First Person: Application Dilemma: Expected Salary or What I Think I'm Worth

Down But Not Out: Yahoo! Readers Share Their Stories of Unemployment and Job-Hunting

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First Person: Application Dilemma: Expected Salary or What I Think I'm Worth

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Randy Hansen

Five million Americans are among the long-term unemployed--those without a job for 27 weeks or longer--according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Another 7.3 million are looking for work, while the unemployment rate sits at 7.9 percent. Numbers aside, individual stories illustrate how America is affected. To see how joblessness hits home, Yahoo News asked unemployed workers to share their job-hunting stories. Here's one.

FIRST PERSON | As a TV news photographer, I hauled my growing family from state to state, eventually ending up in Cincinnati as the manager of a 21-person photography staff making more money than I had ever made in my career. Then, in 2010, I was called in and told my position was being eliminated and so was I.

I was on the job hunt, seeking out a video position in the Cincinnati area, but I had little luck. So, I expanded my search to the lower 48 states, and I filled out a dozen applications a week. I interviewed in Nashville, Tenn., Orlando, Fla., in Kansas and at the University of Arizona. Nothing was successful.

While job-hunting, invariably, there came a part of the application where I was asked to state what I expected to make as a salary.

This posed a problem. Depending on the job in question, if I stated what I made previously as a manager ($73,000) I would immediately price myself out of the job. If I reduced the amount, I would be undervaluing myself and losing money. Some say to just put "negotiable" in the window and move on, but the application program often only accepts numbers and displays an error message with this tactic. Lately, my method has been to put "$1" in the window, which is my numeric equivalent of negotiable.

My point is this: If the company I'm applying to finds the concept of salary a deal-maker or a deal-breaker, why not clearly state the maximum salary or the range the company will pay in the want ad?

This way, I (or you) can decide to apply or not, saving both us and the company time, effort and frustration. If the company feels this is valid information to ask, why is it not equally valid to state in the ad? Like most, I'm looking for a position that pays as much as possible, but I'm also aware I won't make the same amount as I did as a manager. I'm OK with that, as the wife thankfully has a good job. But I don't want to work for nothing, either.

Some do post the numbers and good on them for doing so. But a frustrating majority does not, and that causes unnecessary anxiety in a time where many of us are already maxed out on our own personal anxiety.

Eventually, I landed an $11-an-hour job at a sales warehouse (counting jeans, sweatshirts and tools for inventory). This was meant to be temporary, but the work kept dragging on. Finally, in March 2011, I found a staff photographer position at a Cincinnati TV station. At $31,000 a year, I hadn't made that little since 1993. I was grateful, though; I was working in TV again! I worked there for a year and a half, but I was going broke. My daughter just entered college, and I had two small ones at home.

When my wife found a job in financial services in Fort Worth, Texas, and moved there for the job, the kids and I soon followed. That's where I am now, working a seasonal job at a national big box store, making $8 an hour to arrange toys on a shelf.

But I tell no one about it because, right or wrong, I'm ashamed.

I even made sure that the store was not in my neighborhood so I wouldn't see anyone I know or they me. I know this is an unreasonable attitude and that I should be glad to just have a job. I really, honestly, truly do realize how immature these thoughts I'm experiencing are, but I can't deny they constantly push themselves into my conscious thought so regularly that I'm forced to confront and deal with them as corrosive to my everyday well-being.

Although I feel threatened by my self-perceived obsolescence, I still find comfort and confidence in my knowledge, skills and abilities in video and communication in general. It's funny, but despite all of my insecurities that swirl around me like leaves in fall, I still know that I do what I do very, very well.

If only someone would give me the chance.

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