3 Career Lessons Learned From “Mad Men”


Who says you can’t learn anything from television? One of the most critically acclaimed shows to hit the airwaves in the past few years is “Mad Men,” which portrays the lives of advertising professionals during the 1960s. Most of the show’s plot derives from the interactions taking place in their Manhattan office, which has showed us a range of career do’s and don’ts.

Yesterday, the fifth season of “Mad Men” premiered, which promises even more lessons learned from Don Draper and company. Here’s three career lessons you can learn from the “Mad Men”:

Seek Opportunity.  The development of Peggy Olson is arguably one of the biggest transitions that took place in the show. Peggy began her career at Sterling Cooper as Don Draper’s secretary, but overtime proved herself to be worthy of a creative role as a junior copywriter. How did she do it? She asked for more opportunities and was not afraid to take on a new challenge. Start small – if you see something you’d like to work on, ask if you could help out. If you prove yourself, you’ll be seen by others as an invaluable part of the team.

Dress For the Job You Want, Not For The Job You Have. It’s cliché, but doing so works, as image in everything in the professional world. Even if you aren’t contending for that new open position, dressing well can earn you more credibility and respect around the office. Channeling Peggy’s development, she began to be taken more seriously when she “stopped dressing like a little girl,” as a coworker stated. It shows that you’re serious about your role – so take some time to make yourself look sharper. Look around at the higher levels of employees at your workplace for inspiration.

Secure A Job Before Quitting. When Don Draper quit his job at Sterling Cooper, he wasn’t prepared to take on a new role. Most don’t have the benefit of being employed while on the job hunt because of the economy, however, it’s always suggested that you should have a job offer before giving your two-week notice. Why? Unfortunately, unemployment bias does exist, and it’s difficult to eliminate since it’s not technically a legally protected status like age or race. If you’re not looking to start your own business like Don did, be sure to secure an offer first, and give you employer enough time and courtesy before you start your next new role.

What do you think? What other career lessons have you learned from “Mad Men”?


About Heather R. Huhman

Heather R. Huhman is the Career & Recruiting Advisor for Cachinko. She is also the founder & president of Come Recommended, the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships: The Truth About Getting from Classroom to Cubicle (2011), #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.

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