University life

Career dos and don'ts: Friends edition

25 Jan 2023, 13:34

There are so many career dos and don’ts that we can take away from everyone’s favourite TV show, but here’s our shortlist.

The Central Perk set from Friends on the Warner Bros. Studio

So no one told you life was gonna be this way? Your job’s a joke, you’re broke and your love life’s D.O.A. But Friends is there for you – not just to make you laugh when you feel like crying, but to offer excellent advice on how to secure that dream job and how (not) to behave in the workplace.

Friends was first pitched to the American TV network NBC as a show about ‘sex, love, relationships, careers, a time in your life when everything’s possible.’ While everyone remembers Ross and Rachel’s will-they-won’t-they romance (‘we were on a break!’) and Joey’s smooth pick-up lines (‘how you doin?’), the careers aspect often gets overlooked.

1. Don’t lie on your CV

Joey learns this the hard way. He lies about being a professional dancer when auditioning for a role in Oliver Twist and claims he can speak French to get a part in a Broadway play. Needless to say, he doesn’t get either job. The only thing that’s true on his CV is his ability to drink a gallon of milk in ten seconds. (Another lesson we can learn from Joey is to only include relevant skills on job applications.)

No matter how tempting it is to fill out your CV with extra skills that you don’t have yet, it is never a good idea. You’ll eventually be found out and it may stop you getting the job.

2. Do be prepared to work your way up from the bottom

Over ten seasons, Rachel’s career journey is nothing short of heroic, transforming from a spoilt, naive girl to an accomplished career woman. While she figures out what she wants to do, she takes a job as a waitress at Central Perk. Even when she transitions into the fashion world, she starts off sorting through coat hangers and making coffee before working her way up and becoming merchandising manager at Ralph Lauren.

Don’t be afraid of starting at the bottom. Become involved with university societies, get a part-time job and apply for work experience. All the while, think about how you’re acquiring skills that can be used to achieve your goal.

3. Don’t kiss your interviewer

Rachel also commits some major career don’ts. The most cringe-worthy moment comes when she pecks her interviewer on the cheek at the end of the interview. (It could have been worse – after all, Phoebe bites her client’s bum.) In this instance, a nightmare interview is salvaged by the candidate’s sincerity and enthusiasm for the position, but Rachel’s faux pas happens because she gets too comfortable.

While you probably won’t kiss your interviewer, you might slip up and mention details of your wild weekend. Keep small talk professional. Remember, the assessment process doesn’t end until you’re well clear of the building.

4. Do take risks

Chandler hates his job, which no one even knows the name of (a mistake that costs Monica and Rachel their apartment – transponster is not a real job, we checked). After years of putting up with it because of the high salary, Chandler quits and goes into advertising, beginning on an unpaid internship. Despite having no experience and being 15 years older than most of his co-workers, he proves to have a natural instinct and quickly gets promoted.

Career changes, while scary, can pay off. If you’re not happy in your current job, explore other avenues. People spend most of their time at work and, if you hate it, this can drastically affect your happiness.

5. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not

Several members of the group are guilty of changing themselves to fit in at work. Chandler changes his sense of humour to suck up to his boss and Rachel takes up smoking to avoid being left out of company decisions. Ross, eager to make a good impression at his new teaching job, puts on a questionable British accent and, instead, looks insecure and even a bit demented.

When starting a new job, it might take you a little while to settle in and feel comfortable, but you’re not the only one. Relax and continue to be yourself. You’ll soon feel like you’ve been there for years.

6. Do be on time

Basically do the opposite of what Ross does. His career mishaps are almost as bad as his love life (see: saying the wrong woman’s name at the altar and three divorces). When Ross signs up to teach a class, he doesn’t realise how far it is and ends up being 50 minutes late to his first lesson, forcing him to take up roller-skating so he can get there on time.

Always plan your journey and give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Being late to an interview or your first day doesn’t create a good impression.

7. Don’t accept defeat

When Monica is appointed head chef at Alessandro’s, she thinks all her dreams have come true. Unfortunately, everyone at work hates her because she’s responsible for getting the previous chef fired. Rather than give up, Monica demonstrates resilience and trusts that her own abilities will earn her the respect she deserves.

If you ever feel as though people are making it purposefully difficult for you in the workplace, pay them no mind. If it gets really bad, file a complaint with HR to address the issue. Workplace bullying should not be tolerated.

8. Do something you love

Everybody should be a bit more like Phoebe. Her job is just something she does to get by. Her real passion is music, something she continues to practise in her spare time. Even when she’s approached to make ‘Smelly Cat’ into a jingle, she refuses, preferring to keep the integrity of the song even if it means rejecting the pay cheque.

Getting a job doesn’t mean giving up doing what you love. If your job is completely unrelated to your hobbies, you can keep these up outside of work. You may even be able to have your own small business on the side.

9. Don’t put a time limit on your accomplishments

Friends is about a group of people in their mid-twenties who are still figuring out what to do with their lives. During the ten seasons, they get hired and fired, take massive career risks and feel the pressure to have achieved important milestones by a certain age.

After graduation, many people feel as though they should already have a job and a ten-year plan. The truth is that it takes a while to be certain of what route you want to take. Nobody really has their whole life mapped out in front of them – especially the cast of Friends – and that’s OK.

More career tips from TV shows…

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This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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