Interesting shorts – recession and resilience

Impact of a recession on beliefs

My! Those are interesting shorts!

How will the recession affect the world-view beliefs of those young people living through it?

A discussion paper from the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Germany, analyses certain beliefs held by United States citizens and tries to link these beliefs with an individual’s exposure to recessions. They found that people who experienced a recession during a key impressionable age range (18-25 years old) were more likely to believe that success in life was down to luck rather than hard work. They also found that this belief tended to persist throughout the person’s life.

This belief that success in life is beyond your control can lead someone to make less effort, which then makes the belief a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Giuliano, P. & Spilimbergo, A. (2009) Growing Up in a Recession: Beliefs and the Macroeconomy. Institute for the Study of Labour IZA Discussion Paper No. 4365.
  • Should we be working with the students currently at university in order to encourage a belief in the benefits of effort and hard work?
  • Do you think it would be useful to let students know about this research directly?
  • What do you attribute success to?

Abstraction the key to self-esteem?

How do you protect yourself from the day-to-day knocks and failures that might damage your self-confidence?

The answer, according to one study, is ‘self-construal abstractedness’. The research looked at the stability of self-esteem over time and found that people who thought about themselves in general terms were more immune to events that might dent their self-confidence than those who used very concrete measures of self-worth. So, someone who tells herself that she is a good communicator is more likely to be resilient than someone who tells himself that he has a large vocabulary.

When they manipulated the students in the study by asking some to list ‘five traits and characteristics that describe the kind of person you were today‘ (abstract) and others to list ‘five specific things you did or accomplished today‘ (concrete), they found that the self-esteem of the abstract group was less affected by bad events.

Updegraff, J.A. et al. (2010) Sheltering the self from the storm: Self-construal abstractness and the stability of self-esteem. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(1), 97-108.
  • Given the current economic conditions, is it part of our job to help students to develop self-esteem stability?
  • Have you worked on other ways to develop client self-confidence?

Over-education = lack of innovation?

Do people working in jobs that underutilise their education lack ‘get up and go’?

With the numbers of students entering higher education increasing and the number of graduate level jobs decreasing, the problem of people ending up in roles that are less demanding and rewarding than they expected is likely to increase. You might expect that overqualified people would be driven to take more initiative in such roles, assuming extra responsibilities and developing career enhancing activities outside work. However, you would be wrong. A recent study from Spain has confirmed the findings of other research that overqualified workers are less likely to engage in job content innovation and other behaviours outside of their defined roles. Perhaps they feel they are not being paid enough to do anything beyond what is written in their job descriptions, even though this could lead to longer term career success and more rapid career development.

Agut, S., Peiró, J.M. & Grau, R. (2009) The Effect of overeducation on job content innovation and career-enhancing strategies among young Spanish employees. Journal of Career Development, 36(2), 159-182.
  • How are we preparing students to cope with under-utilisation in their jobs?
  • How could we inspire them to develop more constructive attitudes to innovation at work?

Related posts: Learned helplessness and the recession; How can careers advice be positive in a recession?; Classics – Theory of Work Adjustment


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  1. Overcoming the self-fulfilling prophecy of social rejection « Careers – in Theory

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