Proactive Personality and the Successful Job Search – Journal of Applied Psychology

October 24, 2009

While obtaining my degree in Psychology at the University of Waterloo, the hardest work I did might have been writing an undergraduate thesis. I was incredibly lucky, though. My thesis adviser, Doug Brown, was working with three other colleagues on the publication of a large paper to be submitted for publication in the most prestigious journal in Industrial / Organizational Psychology, which is the Journal of Applied Psychology (JAP).

At the University of Waterloo, Bill Gates is a bigger draw than Britney Spears and Paris Hilton combined

At the University of Waterloo, Bill Gates is a bigger draw than Britney Spears and Paris Hilton combined

For my thesis, Doug invited me to write a paper that would contribute to this larger article for the JAP. The opportunity to be published in the JAP, as an undergrad, was an auspicious stroke of fortune that I couldn’t turn down.

Of course I had no idea how much I’d have to work my butt off! But it paid off, and I still had a little bit of butt left when all was said and done.

Since the JAP is best, most world-class publication of the field, my paper had to be world-class, too, which is an unusual expectation of an undergraduate student. But Doug was a tremendous coach. He mentored me every step of the way, helping me improve my standard of excellence with each subsequent revision of my paper. In other words, he made me rewrite that damn paper about 26 times!

But I’m grateful his standards were so high, because he taught me to become a much better scientist and writer. He taught me how to:

  • thoroughly conduct research, so that I understood the literature surrounding my topic, and so that my argument was buttressed by existing peer-reviewed evidence
  • make powerful, empirically-supported, and logically consistent, arguments
  • write more clearly and succinctly
  • present a compelling and persuasive story

Below is a synopsis of the article, and a link to a pdf of the full article:

The current article tests a model of proactive personality and job search success with a sample of 180
graduating college students. Using structural equation modeling, the authors tested a theoretical model
that specified the relations among proactive personality, job search self-efficacy, job search behaviors,
job search effort, and job search outcomes. Job seekers were surveyed at 2 separate points in time, once
3–4 months prior to graduation and once 2–3 months following graduation. The results suggest that
proactive personality (a) significantly influenced the success of college graduates’ job search, (b) was
partially mediated through job search self-efficacy and job search behavior, and (c) was independent of
self-esteem and conscientiousness. The findings are discussed in terms of their general implications for
understanding the nature of the process through which distal personality factors, such as proactive
personality, affect the nature and success of an individual’s job search.

Keywords: proactive personality, job search, social– cognitive theory, self-efficacy

uwaterloo final exams

Ah, this brings back memories (nightmares?), of final exams at U of Waterloo. Notice that the three guys on the right look totally stumped, hands on heads, whereas the girls to the left are cool and collected.

Note: I contributed to my portion of the article in 2002 and 2003, though the article was not published until 2006. It typically takes this period of time for an article to be reviewed and published in the JAP.

Proactive Personality and the Successful Job Search – A Field Investigation – Journal of Applied Psychology – Brown, Kane, Cober, Levey – 2006