What Fall TV Teaches Us About Work

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When NBC rolled out its fall premieres, I turned on the TV, parked myself on the couch and watched for hours.  My television mini-marathon began with “Community” and progressed through “30 Rock,” “The Office” and “Outsourced.” Then, since I was already sitting there, I decided to tune in to the second episode of this season’s “The Apprentice.”

Besides laughing out loud at “30 Rock” and wishing for a time refund during “Outsourced,” I also found myself picking up on an interesting theme. Maybe my job makes me slightly more inclined to pay attention to these things, but I found that all of the shows I watched last night contained some interesting career advice. I made a mental note of what I learned, and without further ado, here is what fall TV can teach us about work:

1. Age is just a number when it comes to getting an education

While the first episode of “Community” teaches us about little more than Betty White’s sharp shooting with a  bow and arrow, the show’s general premise is a career lesson in itself. “Community” follows Jeff Winger, a lawyer who is forced back to school when the bar association deems his college transcripts inadequate, as he navigates the world of community college. His classmates, who include a single mother who’s taking her first stab at college, a retired moist-towelette tycoon and a woman looking for a new career direction, prove that it’s never too late to start — or finish — a college degree.

2. It’s probably best to stay out of your co-workers’ love lives

This season of “30 Rock” opens to find Liz Lemon having issues with her love life. She sees her boyfriend, Carol, a pilot, only a few weekends a month when he’s in town — during which he stays in a hotel. While the visitation situation is fine with Liz, her boss, Jack Donaghy, thinks Liz is ready for “grown-up love,” which entails, among other things, Carol staying at Liz’s place instead of at a hotel during his weekend visits. To move Liz in the direction of this “grown-up love,” Jack calls the hotel where Carol plans to stay and books all the rooms for that weekend. Carol then calls Liz and asks to stay at her place, because the hotel is completely booked for something called “Jack Fest.” This forces the couple to have a conversation that Liz is not ready to have – and leads Carol to spend most of the weekend sobbing over their unconventional relationship.  Despite Liz and Jack’s close relationship, things always get messy when they get involved in each other’s personal lives.

3. Don’t hire your nephew in an effort to get back in your family’s good graces

During the summer at “The Office,” Michael hires his nephew Luke as Dunder Mifflin Paper Co.’s new administrative assistant, in an effort to patch up relations with Luke’s mother, who is Michael’s half-sister. Their relationship has been strained ever since Michael lost Luke in a forest years ago. Luke proves to be a terrible assistant, yet Michael continues to keep Luke around, despite objections from all of the employees. Luke gets on Michael’s last nerve when he interrupts a meeting Michael is conducting, so Michael takes him outside and spanks him — in full view of all of the employees in the conference room. Luke then runs crying out of the office.

4. Stepping outside your comfort zone (or your country) can be good for your career

“Outsourced” begins with young businessman Todd Dempsey returning to work at his American novelties company after a stint at a managerial training program, only to find his office empty. The reason? The company has outsourced to India – and if Todd wants to keep his job, he has to move to  India, too. Although initially skeptical, he makes the move. By the end of the show, he has not only taught his team of misfit salespeople about American cultural icons like Green Bay cheese heads and “Sweet Home Alabama,” he’s started to unlock the inner potential of both his team and himself.

5. Learn to sell yourself like Frank Sinatra

Donald Trump, sovereign patriarch of “The Apprentice,” is always chock-full of wisdom — especially in the boardroom. At the end of the show, he asks the two contestants on the chopping block why they didn’t perform up to par. James, a lawyer, tells Trump that he failed the sales-based mission because he isn’t an experienced salesman. Trump tells James that everyone should be an experienced salesman, because the only people who are successful are those who can sell themselves. Trump says he has met performers who are more talented than Frank Sinatra but who end up going nowhere because they don’t know how to sell themselves.

For more job advice from TV, check out:

Reality TV: Your Next Career Move

Is Your Boss More Like Michael Scott or Oprah?

MTV’s Hired: Home Runs and Rookie Mistakes

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  8. Trump doesn’t really give good advise and selling yourself is different from selling a product. Besides, when you are talking about entertainment sometimes it is all about luck, being at the right place at the right time, and who you know. It may not be about “selling yourself” if you have those things going for you.

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