Mika takes the Know Your Value message to Philadelphia

At the Know Your Value event, experts discussed personal finance, preparing for the unexpected, embracing risk, learning from failure, mental wellness and more.
Know Your Value founder and "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski with figure skating champion Johnny Weir at a Know Your Value event in Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Know Your Value founder and "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski with figure skating champion Johnny Weir at a Know Your Value event in Philadelphia on Tuesday.Anthony Scutro

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By Diane Herbst

Know Your Value founder and “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski has long advocated for empowering women to become fierce advocates for themselves in life and at work.

Brzezinski and over a dozen experts laid out a road map to do just that at a day-long Know Your Value event Tuesday in Philadelphia. Guests included TODAY finance editor Jean Chatzky, executive coach Liz Bentley, CNBC’s Sharon Epperson, body language expert Janine Driver, Olympic ice hockey gold medalists Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando, figure skating champion Johnny Weir and many more.

"Know your value, these words are so basic," Brzezinski told the crowd at The Comcast Technology Center. "But for a lot of us, most of the time those words are so out of reach."

The audience was made up of 100 high-achieving NBCU employees, who were selected from a pool of more than 700 applicants, to receive actionable career advice and inspiration from the diverse set of speakers.

There were 100 NBCU employees selected out of a pool of 700 to attend the Know Your Value event on Tuesday.Anthony Scutro

Brzezinski opened the event with tips for attendees to know, grow and share their value. Advice included a plea to "stop apologizing" and instead focus on one's worth. "If you're one of those people who walks in the room and says, 'I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," she said, "don't do it anymore." She also urged them to push back in real time, to not be afraid to self-promote and to know all the relevant data before asking for a raise or promotion.

Brzezinski also shared what she's learned about negotiation from “Morning Joe” co-host and husband Joe Scarborough.

Twelve years ago, when Brzezinski was negotiating her first contract with the show, she recounted quickly taking the first offer. "I was just so grateful to be working again," recalled Brzezinski, who at the time was a freelance anchor.

Scarborough, meanwhile, took an entirely different tact that landed him significantly more money. His negotiating included telling network executives that “Morning Joe” — seen as a risk at the time and created to replace Don Imus's hit show after he was kicked off the air — "will beat Imus," recalls Brzezinski. "Joe knew something completely impossible to know. And how do men do this? They make it up. Women completely undersell themselves; we need to get delusions of grandeur."

Brzezinski eventually asked for and received more money, only after learning how to effectively communicate her own worth.

Other topics discussed during the day were personal finance, preparing for the unexpected, embracing risk, learning from failure, mental wellness and more.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest takeaways from the day:

Negotiation is key to getting what you want

As difficult as it is, it's imperative for women to self-promote, said Brzezinski, noting "nobody is going to notice your hard work."

During a panel with Shannon McCombie, a former CIA case officer and now a business executive, Brzezinski said that women "really undersell" themselves in negotiations. McCombie said she has noticed a big difference between how men and women come to the bargaining table, and that women "self sabotage."

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Men are armed with facts and sit through any awkward silences. Women, meanwhile, "would make their case, get uncomfortable and say, 'If it's too soon, or if you are too busy' and offer the negotiator an out," McCombie said.

Don’t be afraid to let conversation feel uncomfortable, said Brzezinski. "If you've had a negotiation that feels like a warm, friendly conversation and they hug you at the end, you've had the worst meeting of your life," she said. "Being told you're great is not as good as being given what you need, whether it's time off or a change in your schedule."

Mika Brzezinski at a Know Your Value event in Philadelphia on Tuesday.Anthony Scutro

And sometimes you have to be willing to walk away, as Lamoureux-Davidson and Lamoureux-Morando, winners of a gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics, said during a different panel led by NBC’s Natalie Morales.

While negotiating for fair compensation and better support of girls and women's hockey, Lamoureux twins and the stars of the U.S. women's team decided to boycott 2017's International Ice Hockey Federation world championship -- which ultimately led to improved pay and benefits. "We knew we needed to change the landscape," said Lamoureux-Morando, "so the next generation didn't have to go through the same struggles as us."

NBC's Natalie Morales interviews Olympic hockey gold medalists Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson.Anthony Scutro

Money truths

Panelist Jean Chatzky, a finance expert and Today Show contributor, said the number one money rule is to "spend less than you make, period."

In addition, save 15 percent of your salary a year, and make saving automatic. "If you can't see it and you can't touch it, you won't spend it," she said, noting that’s why 401K plans work so well "because the money is swiped from your paycheck before you see it."

