Career lessons from The Walking Dead and other great TV shows

While it’s crucial to read career books and brush up on your leadership style on a regular basis, sometimes pop culture can add a bit of unexpected career inspiration as well.

So, before you head out to your next interview or gear up for a meeting with your supervisor or staff, take a moment to learn crucial career lessons from some of TV’s more memorable characters, including the occasional zombie. 

Don’t let power go to your head

 In the first few seasons of The Walking Dead, a show about a post-zombie apocalypse world, former Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes went from being a somewhat mild-mannered lawman to a steely and frequently brutal leader.

At his best, he protected his ragtag group of followers-cum-family from the ravenous undead and dangerous groups of survivors.

At his worst, though, Rick lost track of his humanity (and his mind for a bit) and morphed into what fans of the show referred to as the infamous “Ricktocracy,” when he tried to control all aspects and decisions of his group. While Rick has had significant difficulties along the way, his fierce loyalty to family and friends meant that his struggle affected not only him, but everyone he’d sworn to protect.  

What you can learn

In an eat or be eaten world, it’s important to know your competition and understand when you can beat them, or when you should stand aside and let someone else lead for a while. Know your strengths and weaknesses, remember to always help those on your team and above all, never ever let power go to your head or ruin the larger group power.  

Stand back and find the humor

In Insecure, series creator and writer Issa Rae plays Issa Dee, a character who faces most of the same relationship, career and all around life challenges as a young, black professional in a sometimes confused and confusing workplace.

Insecure rarely goes in the direction you might expect. Dee is slightly past her quarter life crisis and declares “I’m tired of being excited to settle for less.”

She works in the non-profit world, while best friend Molly is, a successful attorney. She’s also tired of being the token and asked fairly ludicrous questions by those in her orbit.

While the show is played for laughs, it’s often painful and increasingly poignant to watch some of the more excruciating details of Dee and Molly’s lives; one in a sometimes great relationship with a middling career, the other struggling to find love while at the top of her professional game.  

What you can learn

 In the case of Insecure, a great lesson to learn might be from creator Issa Rae and not her creation Issa Dee. Rae segued from the creator of the lauded web series Awkward Black Girl, to creating, writing, producing and acting in a show that tells a story she needs to tell on her own terms as a creative powerhouse. By shining an extremely bright light on uncomfortable situations in her character’s life, she’s figured out a way to show others the way their own actions may be perceived without being preachy about it.  

Rise Above

 In The Young Pope, Oscar-nominee Jude Law plays American born Pope Pius XIII né Lenny Belardo. Lenny is never quite what we expect; he can be charming or foul-mouthed and almost always hard to pin down.

The child of hippies, Lenny adapts a hardline attitude to a faith he isn’t sure he entirely embraces. He’s had a past, though he hasn’t necessarily acted on it (Or has he? We’re never entirely sure). In the second to the last episode, Lenny as Pius faces international scorn as never-sent love letters are published in The New Yorker in an attempt at blackmail.

What could be his downfall ultimately turns into the moment he’s finally loved and accepted—by the world this time. He’s seen as vulnerable not vulgar and loving, not lecherous.

What you can learn

Not everyone is going to love you; in fact, much of the time people might really hate you and hope you fail. What matters most of all isn’t what they say about you, but the way you react, respond, or regroup after an attack that is true or fabricated. Having a crisis management plan is key — and if it means showing your authentic self, all the better.

Use the Name that Works Best for You

When many women get married or divorced, there can be pressure or confusion on whether keep or reclaim their maiden names. Adding to potential confusion is the option to hyphenate, update or keep things as simple as possible in the workplace even if they’ve legally changed their surnames.

On Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen has reinvented herself more times than Madonna, and gone from being a scared bullied young girl, to a blushing bride, to a commander of a self-built army of former slaves and warriors.

Everyone in the seven kingdoms knows her, but not everyone knows her by the same name.

This Mother of Dragons is also known as: Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, and is sometimes simply called Daenerys Stormborn, the Unburnt, Mother of Dragons.

What you can learn

Sometimes your reputation speaks louder than your name. If your life situation has changed, it’s okay to update and evolve as needed and when needed, but keep track of your social media profiles and email signature. Also worth remembering that you may end up constantly having to reintroduce yourself to people you’ve been working with for years.