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Different motivations at different job search stages

career research blog

The latest career research insights to grow your career

Different motivations at different job search stages

Domingo Valero

People can pursue a goal because it is fun or inherently interesting (so called autonomous motivation) or because they feel pressured and obliged to do so (so called controlled motivation). Research typically shows that autonomous motivation is more beneficial and sustainable for a wide variety of outcomes (e.g., performance, satisfaction, well-being) while controlled motivation is usually related with detrimental outcomes.
A recent study now shows that such findings may need a more nuanced look. Researchers studied the development of motivation and job search behaviors across 5 weeks in students who would soon enter working life. Autonomous motivation decreased across time, but was consistently related to job search behaviors. In contrast, controlled motivation was also related to job search behaviors, but only towards the end of the 5 weeks. This shows that although autonomous motivation may have more sustainable effects on job search behaviors, when time gets short, also controlled motivation does the trick.

Journal of Applied Psychology