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Career Advice From 25 of Your Favorite TV Characters

4 tv characters life lessons

We all have our favorite TV shows that we watch and escape with. Sure, there are times when you can’t imagine doing the things they do, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn valuable lessons from these characters and their reactions to situations.

The following 25 TV characters all have something to teach us about dealing with our daily lives and situations in the workplace.

Take a look at each of them and see what you can learn.

1. Walter White, “Breaking Bad”

Learn something from everyone you work with.

When “Breaking Bad” started, this famous chemistry teacher was a well behaved citizen who never found himself on the wrong side of the law. Now, he is the drug king of New Mexico. He got to where he is by learning from those around him. He watched what the successful people around him were doing, learned from that, and used that to get ahead.

walter white from breaking bad

2. Debra Morgan, “Dexter”

Utilize all your resources.

Having a serial killer for a brother may not seem like a surefire way to advance your career as a police detective, but Debra Morgan consistently used her relationship with Dexter to give her an edge over her coworkers and Miami criminals. She is incredibly hard working, but Debra recognized that Dexter has an insight and understanding of the criminal mind that she can’t match. She mines him as a source for information and uses the extra edge to advance her own reputation and career.

deborah morgan from dexter

3. Saul Berenson, “Homeland”

Decide what’s most important to you and commit.

Saul Berenson is a dedicated CIA agent and when a conflict comes up between his professional and personal life, Saul must choose between his career and supporting his wife. Saul loves his wife, and the decision is difficult, but he decides that national security is more important and consciously chooses professional priorities over his personal life. This isn’t always right for everyone, but it’s essential to know your passions so you can focus your full energy toward them and not neglect what’s important to you.

saul berenson

4. Tyrion Lannister, “Game of Thrones”

Make sure your work isn’t overlooked.

Tyrion Lannister is considered a joke by his siblings, dismissed by his father, and mocked by nearly every other character in the HBO fantasy series “Game of Thrones.” After Tyrion successfully leads the defense of the city against an invading army, he stands up to his father and demands recognition for his contributions to the family and the kingdom. While he doesn’t get everything he was hoping for, Tyrion’s refusal to be taken for granted did get him rewarded and more involved with his father.

tyrion lannister from game of thrones

5. Kenneth Parcell, “30 Rock”

You don’t have to be a VIP to make a difference.

Kenneth Parcell, the NBC Page on “30 Rock,” is one of the lowest men on the totem pole, but that doesn’t stop him from being essential to producing their show. Kenneth is always running errands, putting out fires, and talking temperamental actors down from crises. He simply loves his work and does everything he can to help his coworkers be successful. This just goes to show how much help comes from behind the scenes to make the big names look good. Don’t forget to recognize all levels of employees because companies wouldn’t be the same without everyone working as a team.

kenneth parcell from 30 rock

6. Joe Swanson, “Family Guy”

Don’t let obstacles keep you from doing what you love.

Joe Swanson, the Griffin’s paraplegic neighbor, is not one to let a small thing like being in a wheelchair stop him from being a police officer. He not only continues to work as a cop after his accident, he is one of the most successful officers in town. Through sheer determination, he excels at what he loves.

joe swanson from family guy

7. Peggy Olson, “Mad Men”

Taking on extra tasks can lead to more than just extra work.

Peggy started at the advertising firm as Don Draper’s assistant, but she was ambitious. After she impressed an executive, Peggy was given the chance to do some copywriting, on top of her existing duties. The higher-ups liker her work, the campaign was a success, and she was promoted. Peggy’s willingness to take on extra work directly created the opportunity she needed to advance in the firm.

peggy olsen from mad men

8. Margaret Jordan, “The Newsroom”

Experience is not always the most important qualification.

Maggie started as an intern at News Night, but she quickly rose to Associate Producer. Her loyalty to the show and wiliness to own up to her mistakes in order to avoid bigger problems impressed the bosses and led to her promotion. Even though she was lacking in experience and confidence, Maggie proved her value and was rewarded.

margaret jordan

9. Carl Grimes, “The Walking Dead”

Be adaptable and work with the situation you are given.

