SPOILER ALERT: Office spoilers ahead! But let’s be real, if you’re reading this you’ve probably already seen The Office at least three times.
I’ve learned some of the best career advice from The Office. I know, I know; it sounds crazy. The Office is often seen as more of “what not to do” in your career; an exaggerated parody of the traditional archetypes of office workers. But if we look beyond the jokes and obvious HR violations, we can learn one of the most important pieces of career advice from their debauchery: you own your career; do what you love.
Now you’re probably thinking: “All these people work in an office at a failing paper supply firm and never do above the bare minimum, some don’t even to that much. None of them LOVE what they do, and they seem pretty complacent with that.” Again, look beyond the surface to find the lessons here (I mean, would it really be a "lesson" if you didn’t have to work for it?).
It’s okay to try lots of things to find what you love
You don’t have to know what you want immediately and it’s perfectly normal to try lots of things. Take Pam (Beesly) Halpert for example. She starts as a receptionist, which she does not enjoy. She pursues graphic design but when that doesn’t work out, she returns to Dunder Mifflin. When Michael Scott decides to break off from Dunder Mifflin and start his own paper company, she goes with him – but as a saleswoman. Finally, when the Michael Scott Paper Company is adsorbed by Dunder Mifflin, she continues as a saleswoman until finally creating her own position of Office Administrator that she loves.
Pam’s career took a few twists and turns, but she eventually lands in a role where she uses her talents in a way she enjoys. And she never gave up her art: even after not pursuing a career in the field, she still paints murals for some of her coworkers (Angela’s son’s nursery and as one of Nellie’s “special projects”) and she wins a contest to paint a mural for the City of Scranton.
Pam knew she wasn’t happy in her role as receptionist and had to make a change. She figured out what she enjoyed and started to pursue those avenues. She had to try a few different roles before finally creating her own unique position encompassing her interests and talents. Even through uncertainty and waning self-confidence, she picks her head up and keeps trying, and it pays off big for her.
Don't be afraid to have more than one hustle
Dwight Schrute is the best paper salesman at Dunder Mifflin, and he also owns the Scranton Business Park, Schrute Farms beet farm, runs a Bed & Breakfast and hosts events on the farm. Dwight excels at all his “hustles” because he is passionate about each of them and has an incredible work ethic. If you’re committed to your passions, and willing to apply yourself, you can excel even in multiple concurrent roles or careers.
If you’re thinking “I don’t have time for that” or “I wouldn’t want all that responsibility” that’s totally fine, too; managing multiple hustles isn’t for everyone. But if you have multiple passions, feel free to try balancing them. If you know your limits and what you can handle, put that work ethic to good use!
Pursue your passion: you’re in charge of your career
Alright this is a two-for-one special: both Jim and Dwight give us this lesson. Jim spends season nine splitting his time between Dunder Mifflin and starting his own company with his college buddy in Philadelphia. It’s a ton of work, but it’s his dream career so he is willing to put in the effort. Eventually, he leaves his job at Dunder Mifflin and relocates to go all in on his dream. Dwight spends all nine seasons pursuing the regional manager position before finally attaining it permanently.
It wasn’t easy for them; there were plenty of instances along the way where they could have (reasonably) given up and moved on to a new dream. Regardless of setbacks and hardships along the way (and they BOTH had their fair share of those), their persistence and motivation never wavered, and resulted in both landing their dream careers.
There are no shortage of career (and dare I say, life) lessons in The Office, if you're willing to look for them. What makes the show so great is, in part, how accessible it is. From office pranks, to cringe-worthy moments, to real lessons, there are lots of relatable moments. My top take-aways for my own professional development are:
- Own your career and pursue what you love.
- Everyone owns their career in different ways
- Try new things
- Retaining multiple hustles
- Don't be afraid to change careers entirely or just persistently pursuing their dreams.
We’ve seen consistent soft skills throughout each example that you need to succeed, mainly perseverance and persistence, strong work ethic, self-confidence and commitment. Remember, it doesn’t matter HOW you get there, just that you keep trying.
What are some of your favorite lessons from The Office?
We'd love to hear about them in the comments below!