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Mika and Ginny Brzezinski on TODAY: How to get over the fear of failure, land your dream job

The co-authors of "Comeback Careers," a roadmap for women in the 40s, 50s and beyond, talk about their new book, which comes out on Jan. 14,
From left to right: TODAY co-hosts Al Roker, Sheinelle Jones, Craig Melvin, and "Comeback Careers" co-authors Mika Brzezinski and Ginny Brzezinski.
From left to right: TODAY co-hosts Al Roker, Sheinelle Jones, Craig Melvin, and "Comeback Careers" co-authors Mika Brzezinski and Ginny Brzezinski.Nat Congleton for TODAY

The genesis of Mika Brzezinski’s new book, “Comeback Careers” was a text from her sister-in-law, Ginny Brzezinski. It was, in Mika Brzezinski's words, “a zinger.”

“I saw Mika talking about her Know Your Value movement [on “Morning Joe”], and I thought, ‘You know, it doesn't talk to women like me who zig-zagged careers or are in our 50s…We have value, too, and we need a little help,’ Ginny Brzezinski recalled Monday on "TODAY." “And so I said to Mika in a text while she was on air, ‘Let's do something about this with Know Your Value.’”

That text message sparked their journey toward writing their new book, “Comeback Careers: Rethink, Refresh, Reinvent Your Success — at 40, 50, and Beyond,” which comes out on Tuesday.

It’s aimed at helping women overcome the challenges they often face while trying to re-enter the workforce. The co-authors were hit by one of those challenges from the start: When Mika Brzezinski suggested she and Ginny Brzezinski co-write a book on the topic, Ginny Brzezinski initially balked.

“She was at first, like, ‘Wait, no, I can't,’” Mika Brzezinski recounted. “And I thought, ‘that's exactly what women in this space do.’ They are so concerned, they feel so marginalized, they feel judged by their choices, they feel worried about their age. And it's the voices in their head, often, that keep them from picking up the phone, accepting the invitation, going to an interview or even just walking out the door.”

Whether women are yearning for a new career or drafting a backup plan, “Comeback Careers” offers advice gleaned from dozens of interviews with women who changed careers in fields as far-ranging as finance, academics and art. The book also couples those insights with strategies from career coaches and tips from experts on strengthening your resume, utilizing LinkedIn and more.

“This book gives you the technical skills of getting back, you know, interviewing and revving up your resume and all that, but it really pushes women through the psychological part — pushes them through those walls they put up for themselves because they feel so much fear,” Mika Brzezinski said.

The co-authors focused the book into five main areas they believe women need to focus on to land their dream job after pausing their careers, slowing their workload or changing their focus mid-career. That includes calling B.S. on ageism, getting out of your own way, owning your own story, getting relevant and rejecting the fear of failure.

One of the biggest challenges they explored is ageism in the workplace. While it’s illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of age, discrimination persists. According to the American Society on Aging, employers are more likely to call a female job applicant for an interview if the high school graduation date on their resume indicates that they’re younger rather than older. And thanks to the Great Recession and the rise of new technologies, the ASA says that older workers who have been unemployed are more likely to remain jobless long-term.

“Ageism is out there, there's no question,” Ginny Brzezinski said. “We talked to so many women who had to deal with that. We talked to women who couldn't even get an interview because their age. We talked to women who found out later on that somebody actually wrote ‘T.O.’ on their resume for ‘too old.’” The co-authors’ solution is to take stock of what you can control, and then use it to your advantage.

“What we say is that you need to address the ageism that’s going on [in your own head],” Ginny Brzezinski said. “You need to turn your age into an advantage. If you're our age, chances are you're not going on any more maternity leaves your kids are probably a little bit more independent. You have more time, you can put 120 percent into your career, and that is a bonus for any employer.”

For many women, they said the key is saying “yes” to more career-building opportunities, which the Brzezinskis acknowledged can be at odds with family responsibilities.

“We really try and inspire women who feel that fear and don't want to make that first move and maybe even put up walls like, you know, I have to go to the game. I have to take care of you know what,” Mika Brzezinski said. We're so used to caregiving, that's the easy go-to.”

“You’ve got to get out of your own way and say yes to opportunities, but you have to be realistic about those opportunities,” Mika Brzezinski continued. “If you've taken a huge break, the money may not be right, it may not be the greatest schedule, jump in and put in some time and then you'll have some negotiating power. Be realistic.”

Throughout their research, Mika and Ginny Brzezinski spoke with women who said the biggest challenge holding them back was their own fear of failure. They’re offering up “Comeback Careers” as a roadmap out of that negative thinking.

“So many of the women we talked to, the ones who returned successfully after a career break or started something new in their 50s said, ‘I was so afraid.’ But they said [that was their] biggest obstacle and once they go past that, it was so much easier,” Ginny Brzezinski said.

“You need to fear never trying,” Ginny Brzezinski said. “Don't fear failure.”