Earn It!

Know Your Value and Grow Your Career, in Your 20s and Beyond


By Mika Brzezinski

With Daniela Pierre-Bravo

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A straight-talking guide for the newest members of the workforce, with road-tested advice for landing a job, navigating the new world of work, establishing a personal brand, and getting the recognition (and money) you deserve.

The whirlwind of job applications, interviews, follow-up, resume building, and networking is just the beginning. What happens after you’ve landed the job, settled in, and begun to make a difference-where do you go from here? What if you feel stuck in what you thought would be your dream profession? New York Times bestselling author Mika Brzezinski and producer Daniela Pierre-Bravo provide an essential manual for those crucial next steps. Earn It! is a practical career guidebook that not only helps you get your foot in the door; it also shows you how to negotiate a raise, advocate for more responsibility, and figure out whether you’re in the career that’s right for you.

A blueprint for your future success, Earn It! features insightful and inspiring interviews with leaders in media, fashion, and business, recruiters, HR, execs, and kickass young female entrepreneurs like Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin of theSkimm, Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud, and Jane Park, founder of the cosmetic subscription company Julep.


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If I’ve learned one thing in my career, it’s the importance of being able to effectively communicate your value. To be able to articulate what you are contributing, which niche you’re filling, how the group benefits from your role, and what all of that is worth. This idea of understanding what you bring to the table and being able to communicate it so that you get what you need and deserve—both in your work life and your personal life—is critical for women of all ages.

It’s become a passion of mine: I want to help women everywhere learn how to advocate for themselves in real time, and to own their voice and messaging while they do it.

I learned my lessons the hard way. I wrote about my own struggle to be paid fairly at work in my book Know Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth. I wrote it because I wanted to explore effective strategies: How can women get the money they deserve and the promotions they want? How can they best accelerate their career opportunities and leverage their talents without provoking a backlash or being counterproductive? I learned that, bottom line, women don’t negotiate enough, and when they do, they don’t necessarily do it productively. Women can’t advocate for themselves in precisely the same way men do—it doesn’t work. As we navigate gender bias, we confront different dynamics in getting ahead.

In my book I shared my vulnerabilities and shortcomings when it came time to go to the negotiating table. I shared what not to do. But I also explained which strategies ultimately worked for me. In the end, I closed my gender wage gap by refusing to play the victim or apologize. I was ready to walk. Most important, I learned to communicate my professional value.

My story clearly struck a chord. Hundreds of women started coming up to me—in airports, at industry events, and on the street—to tell me how my story helped them get raises, and ultimately gave them the tools to empower their own voices. I am so proud of all the women who have taken this message and applied it to their own lives. Now they’re not only claiming higher paychecks, but also recognition and the rewards that come with it.

I may have jump-started an important discussion, but the work didn’t end there. Over the past few years, what started as a book has evolved into the Know Your Value movement—a conference series and multiplatform digital hub that continues to give women the tools to develop and inspire their individual growth.

But as I look back at my own career path and the ideas we talk about in my conference series, it dawns on me that the demands and pressures on women in their 20s are different now. Young women in the workplace, whether starting out or making important next steps to further their careers, have a whole new set of challenges and circumstances that make realizing their professional ambitions both exciting and difficult. They are navigating a different terrain than the one traveled by women of my generation.

While many of the lessons in Know Your Value are still relevant—communicating what you bring to the table effectively to get paid what you are worth; advocating for yourself in the moment—there are a few lessons that need to be added for women in the early stages of their careers.

In some ways, younger women have more going for them than I did in my 20s. The workplace is ripe with opportunity for women to succeed and get ahead. They are entering male-dominated fields in greater numbers than ever before, although some fields show greater progress than others.

Yet young women still face a familiar set of challenges: in addition to gender bias that’s an everyday occurrence in the corporate world, they are often dismissed because of their youth. Millennial women in particular get a bad rap, accused of being part of a generation that is distracted, entitled, and lazy. They’re encouraged to present themselves as self-assured and ambitious, but not overly aggressive, which would make them less likeable (and God forbid a woman is labeled as “difficult”!). These are contradictory messages for women who are entering the workplace and don’t understand the office environment. And then there are our own tendencies, as women, to overthink situations and take things personally.

