Career Lessons from 80’s TV Hits

Many of us have fond memories of 1980s television shows like “Miami Vice” or “The Cosby Show.”

But did you know that many of those television favorites have career lessons to teach you? Pay attention while Sonny Crockett, Cliff and Norm show the way to a smarter career…

Know and Build Your Personal Brand

1. When the economy went bad, many people realized they were not in a position to argue that they should keep their job over someone else.  “I’ve been here longer than him,” was not considered a good argument as employers looked to retain top performers.

Or, when promotions became scarce because of lean staffs and budget cuts, many people learned they made a big mistake by not developing and promoting a personal brand. When they began trying to market themselves for big projects, for example, they didn’t have a clue about how to differentiate themselves from the other people vying to be included.

When it comes time for you to climb the career ladder, are you passed over because the leadership doesn’t really know who you are? Are you just some nameless face in a meeting that doesn’t contribute much or is too shy to tout your skills for important projects?

You need to look for ways to consistently connect with your bosses and your network to communicate your brand. What are you doing every day to stand out? What message are you delivering about who you are, your skills and what makes you worth knowing?

In this montage about the character of Norm on “Cheers,” you can quickly see how “Norm!” becomes part of the branding message of this character.

What “Stormin’ Norm-isms” are you using?

Know How to Resolve a Conflict

2. Nowhere is it written that when you get a job you’ll just love all your co-workers to pieces. The reality is that they’ll rub you the wrong way, just like your little brother did with terrible knock-knock jokes when you were growing up.

While your Dad may have gotten involved to stop you and your pesky sibling from killing one another, bosses do not like to be dragged into trivial spats, such as who didn’t clean up in the break room. Not only does resolving a conflict interrupt your boss’s busy day, but such childish disagreements make you look immature and spiteful – much as Vanessa does in this clip from “The Cosby Show.”


Learn How to Negotiate with Coworkers

3. Employers want employees who are collaborative, and whining about what marketing or sales did or didn’t do will not help your reputation as someone who can work well with others.  You have to learn to negotiate not only with customers and vendors, but with those in your own organization.

Strutting around being negative and refusing to cooperate to achieve a satisfactory outcome may just blow up in your face just like it did for the “Miami Vice” character of Sonny Crockett.


Know How to Handle Stressful Situations

4. Stress is something that goes hand-in-hand with any job these days. We’re working harder than ever before, but despite our best efforts we sometimes fail.  When you lose a promotion, for example, you may want to scream or cry. But it’s best not to confide in your colleagues about your anger or disappointment because it can put them in an awkward position – and you never know if your comments may get back to the boss. It’s important for your emotional well-being to confide in someone, and that should be a trusted family member or friend. This will help you put your situation in perspective and move on.  And who doesn’t need a hug after a stressful day just like Kevin in “The Wonder Years”?

Have Short & Long Term Goals

5. Sometimes despite your best efforts, things just aren’t going well in your career or your job. It seems like the nightmare will never end, and you seriously consider crawling back into bed, pulling the covers over your head and staying put until 2015. But now is the time to rethink your career strategy and come up with a new plan of action.  What courses can you take to boost your knowledge or skills? Does leadership know of your efforts and how can you make sure they do? Are you making connections that can help get you included on a big project?  Once you draw up a plan of action with short- and long-term goals, you’ll be well on your way to putting the nightmare of the last year behind you – much as Pam did when she discovers that Bobby isn’t really dead.

Just taking a shower.

Related Posts

Posted in Team & Project Management | Tagged , , , ,


  • Dennis S

    The clips you chose are awesome! I am amazed in my work as a Career Coach, at how many people use seniority and “done my time” as the reasoning they should receive a raise or promotion. To me the crazy things is that it only takes a little extra actual effort to raise the bar and honestly put yourself on top of the list. Take charge of something NOT in your job description, go out of your way to provide valuable information on a project, just got the extra 1/4 mile! If everyone else is sitting back waiting, you can leap-frog them easily.

  • Anita

    Thanks … this was a really fun post to write! Thanks also for your useful suggestions!

  • Lee Atherton

    Very interesting article with good information for folks wanting to stand out from the rest. You asked, “What are you doing every day to stand out? What message are you
    delivering about who you are, your skills and what makes you worth
    knowing?” One thought I had is that the way people view their work – do they enjoy it or is it drudgery? – is going to make a huge impact on how they stand out. The employee who enjoys what she does, who looks forward to going to work and collaborating with her colleagues is by nature, going to excel at her job, going to be someone others want to get to know, and is more likely to speak up and speak out. When we’re passionate about what we’re doing, we also are more inclined to do it better, in other words, be seeking feedback from mentors, engaging in continuing education, finding ways to excel. This makes an employee more valuable to the team and to the company.

  • Pingback: Hurry Up and Fail if You Want to Succeed | The Fast Track()

  • Pingback: 3 Management Lessons from HBO’s Silicon Valley | The Fast Track()