For women to truly get value out of their relationships — either at work or in their personal lives — they must become comfortable advocating for themselves, according to Know Your Value founder and “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski.
That was one of the key takeaways at a Thursday evening event in Coral Gables, Florida, where Brzezinski was promoting her new book, “Earn It! Know Your Value and Grow Your Career, in Your 20s and Beyond.”
She was accompanied by co-author, “Morning Joe” producer Daniela Pierre-Bravo, in addition to fellow co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Willie Geist.
“I really talk to women about owning the sound of their voice and the way they use it,” said Brzezinski at Books & Books in Coral Gables. She urged the women in the room – who ranged from college millennials to retired Baby Boomers – to practice doing just that, by recording a 60-second pitch to someone they really respect.
“Tell them why you have value, why you deserve greater flexibility or a bonus,” she said. “Make clear points, use a facial connection, eye contact, the whole thing.” She noted that at first most pitches won’t be great, but women need to keep practicing.
Brzezinski and Pierre-Bravo shared advice and experiences from their own career journeys. The mostly-female crowd often shouted out in agreement.
Knowing your value, explained Brzezinski, is about more than just pay equity. It’s also about flexibility, communicating effectively and, most importantly, fighting to get value back in every relationship in their lives.
She also shared another important piece of advice: Don’t apologize your way into the room. “I found that’s sort of a bad start,” she said. “Everyone does it if you’re a female, and it basically undermines your message from the get-go, and you start to self-deprecate from that.”
If something does go a little bit off-track – whether in the moment or in life overall – reset yourself and move forward. “Men are great at it because they remember nothing,” she told the audience, which responded with clapping and a few hoots. “You have to command respect in the room, and you can make them forget” any missteps.
While Brzezinski’s own career experiences inspired her previous books, Pierre-Bravo’s journey inspired “Earn It!” She grew up in the rural town of Lima, Ohio, as undocumented immigrant. She got into Miami University and worked multiple jobs to save up the money for college – one semester at a time. She had to be creative.
“I had my own Mary Kay business, because I thought, ‘If people can’t hire me, I’ll hire myself, and I’ll build a team,’” Pierre-Bravo explained. She learned accounting from YouTube videos, and taught it to other women in Lima who became part of her team.
She also shared that when she was looking for internships in New York, she lied on her resume. “All of my qualifications were true, all of the experience was true, but I lied about my address. … I said I lived in New York” instead of in Ohio. Her single callback was for an unpaid internship at Bad Boy Entertainment, Sean “Puffy” Combs’s company. They asked her to interview the next day.
Unable to drive or fly from Lima to New York, Pierre-Bravo took an 18-hour Greyhound bus ride through the night, put herself together at the Port Authority, and made it to the interview. She got the internship, and launched her career, which eventually led her to “Morning Joe.”
Scarborough and Brzezinski both noted that women need to push the rules the way Pierre-Bravo did. “Sometimes women play by the rules a little bit more than men. And sometimes men are willing to wing it,” Scarborough said.
That advice applies to women of all ages, and Brzezinski shared with the audience that the next book in the “Know Your Value” series will be for women over 50 looking to make a career change or comeback. She is collaborating with her sister-in-law, Ginny Brzezinski, who took a 15-year break from her career to raise her children and was looking for guidance.
Audience members had the chance to ask questions of all four of the “Morning Joe” team members, and one asked for Pierre-Bravo’s advice for people just starting out in their careers.
Pierre-Bravo stressed the importance of “really paying attention to things that might seem insignificant, like getting coffees or printing scripts or working on a PowerPoint all day.” And, she added, “You work hard, you don’t doubt yourself, and you keep knocking on doors, and if you don’t find that front door open, you go through the side door.” Brzezinski followed up: “She’s earned it.”