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'The Office' to 'Mad Men': TV Guide to Career Advice - Lesson 1 of 8

You probably don't think of Michael Scott, the walking workplace nightmare played by Steve Carell on The Office, as a role model. In fact, sitcoms in general tend not to rank highly on our list of best sources for career advice. But as the fall season gets under way, there are actually a few things you can learn from watching TV stars on the job — on shows such as 30 Rock, Mad Men, Modern Family and more. We asked career experts to pick their favorite small-screen stars. They even found a role model on The Office.

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The Office

Jenna Fischer as Pam Halpert (NBC)

  • Lesson: Take smart chances

Despite the buffoonery of her boss, Office supporting character Pam Halpert offered viewers a useful lesson in climbing the corporate ladder. When Carrell’s character, Michael Scott, was laid off from Dunder-Mifflin he offered Pam, his former assistant, a place at his start-up as a saleswoman — and she took it, even though it meant giving up benefits and a cushy cube. (The video clip below features the overcrowded new workplace.) Then when Michael was hired back by DM, he brought Pam with him, in her new position.

Beth Banks Cohn, Ph.D and president of Banks Consulting in New Jersey, says taking this kind of chance can pay similar dividends in real life. “In this case, Pam was stuck, and the way to get unstuck is to leave, even if you come back,” says Banks Cohn. “You get opportunities that you wouldn’t get by staying.” When risky opportunities arise, Banks Cohn says, make sure your responsibilities (rent, food, children’s tuition) are taken care of, then ask yourself these two essential questions: Is it going to give you new chances and skills you can parlay into an even better job? Is it going to allow you to do something you’re passionate about? If the answers to both are yes, go for it.

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