6 career lessons from ‘American Horror Story: Coven’

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american horror story covenSome TV shows are educational and thought provoking. Others aren’t, but they allow you to leave your office worries behind and not have to check your phone for emails from the boss for the next hour. They’re a vacation for your brain.

A bit of television escapism is healthy, but don’t think even the trashiest of TV is without a life lesson or two. Such is the case with “American Horror Story: Coven.” Or at least let’s pretend that’s true so we don’t feel like we’re wasting 13 hours of our lives watching a gang of great actresses running around in fashionable hats.

The third installment of the series focuses on a group of teenage witches in Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies. They are learning what their magical powers are and what it means to be a witch, while the coven’s leaders are politicking for power inside and outside of the school. It’s a big mess with lots of drama and fun one-liners.

Let’s see what career lessons we can take from this season of “American Horror Story: Coven”:

WARNING: Major spoilers ahead. Don’t read if you haven’t watched the full season.

1. Leave gracefully
AHS: Fiona Goode is the coven’s current Supreme, also known as the boss of all the witches. There is only one Supreme in a generation, and when a new Supreme starts gaining power, the old one begins to fade until she’s dead. Fiona refuses to fade and fights everything — from her failing health to the other witches — in order to retain her power.

Real life: When you’re leaving your job, whether by choice or not, don’t burn any bridges. (Or, in this case, don’t burn any witches.) You gain nothing by badmouthing your boss and co-workers or acting as if they won’t be able to succeed without you. At the very least be civil. If you’re leaving by choice, offer to train your replacement or write up processes to help the transition. You never know who might be working with you again in the future or can serve as a reference.

2. Don’t get ahead of yourself
AHS: No one is certain who the new Supreme is, and every young witch in the coven thinks at one point or another she might be the next in line. Consequently, they get ahead of themselves and start turning on each other. The problem is that Fiona isn’t leaving quietly and no one has proven themselves to be the Supreme yet anyway. Until that day comes, they’re all just young girls with some weird powers.

Real life: You think you’re due for a promotion. You should be leading that upcoming project. You know you’re smarter than your boss on certain topics. That might all be true, but until someone actually says, “You’ve got a promotion!” or “You’re in charge!” you don’t have the promotion and are not in charge. Continue to do your job, treat your boss with respect, and play nicely with others.

 

3. Leave the past behind
AHS: Zoe is a teenager who falls in love at first sigh with a guy at a fraternity party. Unfortunately he dies minutes later. Soon after she and Madison use a spell to bring him back to life, except he turns out to be more like an animal and less like a human. A few episodes later, Zoe and friends decide to conjure up the spirit of a serial killer, who then returns to life and continues murdering. Actually, a lot of people die and then come back. Rarely do their resurrections turn out for the better.

Real life: Unless you have good reason to keep revisiting what happened weeks, months, or even years ago, don’t. Don’t bring up how much you hated the old boss or the rude thing a co-worker said to you in a meeting last year. Don’t go on about how the company is no longer what it used to be. First off, this sad reminiscing does nothing but make you and your colleagues unhappy. Second, it prevents you moving forward. Think about your present and your future.

4. Collaborate when possible
AHS: Fiona is the leader of the coven, but across town Marie Laveau is the leader of Voodoo in her community. The two sects have a troubled history and don’t get along all that well. That is until a witch hunter attacks both of their people. Suddenly they need each other because they realize a united team of witches is stronger than two divided teams.

Real life: You don’t have to like everyone you work with, but you should recognize what talents each person has. If working with someone else can make your job easier and improve your performance, why wouldn’t you do it? Working together on projects or daily tasks could benefit both of you because you look like team players and produce better work.

5. Take time to relax
AHS: In the midst of a very chaotic day, when one young witch is turning on her peers and witch hunters are attacking the coven, Myrtle Snow decides to play the theremin, a creepy electronic instrument. It soothes her, even if it unnerves her fellow witches.

Real life: Chaos happens, and you can’t always control it. Take a few moments to calm down and do something you enjoy, whether it’s taking a walk around the block, grabbing a coffee or even playing a theremin if you’ve got the space for it. If you can, walk away from the hectic happenings around you for a moment so you can regroup and return with more focus (and be less irritated by your coworkers).

6. Stand up for yourself
AHS: When Zoe first arrives at Miss Robichaux’s school for girls, she and her fellow teenage witches don’t understand why they belong in a coven. Fiona is quick to scold them, “When witches don’t fight, we burn.” Considering the ensuing mayhem that occurs with witch hunters and rival witches, she’s right.

Real life: Hopefully burning at the stake isn’t a possible outcome at your job — and if it is you might want to consult OSHA — but there’s truth to the importance of standing up for yourself. Every worker learns to pick his or her battles, but sometimes you need to make some noise when co-workers are stealing your ideas or harming your performance in some way. And if that doesn’t work, cast a spell on them.

And some bonus career lessons:

When you’re in the middle of a pointless meeting…

When someone says, “Oh, I thought I already sent that to you…”

Feature photo credits to FX Network.

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