5 Workplace Lessons From the Women of Mad Men
When Sunday night rolls around, you know what that means: Time for another episode of Mad Men. Now, before you start feeling guilty for racking up another hour glued to the TV, don’t worry—you’re not totally wasting your time.
Not only do the women of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce serve as fabulous fashion muses, they also happen to be great models of what to do (and what not to do) in the office. Here are just a few of the career lessons you can learn from the women of Mad Men.
1. Make Yourself Indispensable
No one is totally irreplaceable—but that doesn’t mean you can’t make sure the entire office knows how much they’ll suffer if you’re not around. That’s Joan Holloway. Despite a few unprofessional moments (uh, having an affair with her boss), the office comes to a standstill without her. Take it from Joan, no matter what your role, perform it well and you’ll guarantee the team will be missing you every day you’re out. And that’s job security.
2. Keep it Professional
Nothing spells awkward quite like throwing your husband a birthday party with all of his co-workers, and then serenading him with “Zou Bisou Bisou” and sex kitten dance moves. OK, maybe you would never consider doing anything that extreme, but as Don Draper’s wife Megan learned the hard way, any after-hours antics are sure to be the talk of the office the next day (and week, and month). Colleagues can be like your elementary school bully—relentless and merciless—so don’t give them the ammo. It doesn’t matter if the event takes place at a bar or in your swanky new apartment: If co-workers are present, keep it professional and G-rated.
3. Aim High
While the boys’ club was enjoying noon-time cocktails, Peggy Olsen was hard at work, challenging the sexist advertising culture around her and making it harder and harder to ignore the fact that she was a kick ass ad woman. Her creativity and sharp insight eventually landed her a job as a Junior Copywriter, and her career continues to blossom, despite the chauvinistic attitudes around her. The lesson: Work hard, and believe in your abilities, even when people around you don’t. It’ll get you where you want to go.
4. Only Boring People are Bored
Love her or loathe her, Betty Draper nails it when chastising her young son for complaining of boredom. Take that attitude to the office and make sure you’re always up to something. Mundane tasks and slow days are a part of any job, but they’ll be easier to stomach if you challenge yourself to take on new responsibilities and look for stepping stones towards your dream career.
5. Save the Drama for Prime Time
The antics of the men and women of Mad Men is great for ratings, but out here in the real world, constant workplace drama can cancel the next season of your career. Bottom line: Be careful when mixing your personal life with work, and never, never date your boss or someone who reports to you (just ask Joan how her little tryst with Mr. Sterling himself turned out). Both work and dating are complicated enough—don’t make things harder than they need to be.
Photo courtesy of MyLifeinPlastic.com.
Anusha Deshpande, a native of Atlanta, is a first year student at Harvard Business School. She spends most of her spare time listening to Bruce Springsteen, watching Red Sox games and staying up to watch late night comedy TV so you don't have to.More from this Author