An incident involving my former assistant brought the stereotype into sharp focus for me.

Sitting in my office during a half-hour break from cohosting Morning Joe, I scarfed down some oatmeal and fruit before getting ready for a short interview. Even eating is a scheduled part of my morning; that particular day was otherwise swamped with meetings, conference calls, and evening events.

André Leon Talley, the well-known fashion editor, had graciously agreed to stop by my office early that morning for a recorded interview to be used in my 2015 book, Grow Your Value. A friend and frequent contributor to my Know Your Value conferences and books, André always offers honest advice on how to get ahead in the workplace.

Emily, my then assistant, was assigned to coordinate the interview with André, and to assist me at my scheduled events for the rest of the day. The plan was for me to do the interview with André, go back and finish the show, and then leave with Emily for Philadelphia, where I was to deliver an 11:30 a.m. speech in front of 500 women on the topic of equal pay. The timing was tight, as usual: we all had to keep moving and make it work. For the people who assist me, there is little room for error.

I lean heavily on efficient assistants like Emily to help keep the details of my life and work on track. In our early days together, she worked primarily out of my home office, a much more relaxed and casual setup than the Morning Joe offices in Manhattan. I’m usually in sweats at home, so I suggested to Emily that she should feel free to dress casually. I had also forewarned her that the culture at the Rockefeller Center office would be different; on the days we were in the city, she’d have to look professional. But it was on Emily to figure out that balance between professionalism and comfort—I didn’t think to give her clear guidelines.

The André Leon Talley interview took place during one of her first workdays at 30 Rock. He arrived in my office that day draped in a gorgeous maroon cape, with Emily in tow. As we sat down, I saw André’s brow furrow; he looked uncomfortable. He was watching Emily as she zipped from one side of the room to the other, setting up the interview. I could tell something about my assistant didn’t sit well with him.

Emily had come in on a pair of four-inch heels I’d given her a long time ago—heels I’d decided were ridiculously high on me but might be fun for a younger person to wear on a night out, or even on a date. That day she wore them in the office, along with a flashy dress. Her hair, usually up in a ponytail, was blown out to full volume.

The interview room was very small. I realized that Emily, with her perfume, her hair, her high heels, and her movements, seemed to take up the whole room. She kept interrupting us inadvertently by moving animatedly around the room, wearing a smile from ear to ear, her heels clicking from one side to the other. Once or twice, she reached in between André and me; she didn’t have much sense of personal space.

I finally told her André and I could do the interview alone: she had set herself up right beside us, as if the meeting were for the three of us. I’m sure she thought by staying in the room she was being helpful, but when you’re working as an assistant and a high-level person comes in, less is more. It would have been more appropriate for her to have asked me beforehand, “Do you want me in here for this interview?”

I knew her intentions were good. This was a young woman whom I was training, grooming, and mentoring professionally. And yet I found myself wondering, “What’s wrong with me, that I’m so impeded by her presence?”

Once Emily left the room, we started to roll tape. André and I approached the subject of working, training, and identifying talent. Although sometimes too candid, André always offers insightful advice. To prove a point, he used Emily, whom he’d just met, to illustrate his point about young people entering the workforce. “She does not know her place. She’s all over the place. She thinks it’s all about her.”

I would never use those words to describe Emily. She had already worked for me for several years and had proven herself to be trustworthy, hardworking, and very dedicated to the details of her work. And she was equally dedicated to the details of working with me and my family. She never balked at any of the sometimes-crazy tasks I assigned her and had always seemed grateful for the opportunities her job presented her. She had shown nothing but loyalty, kindness, and eagerness.

André’s comments really threw me off. I told him: “Actually, she was a teacher in Philadelphia and is now my assistant. I really love her. She’s a wonderful girl.” I was completely taken aback.

“It doesn’t come off that way to me at all. It’s her demeanor—it’s all wrong.” To him, André explained, her behavior read entitled.

I didn’t think about it too much, but as the day went on I started noticing things about Emily that I hadn’t seen before. We had a rough trip to Philadelphia that day after the interview: it was a disaster. We were very rushed to get to the speech. She didn’t have a notepad for me in the car, so we had to stop and buy one, and were delayed twenty minutes. As I ran to the stage, Emily could barely keep up in those heels.

