How do you define value? According to Dictionary.com, the definition of value is simple: relative worth, merit, or importance. For us, however, the definition isn’t always quite as easy to find. As a millennial college student on the cusp of entering the workforce, something we rarely reflect upon is our own value. Between our everyday struggles of last-minute papers, job searches, and the cups of coffee in between, the thought of reflecting on our own narrative and individual value fails to be at the forefront of our minds. This changes now.
MSNBC’s Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski has continually posed this question for women: what is your value? What began as a book titled Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth initiated the beginning of her Know Your Value movement. Seeking to create an empowered community for women in their personal and professional lives, the movement has already inspired many across the country.
One demographic Brzezinski is ready to guide in learning their worth? Millennials.
This past October, Brzezinski announced that she will be publishing three forthcoming books. One of which, will be co-authored by the Know Your Value millennial contributor and Morning Joe producer, Daniela Pierre-Bravo. I was able to sit down with her for an exclusive interview during the Know Your Value conference last month. From growing up as an undocumented immigrant from Santiago, Chile to becoming a successful producer at MSNBC, her journey is inspiring. Did I suddenly feel motivated within two minutes of starting our conversation? Yes, yes I did.
HC: When left with the choice to either accept the restrictions put on you during high school and going into college or create your own opportunities to succeed, you chose the latter. What inspired you to seek these opportunities and get creative?
DPB: Well, I think a lot of millennials can relate. Wanting to develop themselves professionally nowadays, there are so many resources out there. You know, whether you’re in the middle of Ohio or you’re in Kansas City, the sky’s really the limit in terms of what you can be and how you can develop professionally because so many things are changing and there are resources out there that can get you where you need to go. A lot of it is psychological. I think because, for me, I could’ve looked at it from the perspective of like ‘ok, I’m paying cash semester by semester at college and what if it’s for nothing, right?’ because I didn’t have deferred action by then, I was you know, still undocumented at that point and so, I said it’s all or nothing because there’s no way to go but up.
HCM: What is the greatest lesson you learned during this experience and what advice do you have for students in a similar situation?
DPB: I think the greatest lesson was don’t take no for an answer because, based on my experience, it should have been that I should not have the opportunities to do anything. I did, but I always kind of found a way so, I always turned a no in my life to a yes. I think that made me, when I finally had deferred action and had my first job, you know, I was getting promoted and it allowed me to be that person that always found a yes to a no. At Morning Joe, in the crazy world of Morning Joe, it was so helpful, so I think that was the biggest lesson: don’t take no for an answer.
HCM: How do you define your value?
DPB: I was listening to SJP (Sarah Jessica Parker) and she was talking about how it took her such a long time to figure out how to answer that question. But for me, I think it’s finding my sense of purpose which I think is a really big thing for millennials so, knowing my value is understanding and having clarity on what my purpose is. So, I think it’s a culmination of all the small successes that got me in the door to where I am professionally and then being able to say my story is sort of an accumulation of what I can give back. So, with a platform with Mika’s Know Your Value, that sort of is my sense of purpose and my “know your value” moment is being able to recognize what got me in the door and sharing that with other millennials out there who don’t have a point of access or don’t know how to navigate the workforce. It’s using my story, but also using the network and doing research, and with Harvard we’ve done for the book, interviewing people and to kind of get their perspectives and a hub of resources for other millennials as well for the website.
HCM: At what point did u recognize your value and what steps did you take to get there?
DPB: I had a conversation with Mika on a private plane when we had just ended Morning Joe and I was staffing her to another city. She had not known my story at that point, I had worked for her for like, a year and a half or two years, so it was really important for me to have her understand me as a person, the work ethic I put forward, and then I timed it very well, took it, and made sure that was the moment to tell her my story. I think that was the clarifying moment of “know your value” and the steps that I took was to make sure that, from the moment I got in the door, I did an amazing job so that I would be recognized for my talent and skills so that when it came time to get her idea on my idea on this platform for millennials, I had that. It was fermented on a really great background and a relationship between me and Mika and then also that I could speak to my backstory.
HCM: What do you think are the greatest challenges facing millennial women both in school and in the workforce?
DPB: I think there’s a lot of anxiety, and this is coming from some of the Harvard research that we collaborated with for the book, a lot of millennials feel a sense of anxiety to get where they are right away and it’s important for millennials and something I’ve had to tell myself, your career trajectory is a journey in itself. There will be the first two, three years, sometimes a lag time, where we’re just absorbing. You’re just learning, and so you have to be ready for your moment because you will have your moment if you put in the work and you nourish and establish relationships. But, you don’t have to do it all right away, and I think that it’s a convoluted message because we see people right out the gate start their businesses, but that’s their experience and you have to kind of understand, especially for women coming from college, you’re going to get where you need to go but instead of just seeing the end goal, pay attention to the small opportunities that will get you there, who your contacts will be, how you’re going to define your story on getting from point a to point b and what are the experiences that will get you access as opposed to kind of wanting to do everything right away because everything that is good comes in small steps in my experience.
HCM: I love how I totally needed to hear this.
DPB: No, I mean it can be intimidating for millennials coming right out of school, especially because there’s so much anxiety on “what’s my purpose”, “what should I be doing” and so it’s, and we talk about it in the book, there’s so many people whose careers have changed and turned and everything happens for a reason, so you should really pay attention to the relationships you’re gonna make and how you’re gonna tell your story. If it’s harder for you to get in the door, that makes your story at the end of the day better. Just think about the small pieces of the journey as opposed to the end of the journey right away.
HCM: Who are your biggest influencers?
DPB: Mika of course, I mean she was, well, I should probably say like, my mom or something (laughs), but just professionally she’s been. My mom and her have been great examples of women who are just scrappy, and I think that’s where I get my scrappiness from. They were always like that, but professionally, Mika has been such an advocate because she saw me when I first started. Mika has been such a big part of giving me this platform and helping me along the way.
HCM: How has Mika shaped the way you approach things now, compared to before meeting her and developing that relationship?
DPB: It’s little things, for example, I’ve learned a lot from her about negotiating. I learned a lot from her about telling my story and not being afraid to tell my story and when I came to her with my story and creating a platform for millennials exclusively, she was very receptive and then she pushed me outside of my comfort zone to tell that story. So, in that way, she gave me that extra push I needed because it was all up here, but sometimes you just need a mentor to push you a little bit that’s how she helped me along the way.
Read more about Daniela here and keep an eye out for The Millennial Challenge and more incredibly inspiring books by Mika Brzezinski.