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5 Career Lessons from our Favourite TV shows

By Joe O'Brien, on 5 August 2020

Read time: 4 minutes

Written by Nicole Estwick, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

In recent months, many of us have sought escapism from current events through our screens, whether that’s through social media, zoom calls or virtual events. TV has also played a massive part in this, especially during the days of lockdown where some of us finally got round to watching the box set we’ve put on hold for ages whilst others tuned in to live TV for the first time in a long time or re-watched a classic series.

Although the world of TV may seem a long way away from our everyday reality, there are still plenty of life and career lessons we can learn from some of our favourite characters. In this post, I’ll outline 5 of the career insights gained from TV series I’ve watched during lockdown:

  1. Friends – Don’t let failure stop you from chasing your dream job

It’s the series many of us can recite word for word and although Friends may present an idyllic image of life and success in New York for a group of twentysomethings, there are still some interesting learnings we can gain from some of its characters – particularly Joey.

As an aspiring actor, Joey’s career is often unpredictable with a number of ups and downs throughout the series, from losing his dream role in a film and ending up in Vegas as a Roman Gladiator entertainer to being cut entirely from a show he was casted in. Despite all of this he kept going, taking failure in his stride until he secured his dream role as Dr. Drake Ramoray on Days of Our Lives, showing that it’s important to accept that failure may be part of your career journey but what is key is having the motivation and strength to keep going in the face of adversity.

  1. The Walking Dead – Always be on the lookout for opportunities to grow and progress

Its hard to see how you might be able to learn career lessons from a show that is based on a Zombie apocalypse but hear me out. Removing the blood and gore (of which there is plenty) you can see that at the heart of The Walking Dead is a group of people who are constantly making moves to improve on their situation by actively seeking opportunities to build a new life for themselves in a post-apocalyptic world.

Linking this back to your job hunt or even a role you may be currently in, don’t just sit back but take an active role in trying to grow and develop yourself so you can get your foot in the door or make headway up the ladder; your career journey does not end once you’ve secured a job, but it is an ongoing process of growth and development.

  1. The Simpsons – Avoid making comparisons and don’t be bitter about others’ success

A specific episode comes to mind when referring to this point and it is the battle between Homer Simpson and arch enemy Frank Grimes. When Frank starts as a new employee at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant after working tirelessly his entire life to reach this point, he is faced with his polar opposite in Homer who appears lazy, incompetent and clueless in the role, yet seems to be even more successful in every way possible than him. In trying to understand Homer’s success, Grimes’s jealously drives him crazy and eventually leads to his death.

Whilst this is an extreme example, the key lesson here is that many of us will look at the successes of friends and classmates and be frustrated that our own career may not be moving in the same direction of travel or as quickly, but it is important to focus on your own journey, not let jealously cloud your thinking, and realise that even the most successful individuals will face challenges despite what they display to others.

  1. The Office – Your job (even your dream job) will have its positives and negatives

Referring to the US office here, the team at Dunder Mifflin show in almost every episode how the 9-5 is a mixture of the good, the bad, and the bizarre which is a reflection of not only work but also life which won’t be a bed of roses everyday.

You may find yourself in a role, especially at a junior level, where lots of admin may be involved or if you’re in a small company you may have to adapt to do lots of different things – what is important is having a positive attitude, making the most of it and finding small ways to make the negative tasks that are part of your role a little more enjoyable.

  1. Ru Paul’s Drag Race – Don’t be afraid to showcase your skills and what you can do with confidence

Queens on the iconic Ru Paul’s Drag Race never fail to showcase what they can do and they do it with confidence. Whilst many of us won’t be putting on an actual show or performance for employers in the same fashion as Bianca Del Rio, viewing the application process metaphorically as a runway whereby you need to clearly display what assets you have and what you can do will boost your chances of success.

Ensure that your CV and Cover Letter clearly outline what you can offer and if you do make it to the interview stage, see it as another chance to demonstrate with confidence that you are the right person for the job in question.

There you have it! How some of your favourite TV show and characters may be delivering key career lessons without you even realising it!

If you are looking for help or guidance for your personal career journey, please do visit our website for additional resources or book a one-to-one appointment with UCL Careers.

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