Season Premiere of Mad Men: What Career Lessons can we learn?
Season Premiere of Mad Men: What Career Lessons can we learn?
Last night was the first of the final seven episodes of “Mad Men.” As expected there were lots of surprises throughout the show. The premiere episode (titled, all too appropriately, “Severance”) was littered with death and mourning – a topic that kicked off the opening season in the beginning of the series. Set in the ’60s, Mad Men nevertheless provides valuable business lessons today on creating collaborative workspaces. With the Season Premiere of Mad Men- what career lessons can we learn?
The show, which follows the professional and personal lives of the agency’s staff, is a snapshot of a very different professional world than the one we live in today. From the fashion that is so old it’s now hip again to the pop culture references (such as Kennedy’s assassination or the ride of the Rolling Stones), the show can often feel like it’s a world apart from ours. That’s not even mentioning the way women (both in the workplace and at home) and minorities are treated on the show. At the surface level, let’s hope there’s not much in common with today’s workplace.
But the show isn’t just about working at a 1960s marketing agency; it’s about characters who do smart and stupid things, just like real people do. We’ve been watching the characters for 50-plus episodes now and are invested in their fictitious lives. When Pete acts like a brat or Don cheats on his wife, we can’t help but scream at the TV and shake our heads. So aside from not smoking indoors or drinking too heavily, here are six lessons we can learn from “Mad Men.”
Lesson No. 1: Aspire to be Your Best!
On the show: Peggy Olson has taught us what it really means to Aspire! Peggy has to prove repeatedly that she’s as good as, if not better than, the men at the company, from asking to get promoted to copywriter to making sure she’s not left out of meetings. She works extremely hard and brings a young, fresh perspective to every campaign, which many of her colleagues simply can’t do, even Don Draper.
At work: You don’t get what you don’t ask for in the working world. Be polite and respectful, and never act entitled, but don’t be afraid to negotiate a higher salary, request a promotion or highlight your achievements. Bosses and higher-ups may not be purposefully ignoring you, they may just be busy. They might need an occasional reminder that you’re doing a good job and deserve some recognition. Don’t get passed over for promotions or better opportunities just because you’re afraid to speak up.
Lesson No. 2: Pick your battles
On the show: Pete Campbell thinks he deserves to be the boss of everyone and everything, and he complains when he doesn’t get his way, no matter how important the issue really is.
At work: Yes, you should stand up for yourself, but not every conflict is equal. Pointing out that you increased revenue by 20 percent last year is very different from complaining to your boss that your office doesn’t have a good view (which is something Pete has done). The first few times you speak up, colleagues will pay attention. Don’t keep crying wolf or else they will tune you out completely!
Lesson No. 3: Don’t Sleep with your boss
On the show: Don Draper married his secretary, Peggy secretly gave birth to Pete’s baby, and Roger Sterling had an affair (and secret child) with Joan Harris, the office manager.
At work: Love (or at least lust) has led to many awkward situations in the hallways of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and in real life, you don’t have the luxury of a commercial break to sort things out. Just think carefully before you go on a date with your cubicle neighbor. You might find love, or you might find yourself in the middle of a very embarrassing situation at work.
Lesson No. 4: Don’t get too comfortable
On the show: Roger Sterling was once the golden boy who could bring in the big clients, but as the years pass he sees his own protégé, Pete Campbell, surpassing him.
At work: Everyone from the interns to the vice presidents of an organization needs to stay motivated and creative. There is always new talent coming in and leaders looking to reward the best ideas. Coasting through your job might be fine now, but it’s not the path to security in this competitive job market.
Lesson No. 5: Command a Room
On the show: Joan went from secretary to head secretary to being a partner at the advertising agency. In anything Joan does, she shows she’s completely in charge. Whether she’s running a product test or attending to a lawnmower victim, Joan is the office mom (and the office siren). The clip below shows Joan is one step ahead of the boys (and the rest of the women) and basically teases them.
At work: You don’t have to become best friends with co-workers, but building camaraderie and knowing how to command a room can boost your chances of being noticed by people who can help you. Or it could just make you like coming to work a little bit more each day.
Lesson No. 6: Pursue Your Passions
On the show:After going from secretary to wife of the boss, Megan realized she was being treated very differently than her coworkers. So instead of just letting it go, she quit and decided to turn to her passion, acting.
At work: Find a way to pursue your passion both at work and through hobbies. Not everyone can quit their day jobs like Megan to pursue a passion but its always good to find a way to incorporate your passion in your daily life.
Lesson No. 7 – Dress Well for the Office:
On the show: Because the show is set in the 1960s, before jeans and T-shirts became commonplace, and because it’s a TV show where money is no object, all of the characters are dressed like they’re going to a photo shoot.
At work: Not everyone can or should wear impeccably tailored suits like Don Draper, but everyone should dress like they care about their appearance. You should never be at work and think, “I hope the boss doesn’t notice I’m wearing this.” Your clothes should be appropriate for your workplace and should never get you noticed for the wrong reasons. For more tips on how to be stylish in a corporate setting, see this article.
Lesson No.8 – Aspire to be a mentor at the office:
On the Show: Though Joan and Peggy had a bit of a rough start, they now do have a mentoring relationship despite Peggy being higher up in the company. Though Joan is never really nice, she has become a sympathetic ear for Peggy and tells her the truth when she needs to hear it, even if it is unpleasant. Joan has really helped Peggy come out of her shell and blossom in her career and as a woman. She even helped her start dressing better.What other Lessons have you learned from Mad Men? Send us your comments!
At work: Don’t shy away from tasks associated with mentorship at the office. Whether it is showing a new employee the ropes at work, acclimatizing a new employee to the team, or joining a formal mentorship program. It can make a difference in the life of a young intern or employee.