Marie-Hélène Budworth

Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, specializing in learning, development & motivation.

Marie-Hélène Budworth

Your best asset in today’s job market: Resilience

March 15th, 2017 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Last year my former graduate student and current research colleague Jennifer Harrison and I followed a group of new graduates during the early phases of their job search. We collected a set of measures at planned intervals to capture their progress and experience during the process.  In particular, we were interested in what personal characteristics provided support over what was certain to be a lengthy and challenging search.  I am currently organizing our findings in preparation for a paper.

As this generation emerges in to the job market, they face a particular challenge.  First, the labour market has changed.  There has been movement away from full-time, permanent employment to contingent work arrangements.  Second, the relationship between the individual and work has changed.  Studies have demonstrated that emergent workers are searching for meaningful work rather than simply looking for an entry level position from which they can grow a career.  In other words, expectations for a first job have changed relative to earlier generations who searched for an organization where they could spend a career.    Third, the education level of the population has increased.  More people are graduating with Bachelor’s degrees increasing the competition for jobs among this population.  The result is that emergent workers are facing the most competitive job market for young people that we have seen in generations.

In our study, we looked at whether factors such as hope, optimism, resilience, and self-efficacy would support emergent workers as they faced the challenge of today’s job market.  These are all related yet distinct constructs. Each has enjoyed some popular appeal lately.  With the rise of “positivity,” many articles and books have been written on the benefits of each of these variables.  Yet, to date, research has not distinguished among them and determined their utility in specific contexts.

The research tells us quite clearly that there are times when positive thinking is counterproductive.  For instance, when faced with adversity, people who had a positive outlook are less likely to overcome the challenge when compared to those who view the upcoming event as a challenge to be overcome.  These studies have led us to predict that factors such as optimism and hope would be less helpful on a prolonged job search.  We predicted that resilience, bouncing back when faced with failure, and self-efficacy, confidence in one’s ability to complete a task, would be the best predictors of success.  The early data is supporting our hypothesis regarding resilience, but the same is not true for self-efficacy.

The early results indicate that resiliency will buoy a job searcher over the long haul.  So when preparing for a job search, update your resume, plan your networking and actively work on improving your response to failure.  Rising to the challenge and responding to adversity are key to success in today’s job market.


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