I let the details of that day go and just put the whole thing to the back of my mind. I really adored Emily. She had been such an asset to keeping my home and work–life balance in check—and all the chaos that came with it—that I wanted to continue working on her professionally. I wanted to see her succeed. I was still processing.

The next day, I came home from the show to find a despondent version of my normally bubbly assistant waiting for me in my home office. She was apprehensive, and worried, and looked like someone who’d just been told she was fired.

“Do you think I’m entitled?” she asked me hesitantly, her eyes glistening.

It turned out that the tape of my interview with André had turned up on her desk to be transcribed. How could I think that wouldn’t happen?

Hearing those negative comments about herself firsthand was clearly a gut-punch that had rocked Emily to her core. But ultimately, as we dissected the feedback, the experience proved to be an important turning point in her budding career.

Talking with Emily that day was also clarifying for me. I had new perspective on what it means to be a young woman today who wants to succeed, reach her career goals, and advocate for herself, but whose messaging is off—and she doesn’t even know it. While Emily might have thought she was projecting confidence and self-assurance, her audience wasn’t receiving the same message. What was causing the disconnect?

People use the word “entitled” to describe someone who seems to feel they inherently deserve something. But isn’t that also the basis of ambition—that innate desire for, and expectation of, success? And isn’t being ambitious and self-assured a good thing? It absolutely is.

Clearly there’s a disconnect and a double standard in how we expect young women to show their ambition. The challenge is to understand the playing field you’re working on, and to minimize the internal voices that get in the way of your ability to develop professionally.

How can you be fully comfortable and exert confidence and self-assurance if someone can mistake that as looking entitled? How can you be self-aware enough to disprove the stereotypes, but have enough confidence to advocate for yourself when it’s time to grow in your career? It comes down to how you show your ambition. In the workplace, there is absolutely room for ambitious women to find a place and move on, once you figure out the office etiquette and the protocols already in place.

I’m a daughter of a former national security advisor and an artist. I went to the best colleges. And I’ve always tried to be self-deprecating because I worried I would appear entitled. I grew up with children of presidents; I understand what entitled looks like. And Emily was not that, not at all.

Even at the age of 24, Emily was incredibly hardworking, and had done everything and anything that was ever asked of her. She was not raised to think of herself as deserving special privileges. She went to Penn State and worked as a teacher in a tough school district in South Philadelphia before working for me. She comes from a fantastic family of teachers and has amazing parents who are kind and so loving. They’re absolutely wonderful. Their unconditional support led her to believe that the world at large would welcome her just as warmly; but in the workplace, that’s just not how it goes. Unconditional love stops at the front door.

While it was a tough experience, Emily learned a lot from that day and has made great strides on her long-term career journey. She has contributed to books on women’s issues, written articles for the Know Your Value website, and transferred into a new role as manager of sales enablement on the business side of Know Your Value. In her role she executes the brand’s social and digital strategy and helps to oversee high-profile national events. She’s someone I trust and rely on completely both as a professional and a friend.

But she needed that really rough day to get a jump-start. Emily today is a very different person from the young woman you just read about. She has developed self-assurance and poise, she knows her value, and she’s learned to translate that into a good salary and a solid reputation. Plus, she’s fun, self-aware, and confident enough to let us tell this story as the opening of this book. That, I say, is a winner.

This story isn’t just about wearing the right outfit or the right shoes. It’s about owning your presence and your voice, learning to read your audience, and figuring out how to use that to your advantage. What other special hurdles do twenty-something women face in learning their value, asking for it, and getting it—and most important, how do they overcome those hurdles?

My goal with this book is to share real lessons about the struggle that young women face today as they try to show their ambition and develop their careers.

I see so many young women who are smart, eager, energetic, and determined to get ahead. They feel a sense of urgency to get to the top and become successful from the get-go. Young women worry about losing time if they don’t pick the “perfect job” right away, fearful that with so many choices, making the wrong one might lead them down the wrong career path entirely. By the time they reach their mid-20s, many are paralyzed by choice overload, and the pressure to succeed.

