Career Lessons From On-Screen Leading Ladies

7 lessons in building a career from favorite on-screen characters

career lessons

We are encouraged at an early age to declare what we want to be when we grow up. Some of us followed that path through college: we picked a corresponding major and a post-graduate career goal. If you were a liberal arts major, chances are you ended up doing something you had no idea you could or wanted to do. I am a big supporter of self-discovery as long as you are progressing with direction. In an era when young people average 2 years at a company, many are unsure of what’s next. Whether or not you’re at that crossroads, these 7 on-screen characters inspire career lessons that may push you to take your next step.


career lessons
Rachel Green: You Gotta Start Somewhere.

Almost Housewife. Waitress. Intern. You never know when you’ll find your big break (sometimes all it takes is a casual conversation with a stranger at a coffee shop), but if you know where you want to go the universe will help you get there… as long as you’re willing to put in the time and the hard work.


career lessons


Betty Suarez: Let Your Freak Flag Fly.

Yes, we encourage leading ladies to dress for the job they want. However, conforming to another person’s style can act as a barrier to becoming the best version of yourself. Express yourself, and let your work speak for itself.


career lessons


Mary Jane Paul: Constantly Reflect.

Sometimes it is lonely at the top. You work hard and you succeed, but if your friends and family don’t share your same motivation, what’s a girl to do? Journey inward: an important tactic for each of us to grow, learn and improve on the person we were yesterday. Mary Jane writes post-its to continually inspire and remind herself about where she wants to go.


Andie Anderson: Know When to Say Good-bye.

You can work your way up as a writer for a glossy and reach your goal: becoming a top columnist. That doesn’t mean your work is satisfying. That doesn’t mean you’re finding a way to fulfill your purpose. Sometimes a stint at a company, no matter how prestigious or glamorous, is only meant to set you up for your next big thing.


career lessons


Alicia Florrick: It’s Never Too Late to Start Over.

Perfect wife and mother first, Alicia didn’t return to the work force again until she needed to make money to support her family. With only a law degree at her disposal and no post-JD work experience, she started from the bottom as a first-year associate despite her intelligence and her years as a politician’s wife. In a few short years she made partner (and beyond); hard work always pays off, so don’t be afraid to start over if you find that what you wanted to do when you were a 22-year-old college graduate is no longer what you want to do when you’re 30.


career lessons

PHOTO: Conde Nast.

Olivia Pope: Keep Cool Under Pressure.

No one solves a problem like Olivia Pope. Her secret is her ability to stay calm and react logically rather than emotionally. Emotion is a tough instinct to fight, but with practice you can minimize your gut reaction to panic by recognizing it instantly, taking a deep breath (or five), then proceeding to act. Be a fixer.


Katherine Ann Watson: Your Passion Is Inspiring.

Katherine teaches (see what I did there) us a unique lesson—one that only a dear college professor can. Whether or not they agree with you… whether or not they follow your lead, people respond to genuine passion. Know what you stand for, then act with courage and conviction. You are already changing the world little by little, just by being your best self.


Which of these career lessons inspires you at this moment in time?


Catherine Abalos is founder and editor of The Single Diaries.

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