Mika: The best way women can launch and grow their careers

From developing your brand to investing in your financial future, here's how you can take your career to the next level.
Know Your Value founder and "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski.
Know Your Value founder and "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski.Anthony Scutro

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By Michelle Fox

This article originally appeared on Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow., a CNBC multiplatform financial wellness and education initiative, in partnership with Acorns.

Launching and advancing your career can be tough.

For women it can be even more difficult, despite the strides that have been made in recent years.

They still struggle with a pay gap, making just 85% of what men earned in 2018, the Pew Research Center has found. There is also still little progress being made in boosting women's representation in U.S. companies at every level, from first jobs to the C-suite, according to a late 2018 study conducted by management consulting firm McKinsey, in partnership with LeanIn.org.

Therefore, women need to be smart about getting their foot in the door and working their way up the ladder, according to Mika Brzezinski, founder of Know Your Value, a movement and multi-touchpoint platform meant to empower women to express their worth.

People-pleasing is poison, especially in business. You're there to stay focused and to make the goals play out in real time, to get it done.Mika Brzezinski, Know Your Value founder

It starts with realizing what you bring to the table.

"To know your value and communicate it effectively and be effective in business, you've gotta be able to talk about your value," said Brzezinski, also co-host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"You can't expect people are just going to notice it."

Brzezinski has become a champion of gender equality. She's spoken extensively on the topic and is also the author of The New York Times best-sellers "All Things at Once," "Know Your Value" and "Obsessed."

She wrote her latest book, "Earn It: Know Your Value and Grow Your Career, in Your 20s and Beyond," with "Morning Joe" producer Daniela Pierre-Bravo.

So what should young women do to launch their careers and move up through the ranks? Brzezinski, along with Pierre-Bravo, focus on several key things.

Get in the door

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It's hard work to start your career, so you may have to get creative.

Brzezinski points to Pierre-Bravo's story as a great example of how being "scrappy" paid off.

Know Your Value founder and "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski and Know Your Value millennial contributor Daniela Pierre-Bravo.Miller Hawkins

An undocumented immigrant from South America, Pierre-Bravo grew up in a small town in Ohio. She got her work permit and state identification through President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood program, also known as DACA — and set her sights on New York after college graduation.

"I applied to everywhere and anywhere in New York City, but I did a little white lie," said Pierre-Bravo, also a millennial contributor to Know Your Value.

"I told everybody I lived in New York City so the hiring manager wouldn't not want to call me back."

When the call came for an interview the next day, she hopped on an 18-hour bus ride and made it to the city in time to meet with the hiring manager.

She landed the gig, but it was unpaid. So she worked four side jobs. "Anything I could to make it work," she said.

Develop your brand

Once you get your foot in the door, you need to work hard to grow your brand, Brzezinski and Pierre-Bravo advise.

Pierre-Bravo eventually landed at NBC in an entry-level role and met Brzezinski, who picked up on her co-worker's tenacity. Brzezinski said she was particularly struck by Pierre-Bravo's attention to detail.

Pierre-Bravo believes those small details were important because they supported others in doing their jobs and therefore benefited the entire company.

"It actually adds to your professional brand," she said.

"So words like 'scrappy, persistent, has a lot of attention to details' all become part of your professional brand, let's you resonate and helps you get to the next step faster," she added.

Use your voice

Over time you should develop your voice — and use it, Brzezinski said.

To achieve that, you need to practice using your voice at work every day. That includes your tone, your confidence and what you are saying.

"You want to be able to nail it in the moment," she said. "You can't nail it unless you practice."

"Women really struggle with finding the right moment to use their voice," Brzezinski added. "To get out there and say something, maybe to jump in a meeting and have a great idea."

For Pierre-Bravo that moment came after two years of working with Brzezinski. She said she wanted to wait for Brzezinski to "respect" her when she pitched her an idea for helping young women. The idea ultimately led to their book.

Don't try to please everyone

If there's one thing you shouldn't do, it's trying to make everyone else happy, according to Brzezinski.

In fact, it's a good way to derail your career.

"People-pleasing is poison, especially in business," she said.

"You're there to stay focused and to make the goals play out in real time, to get it done," she added. "You can't do that if you're side-tracked, trying to please everybody along the way."

Investing in your financial future

An investment in your career is also an investment in your financial future.Early on, you can start out small when it comes to investing and saving, according to Pierre-Bravo.As you grow in your profession, you'll earn more money along the way. In turn, that gives you the opportunity to increase your investments.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.