Have several thousand dollars set aside for medical and other emergencies, and invest in a diversified portfolio, Chatzky also advised, noting that historically the stock market is up 8 percent annually since its inception. A good guideline for retirement savings, she added, is that by the time you 're 30, aim to have the amount that’s your annual income set aside; at 40 have three times and by retirement 10 times your annual income should be saved.

Prepare for the unexpected

In 2016, CNBC's Sharon Epperson was 48 and in an exercise class when she felt terrible pain in her head. Doctors soon discovered she had a ruptured brain aneurysm. Epperson spent weeks in the hospital followed by a lengthy rehabilitation to relearn how to walk and climb steps.

On a panel with Morales, Epperson spoke of how planning ahead before her brain injury helped her get through the medical crisis without worrying about finances. She had an ample emergency fund, and disability insurance enabled her to receive a regular paycheck while she was recovering. "It's very important to get it," Epperson says. "You never think you are going to need it until you need it."

Tracie Potts, an NBC correspondent based in the Washington D.C. metro area, was one of four employees at the event to win a trip to the Johnson & Johnson Performance Institute in Orlando, Florida -- to help take her leadership to the next level.Anthony Scutro

Embrace risk and don't be afraid of failure

During a panel with Scarborough, Brzezinski talked about the importance of taking risks, and how when “Morning Joe” first started, colleagues warned her away from the show. They told Brzezinski of Scarborough, ''you don't want to work with him." "But I felt it was going to be a good show," she said. "I took a risk."

Scarborough also detailed risks he took, moments where "everyone thought I was crazy.” Examples included running for congress at 29 and quitting at 38, and later saying goodbye to a prime-time television show to do a morning program instead. But all of those decisions, despite looking as if they were unplanned, he said, were "calculated."

"I may have jumped off the cliff and it looked like I didn't have a parachute," he said, "but before I hit the ground, I had assembled the parachute."

Christina Geist, Willie Geist, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski at the Know Your Value event in Philadelphia on Tuesday.Anthony Scutro

When Brzezinski asked Scarborough if there was a risk he took that didn't work out, he said, "I can't remember."

"Don't trip over what's behind you," Scarborough said. Instead, he views choices that didn't work out as planned as learning experiences. Recently, he was writing a book about Donald Trump, a project due in October that "I spent more time on than any other project I've ever done." However, due to the inability of his publisher, attorneys and NBC to come to an agreement, the project came to a screeching halt.

"She (Brzezinski) said, 'that's horrible' and I said, 'Think of all the time I had to become a better writer, a better editor,'" Scarborough said. "I feel I will be better in the future for it."

Take care of yourself

Brzezinski shared that when her children were teenagers and she was going through divorce, "I hit rock bottom." Her only respite was a daily run through her neighborhood. One day, a man in a car pulled up to her, said he was a therapist, that he had seen her crying and that perhaps she needed help.

“And I said, 'I do,' and I went for help," said Brzezinski. "There is nothing wrong with getting help...don't do it alone."

Brzezinski also spoke of the importance of asking for what you need, a difficult lesson she learned after had a serious accident with her second child, who was an infant at the time. She blamed the accident on returning to work too soon after the baby's birth — and urged women to take a step back when they need to.

Use social media with care

During another panel, clinical psychologist Gillian Galen warned about the amount of time spent on social media, which can be detrimental to mental health.

"What creates a lot of loneliness and isolation in social media is if the only function is to connect online," she said. "You are missing face-to-face contact."

"You need to pay attention to when are you going on your social media and why," she continued. "Am I going because I am bored? Or because I want to boost how I am feeling?" She added, "You mindlessly get going and that is where you can get into trouble."

Fellow panelist Larissa May is an Instagram influencer who founded the nonprofit Half The Story to combat the negative effects of social media. When May was a senior in college, she was a fashion blogger who posted photos that conveyed she was "thriving," she said. "But what they didn't see was that I almost took my own life three times, and I didn't get out of bed for three weeks unless to take photos for my Instagram."

May has since dedicated her career to encouraging people to share their struggles on social media, rather than just the highlights.

Best "Know Your Value" advice

On a panel with her "Morning Joe" co-hosts, Willie Geist and Scarborough, Brzezinski noted that Know Your Value is now in its fifth year. She asked what was the best advice they'd picked up along the way.

Both said that to win during salary or other workplace negotiations, stop apologizing. "Don't say you're sorry," said Geist, noting the advice goes for men as well as women. "Look around and say, 'Here's what I'm providing this company or this operation' and don't feel ashamed...You might feel even a little uncomfortable doing it, to stick your chest out and say, 'I know what I do for this place and here's what I think I deserve in return.' That's incredibly empowering."