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Spotlight: Tory Johnson

You can ask for pay raises and negotiate favorable compensation packages -- even in a down economy, says best-selling author Tory Johnson. You just have to know how to do it.

At a glance
Name: Tory Johnson.
Hometown: Miami Beach, Fla.
Education: Emerson College.
Career highlights:
  • Workplace contributor for ABC's "Good Morning America."
  • CEO and founder of Women for Hire.
  • Creator of GMA Job Club.
  • New York Times bestselling author of "Will Work from Home: Earn Cash -- Without the Commute."
  • Columnist for, Yahoo!, HotJobs and Shine, among others.
  • Held corporate communications positions at ABC News, NBC News and Nickelodeon.
  • Frequent speaker to nationwide audiences, including college campuses and Fortune 500 companies.

It's the "knowing how" part that usually stymies most people. But the workplace contributor for ABC's "Good Morning America" says it's doable if you're a proven top performer and are realistic about your salary demands.

You do have to be aware of the financial health of your company and its competitors so you know when to ask for that raise.

"The downturn doesn't necessarily mean you can't ask, but you can't be tone-deaf to what's happening within your industry," she says.

College students should especially be proactive about conducting their job search long before graduation. The key to getting hired during an economic downturn is networking, networking, networking, Johnson says.

Bankrate caught up with Johnson at Women for Hire, the career resource company she leads in New York, where she talked about job search strategies, negotiating salaries and the best bets for future job growth.

With so many companies laying off workers, implementing hiring freezes and looking to cut costs, is it a good idea to ask for a raise? If so, what's the best way to go about it without jeopardizing your job?

You have to pay attention to the health of your company. If your company has been negatively impacted by the economic downturn, the company has announced that positions and salaries have been frozen or benefits like 401(k) matches have been impacted, then obviously you don't want to ask.

However, if you know that you are bringing in new business or you are doubling or tripling your responsibilities, then perhaps it's an OK time to ask.

Many companies absolutely need -- even in times of trouble -- certain people to perform at their best, and if you fall into that category and you know that your company is relatively healthy right now ... then by all means, it's OK to ask for a realistic increase.

The worst they could say is "no," right?

Right, and if "no" is the answer, then you should ask what needs to happen for it to be a "yes." See if a specific amount of time has to pass or if there's a specific achievement they expect you to tackle. You can also ask if there's a specific milestone that you need to reach before revisiting the subject. Try to establish how you might be able to turn the "no" into a "yes."

Even though the economy is in recession, the nation's colleges and universities continue to pump out graduates who will need jobs. What strategies will increase their chances of getting a job?

Every organization hires entry-level talent. In this economy, I hear from students who tell me no one will hire them because they don't have enough experience. And then I hear from the parents of those new graduates who say, "No one will hire me because I'm too old and I have too much experience."

-- Posted: April 6, 2009
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