When the zombie apocalypse hits, Carl is just a kid with none of the skills you’d think would lead to survival. His parents try to give him some semblance of a normal childhood, but Carl sees the reality of their situation and refuses to be pushed to the sidelines. He insists that he must be allowed to learn how to defend himself and becomes a helpful member of the group. His stoic acceptance of the new world they live in allows Carl to adapt and survive.

9 carl grimes

10. George Bluth Sr., “Arrested Development”

Clear communication is vital.

After George Bluth Sr. is put in prison for embezzling company funds, his son, Michael, is tasked with keeping the family and the company afloat. George frequently reminds Michael that “there’s always money in the banana stand,” which refers to the family’s frozen banana stand. Michael ends up burning down the stand as an act of rebellion; George reveals that there was $250,000 in cash hidden in the walls of the satand. Because George didn’t clearly communicate just how the money was in the stand, thousands of dollars went up in smoke.

george bluth sr. from arrested development

11. Dowager Countess, “Downton Abbey”

Pick your battles.

“Downton Abbey” is set in aristocratic England in the first decades of the 20th century. Throughout it all, the Dowager Countess presides over her family, ensuring things don’t go to the dogs. She is pragmatic and knows how to pick her battles. She doesn’t waste her time fighting against a force she can’t defeat, and instead focuses her considerable wit and efforts on matters she can influence and fights she can win.

dowager countess from downton abbey

12. Amy Farrah Fowler, “Big Bang Theory”

Determination and persistence will pay off, eventually.

Amy Farrah Fowler may have chosen the socially-awkward Sheldon Cooper to set her sights on, but she was up to the challenge. What we can all learn from Amy is that when you have a goal in mind, keep at it. This persistence and determination may pay off for you in the end, as long as you stick with it. And if you have roadblocks preventing you to achieve what you want in life, move somewhere else.

amy farrah fowler from the big bang theory

13. Kate Beckett, “Castle”

When you find a professional relationship that works, stick with it.

When Detective Kate Beckett was first forced to work with Richard Castle, she found him annoying and reckless. However, after he proved useful in solving cases, she was more accepting of their working relationship. Castle often sees things that other people don’t notice, and this helps Beckett put more bad guys away. She recognizes his worth and how well they work together as a team. Everyone has personal successes, but a lot more can get accomplished as a team.

kate beckett from castle

14. Harold Finch, “Person of Interest”

Keep relationships with your colleagues professional.

When Finch first recruits John Reese to help prevent crimes, Reese doesn’t even know Finch’s first name. Finch keeps information about his life private on purpose to protect others. He keeps his professional relationships distinct from his personal life and only reveals things about himself necessary to get the job done. It’s okay to develop friendships with your co-workers, but make sure you still have a distinction between work-life and home-life.

14 harold finch

15. Charlotte York, “Sex in the City”

Don’t compromise on your standards.

Charlotte is determined to have the life she dreams of. Charlotte won’t deviate from the standards she has set for herself and those around her. At times she seems inflexible, but her refusal to compromise her goals eventually leads her to the happy ending she always dreamed of, even if it all didn’t play out the way she expected.

charlotte york sex and the city

16. Homer Simpson, “The Simpsons”

Surround yourself with people who make up for your shortcomings.

Homer Simpson constantly messes things up, both for himself and for those around him. His one saving grace is that he realizes he would be lost without Marge. Time and again, it is his desire to please her that brings him around. Quite often, Marge steps in and saves the day for him. Homer knows Marge is the best thing he’s got going in his life, and he does what he can to keep her there.

homer simpson from the simpsons

17. Phil Dunphy, “Modern Family”

Competition can be a great motivator.

Everything Phil does is a competition, and this is never clearer than in his relationship with his professional rival, Gil Thorpe. Time and again, Phil’s motivation to sell more houses, make bigger commissions, and rise to the top of the field is driven by his desire to beat his nemesis. Phil is a good salesman who loves his job, but the thing that keeps him fired up and excited every day is his desire to best Gil.

phil dunphy from modern family

18. Ricky Ricardo, “I Love Lucy”

Learn to manage difficult coworkers.

