Revealing Your Frustrations Could Harm Your Job Search

When 40-year-old Cory Maloy was job hunting last year, there was one rule he stuck to when interviewing: Never, ever, talk about salary.


Not that the Salt Lake City resident, who had been unemployed for 11 months, wasn’t concerned about money. He just felt that it would be easier for an employer to either eliminate him quickly if he admitted wanting a high salary, or assume, if he admitted he was more flexible, that he was desperate.

"I just focused completely on the work, what I could bring to the company and whether or not my time frame fit in with their time frame," says Mr. Maloy, who has been working as a marketing director for Applied Research Technologies Inc., a telecommunications consulting firm, for about six weeks. "I just tried to remain professional; you don’t want to sound desperate."

For job seekers who have been unemployed for an extended period, anxiety and desperation are bound to set in as the months pass with few prospects. But the conundrum is that you can’t reveal those feelings. Career counselors warn that any manifestation of them, no matter how justified, can harm your job search.

Don Sutaria, president of CareerQuest, a Union, N.J., career-counseling firm, says that even the most positive job seekers "hit a brick wall" and become despondent after being unemployed for about six months. So he tells his clients that on the six-month anniversary of their layoff they should take a three-day mental-health vacation. "Physically go away from your place of residence … and do not think about jobs or pick up any messages," he says.

Taking a break works for Elaine Marshall, who has been unemployed for nearly 10 months. The 34-year-old former public-relations executive from Long Beach, Calif., doesn’t job-hunt on Fridays. She also stays busy by cooking for her husband, attending yoga classes and hanging out at the beach — activities she wouldn’t have time to do if she were employed.

"The feeling is that the harder you work to find a job, the faster you’ll get out of unemployment," she says. "But you can easily stretch yourself too thin and become desperate."

Christine Edick, an Orange, Calif., career coach, advises her clients to visualize their next job, from the size of the company down to what their cubicle will look like. "If I can get them out of the panic mode and into visualizing what they really want, then they can see the light at the end of the tunnel and feel confident," she explains. The idea is less a New Age gimmick than a relaxation technique designed to help job hunters work through their anxiety.

Job seekers should have a prepared line about what they’re looking for when networking and interviewing. Emory Mulling, head of an Atlanta outplacement and executive-coaching consulting firm, suggests calling your voice mail, repeating your pitch several times and then listening to it to see if you sound upbeat or downtrodden.

And people should be honest in interviews about how long they have been unemployed, but should be prepared with a tight message about strategy. "Mentioning free-lance or pro bono work … you are pursuing is fine and shows balance in your life and a mature understanding as to the reality of the current economy," says Bradford Agry of CareerTeam Partners, a New York career-consulting company.

"Keep the ball in your court with something like, ‘I will call you to see what decision will be made,’ " says Mr. Sutaria. "It shows a positive and proactive attitude."
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