In between putting out every fire that could possibly start in a city government, Leslie Knope gives us seven seasons of pretty great career advice on Parks & Recreation. As she ascends the professional ladder — from the deputy director of the Pawnee Parks Department to city council woman — Knope left behind not just examples of how to advance your career but also what to do when you face setbacks, coworker disputes, or even a raccoon infestation. Whether you can relate to her can-do spirit or her love for politics and waffles, Knope’s advice is bound to relate to your job in one way or another.
1. Find a job you’re passionate about, so the tough days are a breeze.
There’s endless evidence in Knope’s career of her city not giving her back as much as she gives it. Her limitless love for public service and government keeps her coming back and rocking at her job all the same.
It’s important to take time to find a job you really love on its own terms and not because it’s easy or lucrative. When you have to get up at 7 a.m. every morning, you’d better find happiness in the reason you’re waking up. And when Knope faces opposition, she always takes it as a personal challenge. You can see it in her face; put passion above just about everything else in your career choices.
2. Delegating and teamwork are your friends, not signs of weakness.
In a position of power, it’s easy to take on too much. People find it easier to let you do the work because then they they’re off the hook. And if you’re anything like Knope, you love the work you do and want to tackle every problem with your own personal style and vigor. That may feel like an honorable strategy, but is it a smart one?
Even though Tom, Donna, April, and even Jerry, often need some coaxing, Knope learns they’re just as integral to her success as she is. Using other people’s knowledge, their energy and their skills will only serve a workplace well in the long term.
3. Be an advocate for yourself.
While she’s far from selfish, one of the things Leslie Knope knows best is how awesome Leslie Knope is. She can be picked on by Councilman Jamm or stared out of a room by Ron Swanson, but she constantly finds the motivation to keep going.
She carries herself with confidence. She’s not afraid to declare she’s the right person for a specific job. Don’t rely on anyone else to promote you or sell you to your boss or client because no one knows every detail of your hard work and preparation like you do. Your confidence and a healthy amount of pride will go far when trying to impress your coworkers, bosses and associates.
4. Mentors and coworkers are great sources of advice.
Ron Swanson’s and Leslie Knope’s relationship is a great example of how mentorships and collaboration can advance a career. Although a unique dynamic, Knope learns a lot from Ron over the years about how to let coworkers be themselves and, therefore, lead them more effectively.
Young people searching for successful careers should find someone who can set them on the right paths when those paths aren’t immediately clear. If you think there’s a potential mentor in your midst, be open to picking her or his brain and mining the person’s expertise. As we know from Leslie and Ron, they don’t have be the same type of person as you for the relationship to be valuable.
5. Persistence is key. Don’t give up.
If you want that dream job, you have keep calling, keep interviewing and keep showing up in every way you can. Be tenacious.
The courage Knope has in her convictions allows her to flourish with a “never say die” attitude. If she didn’t keep showing up in Ron’s office or in the often unfriendly city council chambers, she’d never be heard by her superiors. Remaining at the bottom of the career ladder can become relaxing, but if you want to reach a position of more influence, you have to prove yourself by knocking on that proverbial door time and time again.