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When I started working for Mika Brzezinski as her assistant in 2012, I had no way of knowing the beautiful roller coaster I was about to get on. I was 23 and had just left my job teaching at an inner-city school in Philadelphia. I wanted a new challenge. Mika, on the other hand, was looking for someone (as she put it) “normal” to help organize her personal and professional life. With just two weeks’ notice, I jumped at the opportunity to move to New York City and take a job by the “Morning Joe” co-host’s side.
I will never forget the first time I used my NBC badge to swipe into 30 Rockefeller Plaza. I got goosebumps. I still do.
What came next was a masterclass in knowing my value and becoming the best version of myself. Early on, Mika never tolerated “I don’t know” as an answer. I quickly learned to change it to “I will figure it out.” There was no challenge that she seemed to think I couldn’t learn how to handle.
Within a matter of months, I was editing her book, working on her book tours and helping at high-profile events. Within a year, the idea had taken hold to take the message of Know Your Value on the road and she wanted me to help build it.
Three years after the publication of “Knowing Your Value,” “Mika did her first related conference in Hartford, Conn. in 2014. Again, Mika told me what I needed to do without questioning if I knew how. She had me develop the first iteration of the website, launch her LLC, trademark the brand, create the merchandising and manage our first event store. Mika was right; I figured it out. The first event was a huge success.
The Know Your Value team, including Mika, loves to tell the story how after that day-long event, I was still going at 4 a.m., unloading boxes of T-shirts, loading a truck and putting away pieces of the set. For me, it was fun because I cared so deeply about our mission. I learned from Mika to not only get my hands dirty — but to embrace it.
Mika went to bat for me, advocating for me to become a full-time project manager for Know your Value. Since then I have gone on to become the social media and events manager for Know Your Value and have gotten to work with a team of strong, kind, empowered women.
Along the way, Mika was always more than just my boss. There was a deep interest in me as a person, both professionally and personally. She encouraged me to date (She knew my husband was the one before I did), spend time with my family, make time for working out and get every single thing done on my work to-do-list. She let me get to know her beautiful family and spend time with her daughters. She cared about my family and made an effort to get to know them. When my father needed heart surgery in Cleveland, she paid for my plane ticket so I could be there by his side. She threw me a beautiful wedding shower in her home and was there to see me walk down the aisle.
She has always been tough, kind, overly-generous, unstoppable and one of the most inspiring women I know.
I recently took a new job outside of the company. This is my last week as a member of the Know Your Value team, which is overwhelmingly bittersweet. It is a new chapter I am excited about and ready to tackle. After all, Mika taught me to embrace being challenged. So after seven years of working with Mika and the Know Your Value team, here are the top-seven lessons I have learned:
1. Figure it out.
There are plenty of skills that you have, but there are so many more that you are capable of learning. Approach every challenge thrown your way as an opportunity to learn something new.
2. Say “yes.”
If someone had told me when I was finishing my degree in English education in college that I would have a career in corporate startups, I would have thought you were crazy. When life hands you a new adventure, really consider taking it. There is no set path you need to follow, regardless of the experiences you have had.
3. Care about people.
Sure, you are going to need to be tough and make decisions based on what is best for you throughout your career. But building real relationships with your colleagues, who you spend so much of your life with, makes going to work feel more like a community. I worked harder for this team than I ever imagined possible, because I genuinely care about them and this mission.
4. Know who you are.
There are a lot of ideas we have about what a professional woman needs to look like, but the truth is that I was the most successful when I was my authentic self. I am a happy person. I like to laugh and joke. I will never be someone who commands the room with authority, but rather one who supports others and builds relationships. I know who I am and I know how to use those traits to get things done. Mika’s strength in herself taught me to lean in to my own nature.
5. Get your hands dirty.
When I first started with Mika, I could be at a White House Summit one day and picking up dry cleaning the next. I treated all the tasks given to me with the same level of care, and it helped me build a reputation as someone who gets stuff done. It also made it easier to ask others to do the unglamorous tasks when they had just watched me to the same things.
6. Build your network.
I would not be in the position to move onto this new role if it wasn’t for Mika and the Know Your Value leadership’s mentorship and sponsorship. Finding these women and men who genuinely cared about my growth changed everything for me.
7. Take risks.
It was very hard to make the decision to take a job outside of the company, knowing I would be transitioning off a team of women who have cared about my journey. But I have been listening to Know Your Value advice and content for so long that I know that now is the right time in my career for me to take a big jump and add new skills to my resume. Think about where you want to end up, not just where you are comfortable right now.