This month, the pop-culture universe celebrates a major landmark event: the 20th anniversary of “Sex and the City”’s premiere episode. “Sex and the City” made stars of its female leads and basically defined the glamour of NYC for a new generation of women. By watching the adventures of Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte, we got our first glimpses of aspirational fashion, discovered the trials and tribulations of single urban life, and forged connections with these flawed but ultimately-relatable characters.
The show mainly focused on the dating adventures (and misadventures) of its protagonists, but because it dealt with 30-something professional women in NYC, the careers of the “Sex and the City” ladies worked their way into the show’s plotlines. During a recent rewatch of the show (which we still love, although certain story threads haven’t aged super-well), we paid particular attention to the work lives of Carrie & Co. and discovered three awesome pieces of career advice acted out by our intrepid foursome...and one faux pas for viewers to avoid.
1. When junior employees overstep, take the high road (within reason, of course).
In the Season 2 episode “Twenty-Something Girls vs. Thirty-Something Women”, power publicist Samantha Jones finds herself in a tricky situation. Her 25-year-old assistant, Nina, has been developing inappropriate relationships with Sam’s clients and dropping the ball on her actual work assignments, and when Samantha calls her out on it, she flounces out of the office, declaring her intention to launch her own PR firm. Sam isn’t too worried about this new competition...until she receives an invitation to the Hamptons Hoedown (a massive summertime event with a top-tier guest list) and finds that it’s being repped by “Nina G Public Relations”. But while Samantha doesn’t hide her annoyance with Nina while chatting with her friends, she opts to attend the event, approaches Nina to congratulate her, and even steps in to help when Nina’s poor event timing results in an early fireworks launch.
While Samantha could have taken the easy way out and skipped Nina’s event, she knew her industry well enough to understand the importance of maintaining connections. Nina messed up, but as the more-experienced publicist, Samantha didn’t hold that against her (well, not in a professional sense, at least). She showed up, kept her cool, and walked away with her reputation fully intact. Like Samantha, we should remember to focus on the big picture when it comes to our careers.
2. If you’re working while pregnant, don’t give way to intimidation - just keep kicking ass.
Miranda Hobbes, a Harvard-educated lawyer and a partner at her midtown law firm, became pregnant during Season 4. Because she invested significant time, money, and energy in her thriving career, Miranda made the decision to work through her pregnancy, feeling confident in her ability to maintain her standard of workplace excellence. However, she worries that her male-centric firm will take her pregnancy as an excuse to decrease her workload and otherwise undermine her importance. Therefore, as we see in the “All That Glitters” episode, Miranda spends the first half of her pregnancy in strategic outfits to hide her swelling belly and pointedly avoids any conversation that could lead to revealing her condition. After a series of misunderstandings with a coworker who caught her napping in her office, Miranda decides to openly tell her bosses about the pregnancy, trading in her drapey blazers for a form-fitting Casual Friday look. Miranda ends up working right up until the end of her pregnancy and after giving birth to son Brady, with no perceivable downsides for the firm. Attitudes toward pregnant women in the workplace have only improved since the airing of this episode in 2002, and ladies who want to keep their career goals on-track in the months before giving birth can look to Miranda as a shining example.
3. Give your career the opportunity to grow beyond your expectations.
Lots of ink and pixels have been spilled over Carrie Bradshaw’s unrealistic lifestyle, especially considering her likely income as a weekly newspaper columnist. While Carrie’s career would almost certainly fail to provide enough disposable cash for hundreds of pairs of Manolos and a sweet Upper East Side apartment, “Sex and the City”’s heroine doesn’t get enough credit for the growth of her work situation over the course of the show’s run. She starts off with the column as her sole source of income, but by Season 5, Carrie’s managed to add a regular gig as a Vogue contributor, a book deal, and a film option to her resume. While Carrie may not be as outwardly ambitious as Miranda or Samantha, she keeps herself open to opportunities and networks with heavy-hitters who hook her up with incredible career moves. The number-one lesson to take away from Carrie’s work life? Don’t talk yourself out of possibilities and go after what you want, even if it seems like a long shot.
4. When life changes occur, don’t feel pressured to abandon your career.
Because “Sex and the City” centers around the four women’s personal relationships, it makes sense that major life changes would cause our protagonists to reevaluate their professional pursuits. In the case of gallery director Charlotte York, however, we see one of the few workplace-related arguments within “Sex and the City”’s friend group. After accepting Trey MacDougal’s proposal of marriage in Season 4, Charlotte tells her friends that she’s planning to quit her job to focus on her new role as a wife and (hopefully soon) as a mother. In “Time and Punishment”, Charlotte’s friends ask whether she’s fully considered the consequences of this decision, to which Charlotte indignantly and defensively replies, “I choose my choice!” After she and Trey part ways in Season 5, we see Charlotte struggling to re-enter the competitive art world, feeling crippled by her abrupt professional exit and her surplus of experience, which disqualifies her from entry-level positions. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with leaving the workforce, the show strongly implies that Charlotte’s decision was influenced by her husband’s preferences and the expectation that she should devote her life to domestic goals rather than work-related ones. As of 2017, a full 70% of American women with families participated in the workforce, so if you want to start a family without leaving your career behind, you’ll be in good company.
During the last few episodes of the series, we see a similar decision from Carrie, but for different reasons. Carrie accepts an invitation from her boyfriend, artist Aleksandr Petrovsky, to move with him to Paris. Because her column focuses on the life of a single woman in New York City, her editors reject her “American girl in Paris” idea, so she decides to stop working altogether. Soon after arriving in Paris, Carrie finds herself overwhelmed with boredom and a lack of identity. Holding onto the column may or may not have helped this situation, but Carrie likely would have benefitted from considering other writing projects or angles, which could have offered her some much-needed consistency.