they went through.

If you have some thoughts, post below or contact us directly at MinnEcon.

One final piece of advice from the study:

“Unemployed job-hunters tend to let up after a day of progress and positive feelings, whether the individuals involved are strongly goal-oriented or not,” comments Prof. Wanberg.

“The big difference is seen after a bad day: people who are strongly goal-oriented shake off the blues and blahs and forge ahead more than ever the next day, while individuals less able to rise above those feelings let their efforts lag.

Unemployed job-seekers do well to keep two truths in mind: a job search is a bit of a roller coaster and it’s important to keep an emotional balance.”

Our own poor work habits and procrastination compelled us to skim the report and use the good stuff from the press release. But we’re digging now and when we get more we’ll post again.

Make us all a little smarter. Drop us a line and tell us what day-to-day unemployed life is like for you or someone you know.


Note: We came across this research after reading a post on the Wall Street Journal website.

  • Tim Nelson

    Human resources can give a 5 second glance at a resume, and be considered to be professional. Jobs interviews can be a stilted, uncomfortable, and solely out of touch with reality gauntlet.

    And now this.

    The guilt trip is not happening.

    Take us seriously, and we will take you seriously.

  • John

    I don’t think job searching should be full-time at all. Enjoy your free time during the day – god forbid.

  • Gerald Myking

    When I was young I literally walked from one end of town to the other stopping at every business. When I was a little older I expanded my job search to every community in a thirty mile radius. If you live in the metro area that’s a little different. If you are a specialist that’s even worse. My geographic area during the last recession was the entire continental United States. It took me about 8 weeks to find a job. Very few people are willing to pack up and move to the job. When commuting you have to count the travel time as a part of the job. A one hour job makes it a ten hour day plus the added travel expense. The actual hourly wage is considerably reduced when you factor these in.