You may have had a hunch individual confidence and effort are key in finding a job.
Now there's empirical data to support that.
Ellen Jackofsky, who heads the department of organizational behavior-business policy at Southern Methodist University's
Edwin L. Cox School of Business, is busy plowing through the data from a study of about 285 managers who lost their jobs.
Her most striking early finding: "People who feel they can get a new job first of all take a shorter time to find a job -- but also are able to do better financially."
The research started in 1988, when the outplacement firm Drake Beam Morin Inc. agreed to let Ms. Jackofsky study a large group of clients in detail. Participation was optional, and some of the executives were more faithful than others in recording their month-to-month progress.
It is from that group of about 45 displaced executives that Ms. Jackofsky got her first significant findings.
One passing irony: Some colleagues wondered why the time investment in what was surely to be a passing phenomenon -- layoffs of white-collar, managerial people.
The research goal was to look at several variables in the job hunt. Two primary objects of study were the roles of self-efficacy -- the "I can do it" belief that turned out to be significant -- and negative affectivity -- a measure of self-concept.
Before Ms. Jackofsky and her student helpers are finished, they also will have studied the possible effects of outside activities, career stages and experience with cuts.
It already appears from the data that managers with broad outside interests found jobs more quickly than those whose interests rested solely in their jobs.
Why would that be? Ms. Jackofsky says "it may be the function of networking. They probably know a lot more people.
"And they probably have developed a whole new set of skills besides the ones they use on their job. . . . With the market we have, with jobs changing as quickly as they are, being tied to one kind of job is very limiting."
To measure the "I-can-do-it" attitude, the job-seekers took tests and kept journals.
That factor overrode economic indicators such as the unemployment rate as a predictor of success in the job search, Jackofsky said.
Conversely, "if you have a low 'I can do it' belief, it doesn't matter how good the economy is," she said.
"It's almost a 'life goes on despite the economy' finding," she said.
In the current economic environment, it may seem "as though the walls are closing in, with this cutback and that cutback," she said. "But individual psychosocial variables, individual differences, can override the economy."
"That might be Pollyanna Jackofsky, but it's right," she said. The data support it.
Of the 285 managers involved in Ms. Jackofsky's study: 70 percent went back to work; three percent enrolled in further education; 15 percent went into business for themselves; about 12 percent did not keep in touch.