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Know Thy Work Style

Your self-esteem and personality may determine which job will make you happy.

In a recession, the desperation of job-seekers to accept any position they can get creates an awful lot of unhappy employees.

Enter Daniel Turban, Ph.D., of the Department of Management at the University of Missouri. He finds that people with certain personality traits do better in specific kinds of companies.

Surprisingly, people low in self-esteem do best in larger, more decentralized firms, Turban reports in the Journal of Applied Psychology . He suggests that, rather than preferring small firms with less competition, low self-esteemers' lack of confidence in their abilities leads them to jobs in which they can share decision-making responsibility rather than take it on themselves.

Folks with a high need for achievement meanwhile seek out a reward-for-performance environment. They want recognition for their singular accomplishments—so-called merit pay.

"If there's any choice in the matter, job-hunters should consider waiting for the right position rather than risk being unhappy, perhaps for years," says Turban.

And there's another advantage: Knowing their own work styles and how well they fit within a certain type of company gives workers a more realistic expectation of potential jobs. "They'll know what to look for—what they will and won't get—and can hopefully prevent disappointment and misery."