Grow Your Value finalist Jill McDermott of Tuckahoe, New York is earning her communications degree at a community college while working at a local Fridays. On top of her jam-packed schedule, she serves as the primary caretaker of her household, providing for her mother and younger brother on a $5 per hour wage. “It really is terrifying because I’m the only one supporting my family and the only one with a job,” she told MSNBC in her submission video to the Grow Your Value bonus competition. “I have faced a lot of hardship growing up. My father passed away when I was only a year old and my mother has been battling depression and cannot hold a job.” When Jill's two older sisters moved out, she began caring for her family on top of her school and work schedule, and one of her greatest challenges became finding time for herself.
Here, she shares her Know Your Value story.
What do you think is one of the most important issues facing women your age in the workplace?
I feel as though women my age are not always taken seriously because we are so young. It is so complicated balancing both work and school, to be honest. It is probably the hardest thing for me right now because I need to do well in my classes but I have to go to work and put the stress I'm dealing with behind me.
What inspired you to enter the Grow Your Value bonus competition?
I look up to Mika a lot and her book explained wanting to get paid an equal amount because she knew her worth. I also met a woman that came to my job and she actually works for NBC. I was serving her table and I complimented her dress and we got to really know each other to the point where I told her a little about my life and she was very interested and told me about the contest. I decided to do it to test out my speaking skills on video and here I am!
You’re in a different place in your life than many of our past finalists. You’re studying and haven’t yet begun your career. What are you most looking forward to about beginning a new chapter in your professional life?
I am looking forward to making a difference in my life. I am really looking forward to these experiences that will come along while I'm starting my journey which is why I'm embracing every moment right now and so on.
Who motivates and inspires you?
My role model would have to be my dad. I never really met him, but I live through him everyday. I want him to be proud of his little girl and I want to be everything he is. I know he’s an amazing man and that is why I look up to him. I know I am just like him.
You’re the primary caretaker of your household. How has this lifestyle shaped you?
It was not easy whatsoever. It actually affected me greatly - in good and bad ways. I've been in survival mode all my life and I feel like I have been independent forever. I honestly feel like I can do anything because of the armor I've built. The most important thing about being a caretaker is that you do it for the ones you love and I feel like my love for others is so big and genuine.
You’re a communications major with the goal of one day working in the entertainment industry. What draws you to this field?
I have always been a people person and I would like to think that I'm very friendly. I have listened to the radio forever and everyone shows their personality to the people they interview. I want to interview musicians because my whole life revolves around music and it is the one thing I really relate to.
Why would you encourage other women to enter the Grow Your Value bonus competition?
I would encourage women to enter this contest because it is such an amazing experience to love yourself and know your worth and purpose. Because of this, I’ve gained so much more confidence. I feel as though the most important thing in the world is to love yourself. You are all you have at the end of the day and you need to take care of yourself. There are so many women who are struggling with loving themselves, especially when you have to put others before you (like in my case). But now, I realize my purpose and because of that I wake up every morning in a positive mood.
What’s the single most important thing you hope to gain from the Grow Your Value bonus competition?
Before this competition, I struggled loving myself and being positive. But I already gained that after Florida and it is priceless. Nothing can compare to this feeling and I want to thank everyone who listened to my story and helped me.
You can catch Jill and the other Grow Your Value finalists compete for $10,000 at Boston’s Know Your Value event on Friday, October 23 at msnbc.com/knowyourvalue where we’ll be livestreaming the event. See you in Boston!