Orange Is the New Black—Career Advice from an Unlikely Source

Holland Dombeck McCue Career Paths, Change, Holland Dombeck

Like most unexciting couples in their late 20’s at any age, my fiancé and I are TV binge-watchers (a nice bottle of wine + six hours to kill on a Friday night = lasting revenue for Netflix), so we were fairly delighted when the on-demand media provider announced they’d be creating a couple of original series – and releasing all 13 episodes at once!

I first heard about Orange Is the New Black, the second original production from Netflix, during an interview on NPR with the show’s creator Jenji Kohan. Kohan adapted the show from a memoir by Piper Kerman about the year she spent in minimum-security women’s prison. Here’s a quick rundown:

A white, middle-class woman named Piper, who graduated from a prestigious women’s college, became involved romantically with a woman who was working for a drug ring. They traveled together on out-of-town business, and Piper agreed to carry a suitcase of drug money. She wasn’t caught, but years later she was named in a drug conspiracy, convicted and sent to prison.

Beyond that basic premise, Orange‘s writers have created a fictionalized version of Piper’s story, as well as fictional backstories for the inmates Piper is serving time with.

Orange was TV binge-watching gold.

But two nights and 13 hours later, I wanted to learn more about the real Piper Kerman. So I picked up a copy of her memoir, and I think you should too.

Why the endorsement?

Like most young professionals, I’ve read my fair share of terrible “how to” and “secrets of success” books/blogs. Okay, maybe they weren’t all terrible, but just not relevant at the time I was reading them and therefore did not pique my interest. I happened to have read Kerman’s memoir last week on a road trip, just as I was moving into a new role. As I progressed through the anecdotes, I found myself drawing a strong connection between her experiences and starting a new job.

New Role, New Rules

Starting a new role – at any level in your career – brings with it a wave of uncertainty that mirrors some of the same obstacles Kerman faced when she left her comfortable middle-class life for a year in a minimum-security prison.

  • Prepare to get back to the basics, because you are no longer operating within your comfort bubble. Strip down and build yourself back up.
  • Navigate the learning curve –quickly. Earn your keep by ramping up on systems, processes, product lines, etc. Until you truly understand the nuances of the business, you won’t be able to impact change.
  • Find your tribe. Who within the organization do you need to know to get things done? And maybe more importantly, who can you speak to in confidence when you face challenges along the way? Find those people and make them your new tribe.
  • Embrace the new normal. You no longer work for your old organization. Did you gain valuable experience that you are going to carry over? Of course. That’s why you got the job you’re in now. Pull from and elaborate on your strengths, accept the new normal and don’t name drop former organizations.
  • Capitalize on the experience. Nothing in life or your career is permanent. Make the most of the now and enjoy where it takes you.

I’m excited about my new role and my move out of the Editor seat and into the Blogger #30 slot. Thanks in advance, FOT Nation, for reading my posts.

Before haters hate…

The statistics surrounding prison populations in the book are truly alarming. I do not in any way view my or anyone’s career as a prison sentence.

Have you read the memoir? Did you find any of Piper Kerman’s experience applicable to your career? Or have you just seen the show and whole-heartedly agree that there ain’t no party like a Big Boo party? (Email subscribers click through to view image.)

career advice big boo