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Mika Brezinski and her Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough stopped by a Manhattan Barnes & Noble last week to discuss Mika’s latest book, Grow Your Value, a book piggybacking off of Mika’s first success, Knowing Your Value, a manual for women struggling to evaluate their worth in the workplace. “In her books, Mika tells everyone all the mistakes she’s ever made in her life, and it’s very raw and real,” Joe said. “She’s also like Lucy, in I Love Lucy. She’ll trip, she’ll make everyone laugh.” Here are the most important things we learned during Mika’s event.
Mika’s first book, Knowing Your Value, changes people’s lives. “Ever since that book came out people would say, ‘I read your book, I got a raise. I read your book, I got a raise. I read your book, I got a raise.’ Women starting their careers, women in middle America, women working in insurance companies, women working in doctor’s offices, and women at really high levels.”
Mika finally made it to the dentist. In her book, she writes about how she’s so strapped for time that she doesn’t have time to take care of herself, which means she neglects things like dental checkups. The day of the event, Mika actually had a lisp because she had been fitted with braces that morning. “This is a little awkward,” she said. “I usually tell women not to apologize for things, but I really am sorry about the lisp.” She then turned to Joe and added, “This is the one time I wish you’d interrupt me as much as possible.”
In the workplace, it’s not about being liked. “We have it backwards. Women want to be liked in negotiations. No. Make them respect you first. And after they respect you, being liked follows.”
Women need to learn how to press the reset button when things are going wrong in their lives and careers. “It’s unbelievable how men are able to do that. It’s like they’ve forgotten everything, which they might really have. When something bad happens to women they bring that bad thing into every meeting and it clutters our brains. Men go into meetings as if nothing has happened.”
When Mika joined Joe on Morning Joe as his co-anchor, she was making fourteen times less than him. She realized she had to be a fierce advocate for herself. In a meeting with the president of MSNBC she said, “Phil, you are a bad boyfriend.” Mika explains: “Do you know what a bad boyfriend is? It’s when you do his dry cleaning, you make his dinner, you play house, and you think he’s going to marry you. And he never, ever marries you. Ever. I said, ‘Phil, you’re going to need to marry me. Or it’s just going to be Morning Joe and not Morning Mika. Good luck with that.'” She knew her value, negotiated a raise, and now is paid more fairly.
Negotiations should feel uncomfortable. “We always feel like we need to make people feel comfortable negotiating. That is the last thing you need to do when you negotiate. If you leave a negotiation feeling comfortable, you left some money on the table.”
Stop saying “I’m sorry.” “When we do say what needs to be said, we usually couple it with two words, ‘I’m sorry,’ which really undermines the whole point, and is a lie, because you’re not sorry.”
Most working women feel like they lead double lives. “Claire McCaskill has nailed it in Washington—she has learned how to negotiate and how to be tough. But she would go home and be utterly speechless with her family, totally incapable of connecting with them. A total suck-up. Claire McCaskill. Have you ever seen her on her show? This woman is not a suck-up. She punches Joe in the nose for fun. Goes home and is scrambling, trying to make a meatloaf, sucking up to her kids, having a hard time transferring her work skills into her home. It’s a universal problem among women.”
According to Joe, when Mika was fired from CBS she did something that most people don’t do when they have no leverage. “She got on the phone and started begging for jobs.” “That’s what you have to do,” Mika said. “If you don’t put yourself out there, you don’t know what can happen.”
Mika wasn’t happy as a stay-at-home mom. Joe said that “when Mika was unemployed, her kids were five and seven. The Christmas card that year was a photo of them holding signs that said, ‘Please find my mommy a job. Get her out of here.'”
Mika was an English major. She asks in her book, “what does Jane Austen have to do with a homicide in Hartford?” Yet studying literature gave her a leg up in her career. “My parents told me, ‘You can do whatever you want, but you need to get a base education. You need to study philosophy, sociology, history, political science, English. Choose a major in liberal arts and learn to write and think and feel. And then go after your interests. That reading and knowledge really comes back to build you in times in your career when you need it. Having a solid education will come to help you later.'”