I want young women to examine and develop their self-worth from the start of their careers, understand their power as women, and learn to use the many tools at their disposal to build a strong professional persona. We’ll go over the many ways you can own your ambition, not shy away from it.

I’ll try and answer questions such as: How can I manage the obstacles in front of me when getting started in my career? How can I become an asset to my workplace? How can I stand out in the beginning of my career if I’m not the one calling the shots? How can I grow effectively and advocate for myself when the time is right? And how will I know when to stick it out through a tough work environment, as opposed to when to know when it’s time to jump ship and perhaps strike out on my own?”

For this book I decided to team up with a talented young woman on our Morning Joe team, my coauthor, Daniela Pierre-Bravo, to collaborate and explore the crossroads faced by women in their 20s.

You’ll hear her story, along with the stories of other highly successful women and men, from Hollywood to politics to business. They’ll share their stories of failures and successes, how they found their voices and navigated the workplace to their advantage, and what they advise for the next generation. You’ll also hear additional voices from young women who have paved their paths in their own way, from successful young executives who have climbed the corporate ladder to a recent grad who developed her own company in college to millennial women who started in traditional corporate jobs and decided after a while to be their own boss.

We’ll dig deep into the things that get in the way of embracing and owning your voice—from our society’s dependency on technology to feeling lost and anxious about that next step.

We’ll share our research collaboration with Harvard University’s Institute of Politics (IOP), and the insights from focus groups and polls that were created exclusively for this book. We’ll get to the “why” behind the questions and then offer solutions.

The future of the workplace is for young women to define. I want young women entering the workforce to understand and be able to communicate their value right out of the gate. To build their own narrative and communicate confidently who they are and what they bring to the table.

There are so many ways to bring out your effective, strong, confident, determined, ambitious self. With the help of my millennial coauthor, who knows what your generation is up against firsthand, and many others who have contributed their expertise and advice to this book, I’ll show you the tools you need to act on the strength of your convictions and move ahead in the workplace and beyond.

Chapter One

Daniela’s Story

Applause erupted from the audience as we wrapped Morning Joe’s three-hour live show in Charleston, South Carolina, the first of three days of broadcasting from an important primary state that would help define the presidential election of 2016.

Less than an hour from the end of the program, I was already racing out the door to catch a jet to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to give an afternoon speech at a women’s conference. I had started my day at 3:30 a.m., and by 10 a.m. the adrenaline from being on the show was beginning to fade. I was exhausted. Staffing me that day was a young producer from Morning Joe, Daniela Pierre-Bravo.

Originally, I had planned to have another staffer join me on the trip, but she fell ill at the last minute. As a replacement, the first person I thought of was Daniela. I knew I could count on her for everything from getting my coffee right to bigger tasks like booking a major newsmaker on Morning Joe.

As one of the show’s producers, she was the first person on set that morning, a 4 a.m. call time. Staffing me that day meant she would travel with me to Tennessee and back that night to South Carolina to do the show from there all over again the next morning. She was just as exhausted as I was, but you wouldn’t know it from the way she handled herself. She was always on and ready to work.

At that point, I had known her for two years, first as an NBC page.

The day we met, she got a quick introduction to the daily chaos behind the scenes on Morning Joe. I was in the middle of a typically hectic morning, racing to get ready to go on air. Interns scuttled around in a frenzy, looking for a scarf to match my outfit that day—minutes before showtime.

As my makeup artist dusted my face with powder, I welcomed this eager-looking newcomer before she could get in a word of greeting. After she indicated how glad she was to be part of our team, amid the hustle and bustle I asked if she would be the one getting my coffee in the morning.

“Yes!” she exclaimed proudly.

“Good!” I said, only half-kidding. “You better not f*** it up!”

Laughter filled the room, but she could tell I meant it.

Daniela remembers the moment well: “Though I knew Mika was joking, her comment also shook me: clearly I had an opportunity to gain her trust, and to stand out, even just by getting her coffee right.”

Because I work around the clock, often late into the night, and get wake-up calls at 3 a.m. every weekday to cohost a three-or sometimes four-hour live show without breaks, trust me, that coffee will either MAKE OR BREAK ME. I NEED it to get me through the early mornings.

