Mika Brzezinski has built a career on learning from her mistakes and transforming her losses. Now she empowers others to know their worth and advance. In this feature, Mika focuses on strategies for Millennials and entrepreneurs who have their own particular challenges. Millennials are the best-educated generation in American history, but they also have the highest jobless rate in recent history. Entrepreneurs have an eight-in-ten failure rate in the marketplace.
Make a great first impression
Know your audience and be savvy when you interact with these important people. Whether you’re a Millennial trying to advance in her career or an entrepreneur trying to drum up investors, these are the people who are going to make it happen for you. Even if you were brought up to appreciate your own inner gifts above all else, you need to learn how to play well with others.
Look the part
Dress according to your work culture, but I believe your hair and clothing shouldn’t detract from eye contact. Other fantastic advice came from my friend and fashion entrepreneur Michelle Smith, founder of Milly. She suggests, “Keep your look simple and smart, subtly attractive. You want a potential employer to see you as a good investment.”
Don’t try to befriend your boss
Your boss doesn’t want to be friends with you. Your boss wants to keep the boundaries intact. Those boundaries are a good thing. When I spoke with Joanna Coles, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, she said, “To me, it’s fine to develop friendships and connections. But when you’re starting out in your twenties, I think it’s important to show that you are focused and that you don’t bring everything in your personal life to work with you.”
Work your way up
I teach women to know their value and to communicate effectively, so when I tell twenty-somethings to do the grunt work, I know they’re thinking, “Well, wait a minute—I thought I was supposed to know my value!” How do you transition from doing busy work (and doing it well), to saying, “Hey, I am more, and I want more”?
Your boss isn’t going to come to you. You need to raise your hand. But how and when should you do that? If you prove yourself, you will feel comfortable asking for more.
Make and keep contacts
Part of being able to build and maintain a good professional network is not alienating your superiors or your peers. That is, your sense of self-importance, entitlement, and whatever comes across as arrogance can negatively influence your career for years to come. Your current boss is tomorrow’s contact and potentially your boss in the future—again.
Adapted from Grow Your Value: Living and Working to Your Full Potential, by Mika Brzezinski, Weinstein Books, 2015.
Photo Credit: Miller Hawkins