Important Career Lessons As Told By The Women Of Mad Men

by Ally Batista

Mad Men is one of my favorite television shows of all time. I’m a proud history nerd, and any period piece of television, or film, is a friend of mine. The sixties, the decade that the show is set in, is a fascinating decade.

America was going through an immense amount of changes in every sense possible. Women were becoming more powerful, and not simply just housewives, the civil rights movement was happening, and politics were ultra controversial.

Although Mad Men is set in a time way before ours, and so much has changed, it’s amazing how many life lessons you can take from the show: especially, when it comes to being a woman in an office.

Here are some of the most important lessons Mad Men can teach women on how to act in the office:

Ask For More

Peggy, one of the first female copywriters in the office, is the most inspirational career woman on television. She started off naïve and shy, getting by on her secretarial position, to becoming one of the strongest forces at the agency. Peggy is never fearful to ask for what she wants. She bodly asks her superior for her own office, without fear, and gets exactly what she wants. Why? Because she was bold enough to ask

Don’t Just Do What’s Expected Of You, Do What Makes You Happy

Now, the truth is, it was just so much harder for women in the time that Mad Men started its run. It was harder for them to pursue careers and it was really not expected unless they had to make money. In 1950, only one in every three women entered the workforce. But we have seen the changes in society for women reflected on the show as time goes by, especially with characters like Peggy and Don’s new wife, Megan. By the 1960s, social and economic forces made higher education more available to women, thus increasing their job opportunities. Between 1960 and 1965 there was a 57 percent increase in women being awarded degrees in the U.S. (the same figure for men rose by 25 percent). But women were still not supposed to be openly ambitious, and white men still dominated everything.

Betty Draper is perhaps the most fascinating character on the show. It was a very different time for women back then. The new generation of feminism was just coming into play. Women until then had been raised to believe that their purpose was to find a good husband, even if they were well-educated. She feels empty and unsatisfied, even though, categorically, she has everything she should want (well, no one needs a philandering husband). Part of the reason Betty is so angry is that she didn’t get to pursue anything outside of being a wife (and she is probably clinically depressed). But still, she never even got the chance to Lean In!

Learn how to play with the boys.

If you work in a male-dominated atmosphere like Peggy, you need to be able to keep up and play nice. This means that you need to go to social events that everyone else goes to, you need to create relationships with the men, and you need to do things that they do.

After a few times of Peggy being uninvited to her co-workers’ meetings, she realized that she needed to make a change. So, she began dressing more like a woman and started attending events that the men all went to, such as going out for cocktails. If you are not a part of the inner circle, then you may miss opportunities that everyone else has. Plus, men are fun! Try to build relationships with them and find a common ground. But you don’t have to sit on anyone’s lap like Peggy did (actually, just don’t do that).

Do be a mentor to a younger, clueless girl in the office.

Though Joan and Peggy had a bit of a rough start, they now do have a mentoring relationship despite Peggy being higher up in the company. Though Joan is never really nice, she has become a sympathetic ear for Peggy and tells her the truth when she needs to hear it, even if it is unpleasant. Joan has really helped Peggy come out of her shell and blossom in her career and as a woman. She even helped her start dressing better.

Be inspired, be tough, and never be weak.

Ally Batista | Elite.

Twitter: @allybatista

Photo Credit: Getty Images