4 Career Lessons From Orange Is the New Black That You Didn't Even Know You Learned
Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t watched the third season of Orange Is the New Black, proceed no further. Go binge watch it like the rest of us and only then, return to read this.
For everyone else: You’re not alone in your addiction to OITNB. There’s just something about incarceration mixed with a little bit of sisterhood and a whole lot of corruption that intoxicates us. We simply can’t get enough.
Though you may consider it your guilty pleasure (especially if you watched all of season three in less than 48 hours like I did), believe it or not, there’s nothing to feel guilty about. Your obsession with OITNB can actually make you better at work. Here are a few lessons you can learn from the ladies of Litchfield that can help you boost your career—no time in the SHU required.
Litchfield Lesson #1: Piper Showed Us How Persuasion Gets You Ahead
Piper used her power of persuasion to become the kingpin of an illicit, shall we say, “niche market” unmentionables business. She even went so far as to hold an impromptu “State of the Union” address atop a picnic table in the exercise yard and pulled out all the stops to source prison panties. And let’s not forget that she convinced her brother to manage the distribution end of things on the outside.
Persuasion is a universal and valuable skill to have in any job. Whether you’re trying to enlist the help of a colleague or attempting to sell something—including something difficult, like why you would be a top candidate for a slightly out of reach role—the ability to influence others to give you what you need and want will get you ahead on the job.
Litchfield Lesson #2: Chang Modeled How Resourcefulness Helps You Execute
Chang has always been an enigma. We’ve only ever seen her as the countess of the commissary, selling toothpaste and deodorant. But in season three, she revealed her resourcefulness and ingenuity. She skipped mealtime with the inmates, opting only for peas, which she later mixed with Fritos to make herself some sort of strange prison pastries. We also see that somehow she managed to stash tangerines and a smartphone! Chang knows how to think outside the box (er, prison) and make a lot from very little.
Like Chang, sometimes you’ll face situations where you’re not equipped with what you need to get the job done. Whether it be a lack of information and training, or not having the necessary tools at your disposal, obstacles may threaten to deter your success. But, if you remain resourceful, those roadblocks just turn into detours. By unleashing your creativity at work, you are better equipped to solve problems and innovate.
Litchfield Lesson #3: Crazy Eyes Used Her Talents to Establish a Side Gig
From the moment she recited a love poem to Piper in season one, we knew that Crazy Eyes had a way with words. But this season, Crazy Eyes’ creativity really got a chance to shine as she evolved into a prolific fantasy novelist, resulting in quite the fan following at Litchfield. Having previously been cast off as—well—crazy, she became more well-liked and respected when she started leveraging her literary talents.
If Crazy Eyes’ main gig of cleaning detail doesn’t pan out because she spends too much time talking to the mop, she has her writing to fall back on. But side gigs aren’t just about a plan B, nor are they simply there for extra cash (though, that part is nice, too). Having another hustle allows you to be well-rounded and brings a fresh perspective to your day job. It can also give you the chance to gain other skills that you might not have the opportunity to acquire in your usual work. And there’s nothing crazy about that!
Litchfield Lesson #4: Lorna Proved There Is Value in Being Vulnerable
We watched Lorna attempt to scam several potential suitors by pretending to have similar interests—all in an effort to win them over and convince them to empty their wallets into her commissary account. It wasn’t until Vince caught her in her web of lies that she was forced to open up and be vulnerable. Interestingly, this openness allowed her to truly connect with Vince and win his heart. His commitment to Lorna ran deep and resulted in him not only beating up Christopher on her behalf, but later accepting her paper-ring marriage proposal. (And no, we obviously don’t condone that kind of violence!)
Being vulnerable at work isn’t without risk, but that doesn’t mean you should remain a closed book. It may feel counterintuitive, but opening up in your career can establish greater trust because it allows you to connect with others—co-workers, supervisors, even hard-to-win-over clients—at a deeper, more meaningful level. This connection forges stronger relationships, and it’s these very relationships that you can leverage now, in your current job, and later, to further your career
Who knew you could learn so much from prison shenanigans? Go ahead and enjoy Orange Is the New Black. Notice all the hidden gems of career wisdom it has to offer, and never feel guilty about watching it again.
Kamara Toffolo is a Career and Leadership Coach who helps her clients DARE to do work differently. In addition to writing for the Muse, Kamara writes weekly on her own blog where she discusses career and work fit, passion and purpose and shares funny anecdotes from her time in the corporate world. Follow her musings on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook.More from this Author