I first become interested in the psychology of job seekers when I commenced my Masters in positive psychology. I have always had a keen interest in motivational psychology (an aspect of positive psychology) and it has always interwoven itself in the work that I have done. I found psychology was a persistent theme working in the fitness industry and trying to tap into motivational psychology to get results from clients or when I managed contractor trainers; trying to motivate them to follow through on business plans and ideas to help them build their businesses.
Job seekers present a unique set of motivational challenges but I believe positive psychology is the answer not only with motivating people to apply for work but also to assist them at being happier ‘on-the-job’.
Mental health is a word that is thrown around a lot by organisations in recent years and it is no wonder with the recent productivity commission citing mental health a huge cost to the economy. As with any person, there are complexities and nuances that exist and create challenges to finding work. Existing mental health problems can potentially be exacerbated with the challenges of being knocked back for job applications and interviews as well as feeling alienated and lacking self-esteem.
The role of an employability educator is to not only help people find work but to help foster better mental health (positive psychology) as the benefits can include things such as:
Reduced risk of depression
Reduction in anxiety
Improvement in mood
When trying to address mental health, looking into positive psychology principles is the key. Here are a few positive psychology concepts and how they can assist a job seeker (I have included links for further research):
Self-determination theory (Basic Psychological Needs and Frustration Scale) – This theory is concerned with three primary areas of a persons life that help determine their overall level of psychological wellbeing and motivation (or frustration). The three area are: autonomy, competence and relatedness
PERMA – This popular theoretical model developed by Martin Seligman measures the following areas of a persons life: Positive emotion, Engagement, Positive relationships, Meaning and Accomplishments. Each of these areas can make an impact on a persons overall psychological wellbeing. Here is a TED talk from Martin Seligman on positive psychology:
Psychological wellbeing scale – Developed by Dr Carol Ryff. The psychological wellbeing scale is a 42 item questionnaire targeting six sub-scales: Autonomy, Environmental mastery, Personal growth, Relations with others, Purpose in life and Self-acceptance.
Reading through each of these concepts, there are some common ideas:
Autonomy – The feeling of control over one’s life. This is a diminishing feeling the longer a person is actively looking for work. The idea of ‘casting a wide net’ (applying for any and all jobs possible) leads to a reduction in a persons feeling of control over their next job. An employability educator should be building confidence and assurance from their participants by being more selective and apply for roles that match what they are after in a career/job. The plus-side of this is that they will also have better-looking applications by being a little more selective in their approach.
Relationships – The personal connections that exist between people. Looking for work can be isolating, particularly if a persons friendship/family circle are busy or working. Tasks that encourage team work and communication can help a quiet person develop relationships with others. Employability programs allow people to connect that share a common interest/goal=finding work!
Growth – The feeling of achievement and/or competence. I have been lucky to have been a part of programs that have delivered nationally-accredited qualifications. This has helped participants feel like they have achieved something at the end of the programs. If this isn’t a part of your program, it is key to recognise the completion of their training. I have always felt that an interview at the completion of training with some positive and constructive feedback seems to give my participants a spring in their step.
Group work can help encourage personal connections amongst job seekers.
Reading through a summary of these theories, do you see what your program can do to benefit it’s participants? An important thing to remember is that when a person is lacking in one or more of the aforementioned areas of their life, they may struggle with mental health or motivation. Having an understanding of some of these concepts may allow an educator to better-understand their participants.
These theories are decades of research by psychologists that have strived to understand what make people happy, rather than depressed. It must be stressed that not everyone will respond positively to interventions that try to address some of these theories and models but by implementing activities and programs that aim to improve a persons mental health, you are setting them up to be potentially happier for longer.
Watch a video of a TED talk by Martin Seligman
If you would like to learn more about Job Skills Queensland, and what it can offer your employability program, CLICK HERE