Book Review: Knowing Your Value

I’m nothing if not a book nerd.  So when my dear friend Erica Nochlin recommended Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski’s latest book, Knowing Your Value, I immediately placed it on my library queue.

Brzezinski’s entire premise is this: Women don’t know how to negotiate in the workplace.

I think that’s a generally fair assessment.  Since Brzezinski and I share the same field, it was a particularly enticing read on several levels.  Where I’m really just a couple years into the media machine, she is a veteran. Though a career’s worth of experience separates us, I couldn’t believe how many mistakes she wrote of making, that I make myself, or see my peers make, all the time.  She quotes powerful women across many career tracks, all of whom at one point settled for less money than their male peers would have, neglected to haggle on contracts, and took on more responsibility than was warranted for their pay scale or job description.  Here’s the kicker: Her advice when negotiations fall flat?  Be prepared to walk, and do so.

This is where Brzezinski loses me a bit.  Working in media and keeping food on the table is a precarious balancing act. Even as a talented worker, that often means taking less than you are necessarily “worth”.  I’m well aware if I requested more money, was denied, and walked away, there would be dozens of qualified applicants lined up for my position the next day.  I don’t yet have the experience on my resume (or eight month emergency savings in the bank) that such a leap of faith would require.  But Brzezinski does have some valuable lessons that (I believe) go under-emphasized in the book.  Her point isn’t purely about money.  If an employer refuses to grant monetary raises, why not ask for changes such as a slightly better shift (a huge deal in TV!) or more lenient market out?  Probably a little more likely to happen for those of us who are slightly more disposable as employees.

It’s a book I’d definitely recommend to my female friends, especially those in media.  It’s a good reminder that, though we’re in a competitive industry, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t place value on our own work.

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