FEATURE // Career Lessons from Leslie Knope

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Originally published Oct. 28, 2014 on HelloGiggles.com. Within a week, the post received more than 930 likes and 135 shares on Facebook, 45 retweets, and 75 notes on Tumblr .

[A round of applause for Amy Poehler! Her much-anticipated memoir, Yes, Please, came out today and it’s power-packed with great advice for women. No surprise there. Her alter-ego, Leslie Knope, has been doling out the wisdom for a while now. In honor of Poehler’s big lit debut (and just because we love us some Knope), one of our readers broke down Leslie’s best career (and life) advice. It’s pretty killer.]

On a recent five-season Parks & Rec binge (the only enjoyable part of recovering from losing four wisdom teeth, trust me), I realized how important Amy Poehler’s character really is. Leslie Knope, is not just a funny lady—she is one of the best role models on TV today. With her work ethic and can-do attitude, Leslie has become an inspiration for the modern working woman, and she managed to teach me a few valuable career lessons while I was confined to my bed on a diet of smoothies and mashed potatoes. Not all of us will hold public office, but we can all benefit at work and school if we take a few tips from her.

Lesson #1: There is nothing wrong with being super-enthusiastic.The norm in many environments is to act “too cool for school.” Why make a real effort in school, at work, or insert-your-setting-here when no one else seems to care?

Leslie Knope shatters that standard at the start of every project. With a grin on her face and an amazingly-thorough binder or two under her arm, she approaches every task with an optimistic spirit and determination to go above and beyond, even when she faces roadblocks. A budget cut? Citizens demanding her recall? Councilman Jamm giving her trouble? None of that stops Leslie. Though they may not appreciate her efforts at the time, she still continues to fight for her friends and the citizens of Pawnee.

You may eventually run out of room for all of the binders, but Leslie’s approach is worth emulating. You might just find it makes your work more meaningful and that it’s contagious to those around you, even the April Ludgates intent on not caring.

Lesson #2: Putting others before yourself is the best choice.Leslie loves her career as a public servant because she wants to help people, whether by cleaning up a polluted river, unifying Pawnee with its rival city, or putting on a kids’ concert in the middle of a government shutdown.

She even practices this principle toward those who may not deserve it. When running for City Council, Leslie is tempted to use a death in her opponent’s family as a publicity opportunity for herself. But when she realizes that using his loss as her gain is no different from his unethical campaign tactics, she shows sincere sympathy instead. It means ignoring her campaign (and life-long dream) just a few days before the election, but Leslie knows she couldn’t act selfishly when another is in need. Fortunately, when her opponent sees her kindness, he returns the favor and temporarily assists her campaign.

As a subset of this principle, she also believes in the best of others, allowing her to see their full potential. Just a few examples: she trusts Andy with his first real job, she gives Tom’s (many, seemingly-hopeless) business ventures a try, and she challenges April to find a cause she cares about. As Andy says to her in the fifth season, “You never ever give up on stuff,” and her consideration often comes back to help her, too.

Lesson #3: It’s OK (and often necessary) to ask for help.OK, this isn’t one Leslie naturally excels at. A hard worker by nature, sometimes she has trouble delegating. For example, when simultaneously running a campaign and the Parks department, she refuses to let others help her finish her to-do list. But after forgetting to invite Jerry to his own surprise birthday party, she finally listens to the advice Ron has been giving all along and lightens her workload.

Leslie shows how letting responsibilities pile up can become messy, but she also learns how to rely on her co-workers when she can’t handle a situation alone. Fortunately, when you put others before yourself and believe in their potential, it’s usually not hard to find people who will support you, too.

Lesson #4: It’s also OK to take a break.

 often ask the same question Leslie asks: “Why would anybody ever eat anything besides breakfast food?” Her love for waffles serves as a clever running joke, but more importantly, it shows she stays sane by enjoying life and spending time with her friends over a meal. “We need to remember what’s important in life,” she says, “Friends, waffles, and work. Or, waffles, friends, work. It doesn’t matter, but work is third.”
Leslie loves her job, but she still makes time for celebrating Galentine’s Day and dozens of friend-iversaries. Balancing work and relationships can be challenging, but life is better when they exist together.

So another round of applause, please, for Amy! I can’t thank you enough for showing us positive examples of how to rule at work—and in life.

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