The biggest bane to Ricky’s professional life was that Lucy always wanted to join the show. She wasn’t happy to stay at home; she wanted to be center stage, involved in the workings of Ricky’s nightclub. Every episode, Lucy would think of new schemes to get her way and Ricky would have to work around her. He loved his wife and didn’t want to hurt her, so he managed to find a way to give Lucy what she wanted every time while not adversely affecting his club.

ricky ricardo from i love lucy

19. Jim Halpert, “The Office”

Find a reason to come to work, even if you hate your job.

The antics on “The Office” are amusing, but being a paper salesman just doesn’t sound that appealing. Jim knows this isn’t his life calling, but what keeps him coming back each day is Pam. At the beginning of the series, work was the only time he could see her, and by the end of the show he was motivated to show up at Dunder Mifflin so he and Pam could work toward their dreams. He found a reason to show up each day and do his best, which can help when you’re feeling like you’re in a slump.

jim halpert from the office

20. Cosmo Kramer, “Seinfield”

Think outside the box.

Kramer is a wacky guy who is always coming up with money-making schemes. Kramer often bursts into Jerry’s apartment and fills everyone in on his newest idea. These schemes don’t always work out, but because Kramer doesn’t have any other visible means of support, some of them have to pay off. He has a great time with his off-the-wall ideas and he gets to support himself while having fun.

cosmo kramer from seinfeld

21. Max Black, “Two Broke Girls”

Sometimes you have to do many other things to do what you love.

Max has a rough life and she’s always fended for herself. She and her friend Caroline share a dream of opening a cupcake shop and being their own boss. But, to reach that dream, Max has had to do nearly every low wage job available. Max never shies away from something because it’s too demeaning or unpleasant; she keeps her eye on her dream and does what she needs to do to make it happen.

max black

22. Megan Hunt, “Body of Proof”

Turn a professional setback into a new opportunity.

Megan Hunt was a brilliant, world-class neurosurgeon until nerve damage from a car crash left her unable to manage the fine manipulation needed to perform surgery. She is now a medical examiner and uses her vast medical knowledge to help solve crimes. The training and experience Megan gained in her years as a surgeon serve her well in understanding the medical mysteries of the bodies she examines in her new role.

megan hunt

23. Scarlett O’Connor, “Nashville”

Have confidence in your abilities.

Even though her uncle is a famous musician, Scarlett wanted to focus on writing poetry and had no personal music ambitions. After she is discovered and ends up in the limelight, she is reluctantly on the path to a musical career. At first, Scarlett is nervous and hesitant in her new role, but she grows more confident in her abilities as she progresses and begins to be assertive and stand up for herself. As her confidence in her own abilities has grown, her career has taken off.

scarlett o'connor

24. Adam Braverman, “Parenthood”

There isn’t always a quick fix.

Adam Braverman is used to being the guy with all the answers. When his son Max is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, Adam feels helpless because there is no “fix” for the disease. Adam is forced to find other ways to deal with the situation and help his son. Instead of a one-off solution, he and his family are constantly developing new strategies and routines to help Max. Adam had to admit that there was no quick answer to his problem, and once he did that he was able to begin the continuing process of helping Max.

adam braverman

25. Chandler Bing, “Friends”

Don’t be afraid to go for your dream.

Chandler’s job (whatever it was) was an ongoing joke amongst his friends. Finally, he had enough of doing something he didn’t enjoy, so he decided to pursue a career in advertising. It was hard to start over at the bottom of a new field, but he took a chance and put in his dues in unpaid internships and demeaning situations. It may be scary and uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get past that and be rewarded with happiness at work.

chandler bing from friends

What have you learned from TV characters that can help you in your professional life? Did you pick up any tidbits we haven’t thought of?

Brooke Niemeyer

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