When the job search becomes a blame game

MIT professor’s book explores how white-collar job hunters in the U.S. blame themselves unnecessarily — and suffer as a result — when they cannot find work.Searching for a job is tough — and the nature of the hiring process in the United States makes matters far tougher, and more emotionally fraught for workers, than it needs to be.That is the central assertion of MIT’s Ofer Sharone in a new book based on his in-depth study of the American and Israeli white-collar labor markets, which operate very differently.In the U.S., Sharone says, job hunts emphasize the presentation of personal characteristics; job seekers play, in his terms, a “chemistry game” with prospective employers. In Israel, by contrast, the job-placement process is more formally structured and places greater emphasis on objective skills.As a result, white-collar workers in the U.S. are more likely to take their job-market struggles personally, and find it harder to sustain searches.”It’s very painful to keep getting rejected,” says Sharone, an assistant professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Moreover, widespread self-help advice for job seekers, he believes, “unintentionally exacerbates this problem” by encouraging unemployed workers to believe they entirely control their job-search outcomes.Examples of American workers taking their job-search struggles personally abound from the interviews Sharone conducted during his research. Consider Nancy, a former venture capitalist, who told Sharone that when she struggled to find a new position, “I started to feel there was something wrong with how I interviewed. And then, something wrong with me.” Chris, a marketer, confided to Sharone that “the hardest thing is esteem, confidence. It’s killed.” And sometimes job-search struggles turn into disastrous, all-consuming personal problems: Richard, an accountant unemployed for a year, attempted suicide, saw his marriage dissolve, and told Sharone that his job search was a “terrible emotional experience.”All of this constitutes a significant social issue at a time when, according to estimates, 4.1 million Americans in the labor market have been unemployed for more than six months. Moreover, some studies have shown that these workers have a harder time attracting interest from employers as a result of their time out of work.”These are people who never thought this could happen to them,” Sharone adds. “They are educated, they have experience, they are exactly the people our society makes out to be the winners.”Hiring practices and job-seeking experiencesSharone’s book, “Flawed System/Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment Experiences,” has just been published by the University of Chicago Press.A sociologist by training, Sharone decided to conduct a comparative study of hiring practices in the two countries in part because they both have thriving information-economy sectors: The San Francisco area and Tel Aviv have the world’s densest concentrations of high-tech firms, for instance. …

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Divorce can spell big boost to women’s happiness, UK research shows

July 10, 2013 — Women tend to become much more happy and satisfied with their lives after their divorces come through, according to researchers at London’s Kingston University.The study published in the journal Economica shows that women are significantly more content than usual for up to five years following the end of their marriages, even more so than their own average or ‘baseline’ level of happiness throughout their lives.Researchers based their conclusions on a survey of 10,000 people in the UK between the ages of 16 and 60. Over a period of two decades these same group members were regularly questioned and asked to rate their own happiness before and after major milestones in their lives. Although men also felt slightly happier after receiving the decree absolute, the increase was much less marked.”In the study we took into account the fact that divorce can sometimes have a negative financial impact on women, but despite that it still makes them much happier than men,” Professor Yannis Georgellis, Director of the Centre for Research in Employment, Skills and Society at Kingston Business School, said. “One possible explanation could be that women who enter into an unhappy marriage feel much more liberated after divorce than their male counterparts.”The study examined a psychological process called ‘adaptation’ — the way in which we adjust to new circumstances. It also revealed that people can very quickly bounce back from other life events normally perceived as extremely negative or even traumatic, such as being widowed. Unemployment, however, was the one major life event that had a much more permanent negative impact on well-being on both sexes. Men were particularly badly hit by losing their jobs, with the serious negative impact on their happiness persisting for up to five years.”Men are deeply affected by unemployment, especially if they are used to being the breadwinners in their homes,” Professor Georgellis explained. “With both sexes, the old adage ‘time heals’ just doesn’t seem to apply to losing your job. In fact the negative effect of being made unemployed also persists even if the person finds a new job because being made unemployed has a ‘scarring’ effect.”

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