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Build Your Career Get Ahead

5 Career Lessons from April Ludgate of 'Parks and Recreation'

5 Career Lessons from April Ludgate of 'Parks and Recreation'
Credit: NBC/Netflix

April Ludgate, beloved "Parks and Recreation" character and the youngest member of the Pawnee, Indiana, Parks Department, is a brunette with a sense of humor as dark as her hair, a sharp handle on sarcasm and a love of all things macabre. She often claims to hate people (even though she secretly loves her co-workers) and proudly says things like, "I can convince small children that I'm a witch," and "I love games that turn people against each other."

Sure, April is cold, cynical and a little creepy at times, and she may not seem like the best role model on the surface, but April is also an honest employee and a good friend. She spends most of the series learning about herself, taking on new job responsibilities and earnestly searching for a career that makes her happy — something many of us can relate to.

Between learning from her mistakes and finding inspiration in her job search, we can all learn a thing or two from Pawnee's most sarcastic government employee. Here are five important career lessons from April Ludgate.

In the first season of "Parks and Recreation," April is a 19-year-old student at the local community college and an intern for the Pawnee Parks Department. April isn't exactly enthused about her job and is often a little rebellious, but she still coasts along and helps out when she can. In episode 4, however, April makes a huge mistake. When she's put in charge of creating and maintaining a social networking page for the department's big construction project, April takes a video of her underage self drinking wine in the office, then posts it on the site and almost gets her boss, Leslie Knope fired as a result. Leslie accepts responsibility for the post because she left the wine in the office in the first place, and luckily, both of them are able to keep their jobs. But in the real world, it's unlikely you'd get away with a similar stunt. Posting the wrong thing on social media could get you fired or ruin your chances of getting a job you'd otherwise be perfect for.

April eventually makes the transition from intern to full-time employee when she takes on the job of being Parks Department Director Ron Swanson's assistant. And as Ron's assistant, it's one of April's most important (albeit unprofessional in the real world) responsibilities to make sure he never has to have any meetings. In season 2, episode 21, April tries to do just that, and of course, it backfires. April thinks she's doing the right thing by scheduling all of Ron's meetings and appointments for a nonexistent date to trick people, but she makes the mistake of scheduling all of them for the very real date of March 31. This leaves Ron the responsibility of attending 93 meetings in one day, and requires the help of the entire Parks Department to get it done.

April quickly admits her mistake to Ron and arranges a 94th meeting in which she announces that she's quitting as a result. However, Ron realizes that April is actually a great assistant who tried to do the right thing, so he goes to her house to apologize and convince her to come back to work. Scheduling 93 meetings for your boss would likely get you fired in the real world, but it does show an important lesson — if you make a mistake, own up to it. Your co-workers and boss will respect you so much more if you take responsibility for your actions, and it could save your job. [13 Fictional Companies We Wish Were Real ]

When Leslie starts her campaign for city council and ultimately becomes a Pawnee city councilwoman, April winds up taking on a lot of Leslie's responsibilities in the Parks Department to help her out. In season 5 episode 12, April has to spend a week running a public forum on Leslie's behalf in order to get Pawnee residents on board with the plans for the Pawnee Commons Park, and while she's not looking forward to the task, she assumes that if she acts like Leslie, it'll all go smoothly. April tries to copy Leslie's sunny, perpetually optimistic disposition and even borrows one of Leslie's famous pantsuits for the occasion, only to completely flop. With the help of her goofy husband, Andy, April realizes that the only way the forum will go smoothly is if she stays true to herself. With this realization in mind, April leads the public forum as herself and ends up getting the signatures she needs to support the park. To celebrate, April and Andy celebrate burn Leslie's pantsuit. While burning your boss's clothes isn't the smartest idea, the lesson here is that pretending to be someone you're not won't get you ahead in your career. Staying true to who you are and what you believe, however, might just get you further than you realize. 

In season 5, Leslie establishes a new Animal Control Department in Pawnee and puts April in charge as deputy director. April accepts because of her love of animals, and soon realizes that maybe she wants to become a veterinarian. She applies to veterinary school in Bloomington and ultimately gets accepted and decides to go. In season 6 episode 3, however, Leslie's best friend Ann Perkins takes April to visit the school for her orientation, and April quickly realizes that it's not the right place for her. While Ann tries to convince April that vet school could be a really great career for her, in the end, April knows that it's not what she wants. It's just as important to be able to change your mind and accept that something you thought could be a good fit isn't right for you as it is to find what career path makes you happy in the first place. By the end of the series, April happily finds the job that's right for her, and she wouldn't have gotten there had she not changed her mind about becoming a veterinarian and moved on.

In season 7, episode 2, April — who has always just fallen into new jobs and never really pursued anything in particular — listens to a speech by local Pawnee star Joan Callamezzo in which she says, "If you don't absolutely love what you do with a true passion, then what's the point in doing it at all?" This question causes April to have a huge realization. She asks herself, "Do I even like my job?" and the answer is, unfortunately, no. This freaks April out, and she goes to Ben, Leslie's husband, for help, knowing that she needs to start over in a new career that she actually finds fulfilling. Ben asks April what her dream job was when she was 10 years old, and she tells him that she wanted to be a mortician. Ben in turn encourages April to find out what it would really be like to work in the funeral home business and takes her to a mortician's office to ask questions and learn more. However, April quickly realizes that the job isn't what she thought it was and decides that it's not right for her, either.

April may not have become a mortician, but her willingness to remain open and learn more about her different interests helped her to not only rule out jobs she didn't want, but also to find her perfect career path in the end. With Leslie's help, April realizes by the end of the season that she wants to work for the American Service Foundation. It wasn't easy for April to start over, but the point is, it's OK to admit that you're not happy in your career, and it's OK to not know what you really want to do. As long as you are open to exploring your options, you can find the right role for you. 

But of course, the most valuable lesson we can learn from April Ludgate is that time is money, money is power, power is pizza, and pizza is knowledge. If you can remember that, you'll go far in life.  

Brittney Helmrich
Brittney Helmrich

Brittney M. Helmrich graduated from Drew University in 2012 with a B.A. in History and Creative Writing. She joined the Business News Daily team in 2014 after working as the editor-in-chief of an online college life and advice publication for two years. Follow Brittney on Twitter at @brittneyplz, or contact her by email.