Freaks and Geeks, a cult television show from 1999 and 2000 about a group of high schoolers in a fictional suburb in Detroit, Michigan, is back on Hulu. It’s a wonderful show that touches on themes of friendship, love, bravery, social and economic constructs, and most of all, growing up. Despite how young most of the characters are, one of the underlying worries many of them have is about their futures – what their career will look like, and what they’ll do when they grow up. In a similar vein, here are three key ideas regarding career planning that extrapolate lessons from the show and are applicable for modern professionals in this confusing 2021 environment.
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
The show’s main character, Lindsay Weir, is in a state of transition throughout the show. After the death of her grandmother, she rebels against her parents and moves from her previous social group, the nerdy Mathletes, to the “Freaks”, a group of weed-smoking burnout types. Over the course of the year, she continues to maintain her stellar grades, but develops further connections with the Freaks and fully moves into that group. While some shows might depict Lindsay as a cautionary tale, Freaks and Geeks celebrates her journey and highlights her as being the most well-rounded and balanced of the main characters in the show.
Be a Lindsay! That doesn’t mean go back to high school or experimenting with drugs, but it does mean going out of your comfort zone to explore new fields, industries, or positions. If you feel like your current career is something you’re not passionate about anymore, or that it won’t be sustainable personally or professionally much longer, don’t be afraid to make a big jump. While it can be scary to go to a completely new company, position, career, or city, sometimes those big changes are what’s needed to put you on the right track. There will be ups and downs due to the transition, and maybe the change ultimately won’t work out in the long haul. But odds are, you will at the very least be a more well-rounded, knowledgeable professional and person for having experimented and tried something new.
Go For Your Dream
Lindsay’s younger brother, Sam, is the other main character of the series and is one of the titular “Geeks”. For most of the season, he has a massive crush on Cindy Sanders, a popular cheerleader who he believes is out of his league. However, after a bad breakup with her jock boyfriend, she turns to Sam, who is of course delighted. Unfortunately, Sam realizes Cindy is using him to regain control over her life after her prior relationship and breaks up with her despite her status as a far more popular person and someone he has had a crush on for a long time. While Sam went for his dream relationship and it didn’t work out, he learned a lot from the experience. Specifically, he learned more about himself as well as what he’s looking for in a relationship going forward.
Similarly, if you have a dream, you should pursue it! The best-case scenario is that it works out, and you have your dream job, career, and even life. That’s something very few people get to say, and if you have the opportunity to truly pursue that dream, you should. Even if your dream role or company doesn’t go the way you hope, you won’t have the regret of not attempting it, which is worth something on its own. More importantly, you will probably gain some actionable insights if your dream career doesn’t work. This could be about a particular industry you don’t like, a role you’re not comfortable with, a workplace environment that’s not for you, or something else that you discover is where your passion truly lies. It’s along the same lines as the old saying – “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”.
Develop Connections in Many Places
Another element that marks Lindsay as being particularly well-adjusted is her ability to cross high school clique lines. She has her “Freak” friends, but she remains friends with her childhood best friend Millie, who’s one of the nerdier mathletes, and is relatively close with Sam, a geek. She’s capable of navigating situations, asking different people for help, and building relationships in many areas.
Building relationships and friendships is just as important in adulthood and professional life as it is in high school. With the right connections, you can have an in with jobs, learn about new opportunities, and receive mentorship to advance your career. Having a widespread network is even more vital – this can not only open the door to new industries and careers but facilitate decision-making regarding what company might have a better work environment than another. Having relationships in your own industry or profession is definitely crucial, but expanding to different areas provides further benefits that will give you an advantage over your competition.
There’s plenty of more advice to give regarding career planning, but extrapolating from Freaks and Geeks, exploration, the pursuit of passions, and relationship building are all keys for your career.