Daniela quickly intuited that it was the lifeline to my day: “The details of that critical order—venti black-eye misto, extra hot, extra foam—rang in my head every morning,” she recalls. “The show-day routine was always the same. I would stand outside Starbucks at 4:45 a.m. pleading with the barista to open a few minutes early so Mika could get her order the moment she sat in the makeup chair. I had little face time with Mika back then, so making sure her coffee was done right was crucial!”

And it was! She treated the errand like her life depended on it. And that attitude spilled over to the other parts of her job. I felt assured that whenever she was around, things were going to go smoothly. I found myself making certain to bring her along to whatever event or work commitment I had. She gained my trust initially by making my work life easier.

The next thing she knew, Daniela was accompanying me from fashion shows to offsite shoots. Long days started with her helping me get show-ready when it was still dark out, and often ended after events that went late into the evening. It was a grueling schedule, but she was meeting and interacting with high-profile people from the editor in chief of Cosmopolitan to media moguls and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

As Daniela puts it: “Mika opened up a world of access. Getting the small details of my job right helped me turn what was meant to be a three-month assignment at Morning Joe as an NBC page into a full-time job in less than a month and a half.”

As the show’s production coordinator, she ran point in the studio, zipping between the greenrooms to the set at a mile a minute, prepping guests, and putting out fires. After a quick stop as an associate producer, she was quickly promoted to be one of the show’s booking producers. Reliable, trustworthy, quick, and scrappy, Daniela always got the job done and done right. It didn’t matter if the task at hand was big or small. There was a certain type of intensity about her that impressed me.

Her quick thinking on a moment’s notice was on display three months into the job on a traveling show to Chicago, when I realized I’d left an entire bag back in New York City. We were going to an event where I needed to be “camera ready,” and there I was, barefaced, in desperate need of help. I panicked and called Daniela. Fifteen minutes later she was knocking on my door with a bag full of new makeup products with everything I needed and colors that matched perfectly. She was always so prepared, even though this was her first time helping to coordinate a traveling show in a city she had never been to before.

As she remembers it: “As I hightailed it back to Mika from a nearby shopping center, all I could think was THANK GOD for my stint as a Mary Kay Consultant!”

With so many entry-level young people coming and going from our show, Daniela found a way to make herself stand out for all the right reasons. She took everything about her job seriously and it ultimately worked to her favor: she quickly gained the trust and respect of those around her. She became an indispensable part of the team.

By the time she went on the road with me during the 2016 primary season, I knew her as an exceptional producer. But what I learned about her personal story, during the trip to Chattanooga, made her even more impressive.

Sitting across from each other that morning during our car ride to the private plane, she asked for my opinion on a project she had been thinking about, a platform and community for millennials who came from underrepresented backgrounds that would provide an inside look at coveted jobs by highlighting professionals who had reached the top of their industries.

“I think it would be great to provide learning tools for young people starting their careers who don’t have the proximity or access to mentors and work experience—a mix of interviews and resources for millennials so they can feel they’re learning from the professionals they could one day see themselves becoming, despite their circumstances,” she explained.

Daniela then offered context on the reasoning behind her potential project. Up until that point, I had seen her as my go-to person on the morning show team who could solve whatever came her way. She was so self-aware and engaged in her work that it was almost scary how she anticipated my needs before I knew what they were. A wardrobe problem at 4 a.m.? She would zip through the hallways of 30 Rock and in minutes it was fixed. From show guest logistics problems and dealing with hard-to-handle publicists to early mornings and late nights, traveling and managing a team of interns and assistants, she did it all with a smile on her face and always had a can-do attitude. I always wondered how she could have all that energy so early in the morning!

But I didn’t know much about her background: what came next left me speechless.

Originally from South America, Daniela moved to a small rural town in the middle of Ohio at the age of 11. She came from immigrant parents and had humble beginnings. She didn’t have many opportunities to learn from professionals around her: there were no real mentors to show her the ropes. She had to learn and assimilate to the language and local culture on her own.

She constantly fought for experiences that seemed out of reach. Not only was she constrained by her socioeconomic background, but geographically, she felt stuck in the middle of a small town, making it hard for her to find exposure to valuable shadowing experience.


