As a teenage girl, I grew up religiously watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was an unforeseen twist that I would take what I learned from the show and figure out how to relate it to my professional career, but at Professional Geek Podcast we’re all about what’s transferable from personal interests to career. Although there were countless life lessons I learned in Buffy that transferred into emotional growth, they also helped me as a professional woman. It’s hard to believe that my favorite television show of all time is now 20 years old, but given the anniversary I wanted to honor it with a short blog.
Here’s a short list of what I learned about leadership and professionalism from Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
1. Surround yourself with a team of people with different skill sets
There is nothing I’ve found to be truer: Having a diverse set of skills on your team can only benefit your product. Just like Buffy had Giles as the researcher and strategist, Willow as the technologically savvy and magic caster, Xander as the emotional support and errand runner, Faith/Angel/Spike as the brute force, and interchangeable others who had their own unique skills and knowledge to help in any situation, so should your professional team. They saved the world – a lot – because they could depend on someone else to show up on time, do their job, and do it right.
2. Always show up and do good work, no matter the hours
Things can’t always be done between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM during the day, especially not vampire slaying. But sometimes e-mails need to be responded to, meetings need to be had, or edits need to be made during the odd hours, morning or night. If you don’t show up to do what needs to be done when that thing needs doing, chaos could reign supreme, deadlines could be missed, and projects could fall apart.
3. Sometimes you have to take odd or unpleasant jobs to support your dreams
Okay, so maybe Buffy’s “dream” wasn’t to be the Slayer, but when she was put in the position where she needed money in order to keep custody of her sister and her mother’s house, she found a job, did the dirty work, and supported her family all while keeping up with her nightly slaying. Sometimes our dreams aren’t attainable in the moment we want them, and sometimes we need to make sacrifices simply in order to survive, but that shouldn’t stop us from doing what we love (or from saving the world) at night.
4. Never say “no” to a worthy and necessary challenge
Buffy earned the achievement of “Class Protector” by keeping her fellow students safe and killing the demons when they needed killing, not by taking extra long lunches and skipping class to go shopping. Work can be hard, and cutting corners can be easy. It’s not always pleasant to say “yes” to working late, or to push your own physical limits in order to deliver a project on time, but it’s a necessary evil to any career and for earning the respect of your peers.
5. Work doesn’t stop for your personal life
This one is hard, but I’ve found it to be true. Just like Buffy couldn’t stop slaying after Angel left or after her mother died, neither does a job stop because something bad happened. Those around you will be understanding, and a good manager and good company will always give you time to recover, but the job doesn’t stop when your personal life gets in the way. Always take a beat to heal, but don’t expect the load to get lighter when the going gets rough.
6. Prove to others that they shouldn’t judge a book by its cover
Buffy was a petite blonde fashionista who had the strength of a big scary monster. She was underestimated because of her gender and her stature. She didn’t complain (although she often quipped), and instead proved herself by kicking butt and taking names. As a professional woman, I think about Buffy every time I encounter sexism in the workplace and I find a way to push forward.
7. Leadership takes personal sacrifice for the betterment of those working under you
I’m not saying you should sacrifice yourself in order to save the world, but when you’re thrust into a leadership position it becomes your responsibility to take ownership when things go wrong or need fixing, especially events that are out of everyone’s control. Buffy’s self-sacrifice to jump into a hell portal in order to save the world is exactly how every good manager should treat their company and their team: with a willingness keep everything else afloat regardless of anything else. A manager’s job isn’t only to keep the gears turning, it’s also to support and offer guidance to those working below them. Leadership can be friendship, but sometimes it’s an act of taking-the-blame love.