Mika Brzezinski’s Advice For Millennials Who Crave Career Success

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Mika Brzezinski always has great career advice. The “Morning Joe” host built a career empowerment brand around helping women negotiate higher salaries, and now she’s helping millennials get ahead in the workplace. In her newest book, “Earn It! Know Your Value And Grow Your Career, In Your 20s And Beyond,” which debuts on May 7, 2019, Brzezinski and co-author Daniela Pierre-Bravo discuss specific steps that 20-somethings can take to navigate their first jobs, promotions, salaries and more. We got our hands on an advance copy and found the following tips especially impactful.

1. It’s about finding a side door if you can’t get your foot in the front door.

Launching your career takes work and creativity, so if one method isn’t working, try a different approach. Don’t be afraid to get creative and stand out so you can land that dream internship or job.

2. Network with a purpose and strategy in mind.

Brzezinski writes in her book that it’s important to “help your potential contacts help you by giving them a reason to read through your resume or LinkedIn and answer your message. Make your purpose clear but also personalize your message.” Basically, don’t reach out to someone without being direct about the end game. But also make sure you’re not just looking take something from them without giving anything back.

3. Keep the attention on what you have to say, not what you’re wearing.

We’re big fans of wearing the right work wardrobe for you, but it’s also important to know your audience. If you’re going on an interview or working in an entry-level role, Brzezinski suggests keeping your style simple and neutral. She stresses that you want to be heard and known for your work rather than seen for what you’re wearing.

4. Be self-aware in interviews.

Knowing that you may not meet all of the qualifications for the job can actually be used to your advantage. Brzezinski’s co-author, Daniela Pierre-Bravo, suggests asking a question that demonstrates this truth, such as, “Is there anything that you didn’t find in my resume that I can help answer?” This allows you to explain to the hiring manager that you have more experience and a work ethic that they may not have clearly seen on your resume.

5. Learn to do one thing really well.

At the start of your career, don’t try to be a master of everything that comes your way. You’re there to learn so you can progress in your career. Brzezinski suggests that you make sure you can do one thing really well because then you’ll grow from there.

millennial career advice
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6. Don’t worry if your first job isn’t what you think you’re meant to do.

While you probably want to land your dream job ASAP after college, it’s important to understand that your first job can really teach you a lot. “Don’t ask yourself, ‘Is this what I’m meant to do?’ at the very start of your career because you’ll miss out on the opportunities to grow in your first job,” Brzezinski writes. Instead, learn everything you can and that’ll help point you in the right direction.

7. Take advantage of in-person communication.

“The moments that will get you where you want to go in life are those human interactions, those moments of clear communications and the imprint you leave on people,” Brzezinski writes in her book. “And those are the types of moments we need to focus on more. They make a big difference in your career.” So skip email and Slack, and aim to get time with your boss and coworkers in person to really build those relationships that’ll help you for years into your career.

8. Be your own biggest advocate.

Let’s be real — at the end of the day, no one is going to just hand you that promotion or know that you’re the right one to lead that project at work. Brzezinski says you need to advocate for yourself in order to put yourself forward. Do it with every opportunity that comes your way and you’ll propel yourself to the next level before you know it.

9. “You can be ambitious and still focus on the needs of the team.”

Unfortunately, as Brzezinski and Pierre-Bravo point out in the book, being ambitious can sometimes come off as entitled to coworkers or bosses. However, don’t let that slow you down! You can do both by focusing on the needs of the team and the company, while also working on climbing the ladder. For example, offer to take on a not-so-popular-but-necessary task for a project at work. It’ll give you some great experience and you’ll be seen as a team player.

10. Seize your moment.

As you grow in your career, you’ll end up with higher titles, working alongside people who make a lot more money than you do. They may even do the same job as you. Brzezinski says don’t be afraid to seize your moment to own what you’re really worth. Ask for the raise or the promotion and get paid what you deserve.

millennials working
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11. Focus on yourself.

Sometimes in your career, you’ll be tempted to compare yourself to others. Don’t worry about what others are doing and the pace they’re moving in their career. Brzezinski says focus on yourself and what you can control, and then work on it until you get to where you want to go.

12. Raise your hand, but know when to stop.

Volunteering for menial tasks like taking notes in the meeting for everyone or printing out copies for your boss can definitely help you stand out. However, Brzezinski says you need to know when to stop if it’s hurting your progress rather than helping it. She writes that it’s important to show that you want to work and be a team player, but you also need to know when it’s time to sit down with your boss and refocus on your real career goals at work.

13. If you want to find your purpose, be still.

Though you may be tempted to job hop until you find the one that truly feels fulfilling, Brzezinski says you should actually stay still and really look at the role your currently in to find your purpose. She says to learn from that current job and see what skills you have and still need to develop. You’ll also understand what industry and type of culture is the best fit for you, which will help you find your purpose.

14. Learn to listen critically.

Whether it’s a mentor or just a networking connection, people will often try to help you navigate your career and the potential pitfalls. Listen to them, but Brzezinski suggests also trusting your gut and intuition. “Being able to listen critically is key; take what helps you grow and put aside the rest,” she says.

15. Let every opportunity and every failure teach you something.

Brzezinski says that you need to not only learn from every opportunity that comes your way, but also understand failure. “It’s all about exposing yourself to as many learning experiences as possible, and building on the knowledge gained, including a key one: how to learn from failure,” she writes. So if one job doesn’t work out or a project at work completely falls flat, take a moment to learn from it and bounce back with the knowledge of what not to do in the future.

millennial meeting
Pexels/Christina Morillo

16. Put yourself out there and see where the world takes you.

While having a plan is always a good thing, sometimes you also need to take chances. Brzezinski says to take advantage of serendipity and be open to wherever the road takes you. For example, your perfect job could be in a field you never even considered when you were in college. And if it’s not perfect, then at least you’re growing, building your skill set and taking on new challenges that’ll help you learn. Put yourself out there and see what happens.

17. Your way of making your mark on the world is no longer defined by staying in old lanes.

Brzezinski makes a great point when she reminds readers that traditional paths are no longer necessary to reach career success. While it may have been smart for people to stay at one company and work their way up the ladder years ago, now millennials need to carve out their own lanes for career success. From working in five different industries throughout your career to starting your own business eventually, do what you feel will allow you to make your mark on the world and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

18. Pay your dues.

It may be easy to think that you’re completely ready to lead a team or start your own company after just a few years out of college — and we know you can do it! — but it’s also important to pay your dues by learning everything you can first. Brzezinski writes that you need to earn the right to do purposeful work by working really hard, observing workplace etiquette and learning the nuances of your environment. It’ll help you get to where you ultimately need and want to be.

19. Be the leader you wish to see.

Brzezinski brings her book to a close with hope for the future of leadership in the workplace. She writes that it’s important for you to become the leader that you wish to see. Don’t settle for the leadership that currently exists. Instead, earn your right to be a leader and then empower others to do the same. You’ll be able to pass the torch down to the next person, creating the change you wish to see in leadership in your industry, which may then leave a lasting impression for generations to come.

Brzezinski’s book really focuses on helping millennials and 20-somethings navigate the hierarchy of the workplace and own their own voice to advance and advocate for themselves. So if you’re tired of the same old career advice that’s clearly outdated and you’re looking for something that truly speaks to your generation, give this book a read.


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