6 lessons from ‘Scandal’ on how to be a rock star professional


I recently started watching “Scandal.”

I did so because my boss told me to, but it’s one of the best assignments she’s ever given me. I’m hooked!

I’ve only watched the first season (thank you, Netflix), but in between the drama and spine-tingling suspense, there are some important lessons about how
to be a rock star professional no matter where you work.

Before I jump in, here’s a little background on the show:

Actress Kerry Washington plays the main character, Olivia Pope. Pope heads a crisis management
firm in Washington, D.C. that takes on big-name clients with major PR problems. Her staff is made up of lawyers, but they rarely go to court. Pope refers
to them as gladiators, and their toughest cases appear in the court of public opinion.

If you want to do your job as well as a gladiator, follow these tips:

1. Never stop learning new skills.

The gladiators solve big, high-profile problems. For example, in the pilot episode they represent an American war hero convicted of murder. To solve
problems like this one, Oivia’s staff needs to be skilled in more than just one area. The gladiators are all lawyers, but they are also skilled detectives,
PR pros, tech whizzes and negotiators. Because they’re experts in several areas, they can fix situations in record time, and each person is indispensable
to the team.

While you may not have to handle crises of such magnitude, you should be indispensable to your company. Never pass up an opportunity to learn a new skill
you can apply to your job. It will keep you sharp, agile and vital to the company’s success.

2. Listen to—and trust—your gut.

Olivia won’t take on a new client if she doesn’t believe in her gut that he or she is telling the truth. She knows being on the wrong side of a crisis
would be debilitating to her career and, as she often says, it’s her name on the door. She’s the one responsible for every outcome.

Don’t hesitate to trust your instincts, too. If your company is facing a crisis and you have a gut feeling about how your company should react, pay
attention to it—and say something.

3. Don’t be afraid to jump in.

In the pilot episode, the gladiators hire Quinn to join their team. On her first day, they have to deal with an accusation against the president. Given the
nature of the crisis, there’s no time for anyone to train Quinn or show her the ropes. She has to jump in and learn as she goes. She doesn’t hesitate to do
so, and the team respects her initiative.

Be a Quinn at your company. Did you just start a new job? Jump in. Ask questions and soak in all the information you can. Is your company afraid to try
something new, like be on social media? Don’t be afraid to suggest new ideas and forge new territory. It’s the only way to move forward.

4. Take responsibility.

In the second episode of season one, Quinn loses track of the client Olivia asked her to watch. Huck, one of the gladiators, offers her this advice: “You
screw up, you fix it. You’re a fixer. That’s the job.”

The same advice applies to you. You’re a professional. You have a job to do, and if you don’t do it right, you need to fix it. If you can’t fix it or the
task is above your skill level, admit it and find someone who can do the job.

5. Never give up.

In the fifth episode of season one, the gladiators represent a commercial airline pilot many believe is responsible for crashing an airliner. There were no
survivors. The airline insists the pilot was at fault; PR reps say the plane passed its regular maintenance check. As the gladiators gather evidence, more
and more signs point to the pilot. Despite the odds, the gladiators stay focused and clear the pilot’s name.

If you don’t see a solution to a problem or are stuck for ideas, don’t give up. Keep researching and brainstorming. You’ll work it out if you’re confident
you can.

6. Don’t make a promise if you can’t deliver.

In season one, the gladiators represent a White House staffer who claims she is pregnant with the president’s baby. Halfway through the season, the young
woman is murdered. Not knowing she is dead, Quinn promises the young woman’s dad they will find his daughter. Later, Olivia tells Quinn: “Don’t ever
promise an outcome we can’t deliver.”

The same applies to your job. If you can’t write four articles in one day, don’t tell your boss you can. If you can’t dissolve a crisis, don’t promise the
CEO you will. You will look incapable when you fall short of your promises. Instead, under-promise and over-deliver. It’s better to pleasantly surprise
your boss than let her down.

The season finale airs Thursday. I can’t wait. The sooner the season ends, the sooner it will be streaming on Netflix.

(Image via

Popularity: This record has been viewed 1153 times.

Ragan.com moderates comments and reserves the right to remove posts that are abusive or otherwise inappropriate.