Losing one’s job can feel like a debilitating defeat. Besides just the financial implications, an abrupt dismissal can spark intense feelings of self-doubt, stress, anxiety, and fear for the future. Ironically, all of that uncertainty usually serves as a hindrance while searching for a new job. It isn’t easy to put your best foot forward, to job search, while dealing with mental pressure — but having this trait can help.
Now, a new study just published by Wiley has identified a specific trait that helps certain newly unemployed individuals navigate the rigors of a job search much more efficiently than others: self-regulation.
Self-regulation is defined as the ability to recognize and control one’s thoughts, emotions, and actions in a positive manner. Individuals with a strong sense of self-regulation also tend to view adversity and setbacks as tests or challenges to overcome, not reasons to despair.
Pretty much every functioning adult has at least somewhat of a grasp on self-regulation. It’s what allows us to maintain positive, loving relationships with friends and family, not lose our cool over the slightest annoyances (most of the time), and focus our attention for long enough to learn and remember new information.
Some people, though, have a much better handle on self-regulation. These individuals are better equipped to navigate the stressors of a job search.
Life can be likened to a video game at times. The player (you) makes their way through each level of the game, progressively picking up more skills, experience, and compensation. The unexpected and abrupt loss of a job, however, can feel like you forgot to hit the “save” button for your career. Obviously, that’s infuriating, but so much in life is out of our hands. All we can control is how we react to those situations.
Those with a stronger grip on their self-regulation do a better job of staying calm and in control when the game of life forces them backward by a few levels. That calmness often translates to a more thorough and refined job search, more confidence and self-assurance that the right job will come along, and better overall wellbeing.
“Together, results of this study suggest that the components of self-regulation are key to a comprehensive model of resiliency, which plays a crucial role in enhancing well-being and re-employment outcomes during individuals’ search for employment,” says lead study author Matthew J. W. McLarnon, Ph.D., MSc, of Mount Royal University, in a press release.
To reach these findings the research team gathered together a group of 185 participants. All of those people had recently been fired but hadn’t found a new job just yet. Each person was asked to fill out a survey inquiring about both their job search and measuring their self-regulation levels. Those with high levels of self-regulation generally reported feeling better overall, as well as better job search clarity and job search self-efficacy.
Career setbacks are, in many cases, unavoidable and completely out of one’s control. That last point has never been clearer in 2020. Millions all around the globe have found themselves suddenly without an income over the past months due to the coronavirus.
Attaining a high degree of self-regulation isn’t easy. We’re all guilty of letting our emotions and outside stressors get the best of us from time to time, and nothing is more stressful than searching for a job with no income coming in. The work is well worth the reward, though, and the benefits of self-regulation go far beyond just one’s career.
Something as simple as making a list of your usual stressors is a good first step toward establishing better self-regulation. Practicing mindfulness techniques such as breathing exercises and meditation are other good ways to get started.
The study’s authors also believe that unemployment services and counseling centers should emphasize self-regulation education much more.
The full study can be found here, published in The Journal of Employment Counseling.