Mika Brzezinski is the co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe and the author of three best-selling books. Her memoir All Things At Once became a New York Times best seller in January 2010. Her second book, Knowing Your Value, which examines the role of women in the workplace, reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list for business books in 2011. Her third book, Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction and My Own, debuted on the bestseller list in spring of 2013. Mika also writes “Getting What You Want” for Cosmopolitan, a monthly column about career confidence and empowerment. Mika’s new book, Grow Your Value was released in May.
Currently, Mika is focused on her new partnership with NBCUniversal to take the message from Knowing Your Value on the road. Beginning in September 2015, Mika will be holding conferences in Chicago, Boston, and Orlando to empower women to express their worth in business and in life, and women can enter the Grow Your Value Bonus Competition by submitting their 60-second video for a chance to win $10,000.
A native of New York City, Brzezinski is the daughter of Foreign Policy Expert and Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. She is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations and a Williams College alum. Brzezinski lives in New York with her husband and two daughters.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
So much of my growth has come from learning from my own mistakes. The tips that I give women in my books, Knowing Your Value and Grow Your Value, surfaced after a close examination of my own successes and failures. Being able to take a step back, figure out what you are doing wrong, and then resetting is key both in your personal and your professional life.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at NBC, particularly at Morning Joe?
The biggest challenge that I faced was learning how to advocate for myself and get paid my value at “Morning Joe.” Although it took some time, I was finally able to get what I deserved when I communicated what I brought to the table effectively and gave my boss an ultimatum. Don’t ever say that you will walk if you won’t, but if you get to the point where you can no longer do your job knowing that you are not getting what you are worth, it might be time to take that drastic step. Plan ahead for future employment if you find yourself in a place where you have to make demands. The biggest highlight has been taking what I have learned and turning it into a platform for helping other women avoid the mistakes that I made–I honestly think I have made them all.
You are a vocal advocate for ensuring that women ‘know their value.’ Based on your experience, what is the key advice you’d offer to women who want to pursue what they want and deserve?
Do not say you are sorry…YOU ARE NOT SORRY! Be able to press the reset button with your boss even if you have had a number of misfires along the way. Men are able to press reset without a second thought–it is like some of them have amnesia to bad encounters, and I wouldn’t mind having that ability too. Go into all negotiations with data to support why you deserve a raise and how it benefits your employer to give it to you. Know the numbers and the market; serious preparation will make all the difference.
How would you describe ‘brand Mika,’ and why it is successful?
I am a television journalist with three decades of field and anchor reporting, who is building a movement to help all women grow their value in their careers and lives. It is successful because women are really learning to come into their own and step up to the negotiating table; my brand is all about giving women tools to do that. By the way, you should be able to say what your brand is at the drop of a hat, clearly, confidently, and succinctly in 20 seconds or less. PRACTICE!
What advice can you offer to women who are seeking a career in your industry?
If you want to work in media, you need to develop a tough skin. Not everyone is going to like you (and you shouldn’t care if they do), but they should respect you and your work. If I took every comment written about me personally, I would never be able to do my job with confidence.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I truly believe that “work/life balance,” is mostly a myth. We need to make sacrifices constantly to be the best both professionally and personally and often the pendulum swings harder in one direction for a while. I think it is important that we are honest with ourselves and our families instead of trying to be the perfect supermom/wife/CEO all of the time. If you are honest with your colleagues, spouse, kids, you will garner more respect and understanding than if you pretend that everything can get done and that you will be the one to do it–set realistic expectations.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think that it is harder for women to have “provider pride” than it is for men. We feel guilty when we are taking time away from our families, even though we are using that time to build a better life for everyone we love. And women who take time off for their children are not always viewed favorably, while a man who does so is praised as a better father.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I did not have too many professional mentors in the beginning of my career, but I am really starting to now. At this point in my life, I try to be a mentor as often as I can for other women. It is really important that we help each other and remember that we are all on the same team.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire Elizabeth Warren, Claire McCaskill, Kirsten Gillibrand, and yes, Hillary Clinton. All of them are resilient and ambitious and never apologize for that.
What do you want to personally and professionally accomplish in the next year?
I would like to continue to spread the Know Your Value message to as many different women as possible while also spending as much time as I can with my family. I want to feel a true sense of peace personally.
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