Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Americans blame themselves more when they can’t find jobs, study says

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Looking for a job and feeling down on yourself? Turns out you’re not alone.

Ofer Sharone, PhD, an assistant professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, recently wrote a book that explores how white-collar job markets in America differ from those in Israel. The findings offer an explanation into why Americans feel like they’re to blame when they can’t find work. Many Americans find it hard to keep going with their search because they take not being able to find a job more personally than Israeli workers.

Sharone says that job-searching in the U.S. is all about presenting personal characteristics, while the job-placement process in Israel is all about skills. (That kind of explains the whole “It’s all who you know” thing.)

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. And the American focus on self-help advice “unintentionally exacerbates this problem” by telling unemployed people that they’re in control of their job search—and therefore responsible for the outcome.

Sharone’s study raises awareness about a huge social issue at a time when unemployment still remains high. In fact, 4.1 million Americans in the labor market have been out of work for more than six months. That, in turn, can make it harder for those workers to garner interest—more time out of work creates a wider gap on the resume, which really never looks too good.

In Israel, companies looking for personnel turn to third-party firms to screen applicants and narrow down a list of candidates. By contrast, many gigs in the U.S. require face-to-face interviews to select candidates.

Sharon says Americans do not blame themselves for not getting a job, but they start to beat up on themselves when they can’t find a new one. They then translate that into negative attitudes about their networking skills, career direction, and personality traits. It’s a vicious cycle.

The University of Chicago Press has published Sharone’s book, Flawed System/Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment Experiences. Want to read it but save a few bucks? Dig out your library card.

Kristen Fischer
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