HBO’s Girls: Early Career Moves Not To Make
by Alison Ringo
If you’ve been cringing along with HBO’s new show Girls, you’ve seen the main character, Hannah, make some pretty big blunders in her job interviews and her positions — and we’re only four episodes in.
Here are some of Hannah’s early missteps to avoid.
Requesting a Raise Without Reading the Signs – In the pilot, Hannah’s parents cut her off financially, so her unpaid internship with a publisher doesn’t cut it any more. However, rather than evaluating the office situation (from what we see, the phones aren’t exactly ringing off the hook) Hannah essentially gives her boss an ultimatum… and loses her position, because she doesn’t have skills the publisher can actually monetize.
Hannah’s better bet, and yours if this situation sounds familiar, would be to ask her boss what she can learn (like Photoshop) in order to rate a paid position, and buckle down with an evenings/weekend job in the meantime, if necessary. Hannah’s goal is to be a published writer, so losing an internship in her target industry was a blow, as it would be in the real world.
Inappropriate Interview Chat – In a later episode, Hannah seems to hit it off in a remarkably relaxed interview situation, chatting about Brooklyn neighborhoods and watering holes with the hiring manager. Unfortunately, she takes the relaxed atmosphere too far and makes a joke about date rape. The interview, needless to say, is over, and so are her chances.
Many offices are fairly informal, even friendly, in interviews. But never let that mislead you into being anything but professional. Feel free to make quips and respond to your interviewer’s unrelated chat, but always bring the conversation back to what you would bring to the table if hired. And never, under any circumstances, discuss religion, politics, etc.
Letting Colleagues Cloud Your Judgment – Hannah’s luckily landed a job as an office assistant… to a boss who engages in sexual harassment. Hannah’s in a tough spot, because she needs to pay rent, and if she’s like lots of young people these days, feels she has to take what she can get.
Her colleagues evince a seriously laissez-faire attitude to the boss’s groping, telling Hannah she’ll get used to it, that he pays for their iPhones, is a laid back boss, etc. In the one episode of Hannah’s employment (so far), she’s been open to her new office buddies’ suggestion to just let it go.
Whether we’re talking a situation as serious as sexual harassment or unethical practices within a company, or something less nefarious, no matter what, you’ve got to always trust your gut. There are other jobs and harassment resources out there, and no one – no matter what – should feel stuck in an illegal or immoral situation. There are realities like rent, the bills, etc. But if your instinct tells you to get out, don’t let something like coworkers’ apathy sway your decision to look for something else.
It will be interesting to see where Hannah’s gut takes her. The storyline presents an interesting opportunity for tough conversation around the desperation of young professionals these days. Let’s hope HBO and Lena Dunham are up to the challenge.