  • Thrive Global, "Book of the Week"

    Business Insider, "Books for recent grads that will help guide them through their next chapter."
  • "A perfect primer for the next generation of women who will be running the world-whether from the newsroom, the board room, or the highest levels of government. Earn It! is a thoughtful and practical guide to tell you how to do it."—Valerie Jarrett,former senior advisor to President Obama
  • "This no-holds-barred guide will save you a lot of time. Mika and Daniela share the secret sauce that every young woman needs to know when entering the workforce and how to achieve success."—Barbara Corcoran, realestate mogul and cohost of ABC's Shark Tank
  • "This valuable book answers every twentysomething work question that matters-including the ones you are afraid to ask and the ones you don't even know you have....yet. Candid. Practical. Empowering. Helpful. Earn It! should be required reading for any young professional to wants to be taken seriously and who wants to get ahead."—Meg Jay, PhD, authorof The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter-And How to Make the Most ofThem Now and Supernormal
  • "Read this book! Mika and Daniela provide some of the most solid and straightforward advice that I have read in a long time. The advice in Earn It! is priceless and will have you at the top of your game."—Rebecca Minkoff
  • "In a sea of women's empowerment talk, Mika Brzezinski stands out with directness, assertiveness and practicality. With Earn It!, she literally helps women get the job. This book is indispensable."—Laura Brown, Editorin Chief, InStyle
  • "Earn It! is a must-read guide for everyone just starting out in their careers. Mika and Daniela provide practical, real-world advice that will leave you feeling empowered and ready to take the next step in your career."—Carly Zakin andDanielle Weisberg, co-founders and co-CEOs of theSkimm
  • "Earn It! is gem for anyone starting out in their careers. Mika and Daniela have written a powerful step-by-step guide chock-full of advice from trailblazing women on how to achieve supreme success and power in any field."—AndreLeon Talley, contributingeditor to Vogue
  • "Earn It! is the no-nonsense guide to navigating a career that I wish I had in my 20s. No matter where you're at in your career, you'll glean plenty from the lessons and anecdotes in this book. Brzezinski and Pierre-Bravo show readers what resourcefulness and intrepidness look like in the real world, and in doing so, encourage women to be the best versions of their butt-kicking selves."—Kristin Wong, author of Get Money: Live the Life You Want, Not Just the Life You Can Afford
  • Praise for the Know Your Value brand:
  • "With books and a constellation of related content under the banner 'Know Your Value,' . . . [Mika Brzezinski is now a] guru for career women."—New York Magazine
  • Praise for Mika's previous titles:
  • "A lot of getting ahead in the workplace has to do with being willing to raise your hand... If we as women don't raise our hands in the workplace, we're not going to get the same opportunities men do. Because men keep their hands up."—Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and bestselling author
  • "The words favored nations-that's an expression all women should know. In other words, you always want to be paid no less than what anyone else is being paid."—Nora Ephron, award-winning film director and bestselling author
  • "Just look around and you'll see plenty of evidence that asking for what we want results not in the realization of our own worst fears but in getting what we want."—Arianna Huffington, President and Editor in Chief of The Huffington Post Media Group and bestselling author
  • "Earn It! provides an in-depth look at how to build your career with tactic, deliberation and poise. But it also gives guidance for how to reset and recover after those inevitable early life screw ups. A perfect guide for anyone trying to navigate the unfamiliar terrain of life as a professional adult."—Erin Lowry, author of Broke Millennial

On Sale
May 7, 2019
Page Count
288 pages
Legacy Lit

Mika Brzezinski

About the Author

MIKA BRZEZINSKI is a co-host of Morning Joe; an MSNBC anchor; author of the New York Times bestsellers All Things at Once, Know Your Value, and Obsessed; andfounder of the women’s empowerment community, “Know Your Value.” She also servedas a visiting fellow at the Harvard Institute ofPolitics. She is the mother of two daughters. Formerly a press secretary on Capitol Hill, a stay-at-home parent, and a real estate agent, GINNY BRZEZINSKI is currently a contributor to the Know Your Value website. She is married to Mika’s brother Ian, with whom she has a son and a daughter.

Learn more about this author