4 Career Lessons We've Learned From Watching ‘Bel-Air’

It’s no surprise that the hit Peacock dramedy Bel-Air has captured viewers’ hearts and attention since its airing earlier this year. Stemming from a viral social media trailer made in 2019, the Fresh Prince dramatic reimagining follows the journey of a teen whose life is upended when he moves from the tough streets of his west Philadelphia neighborhood to the lap of luxury with his relatives in LA. 

Every week, the show has gripped us with its emotional storylines, deep character development and relatable story arcs. Although the series centers the protagonist Will Smith played by the talented Jabari Banks, the unexpected supporting character in the show is the cast’s relationships with their careers. From Uncle Phil and his run for District Attorney to Hillary and her quest to become a culinary online sensation, we can all learn a thing or two about how to navigate the professional ladder from watching Bel Air.

Here’s what I mean…

Aunt Viv’s courage to start again.

Although she’s now wealthy, Aunt Viv, played by the electrifying Cassandra Freeman, gave up her promising art career decades ago to support her husband’s dreams and take care of their children full time. In a way it paid off, as Philip has become very successful, but at Viv’s expense. Her story is one many women can relate to.  

In a 2013 survey, the Pew Center found that mothers were much more likely than fathers to report experiencing significant career interruptions in order to attend to their families’ needs. According to the report, part of this is due to the fact that gender roles are lagging behind labor force trends. And ofcourse, most recently data shows that millions of women have exited the workforce due to the pandemic to be full-time caretakers in their homes. 

Fortunately, like many women making their return to the job market after years away, Viv is finally putting herself first. In the latest episode, despite a fight with imposter syndrome, she took steps to relaunch her art career by applying to an artists’ fellowship. 

Lesson: It’s never too late to chase who you know you’re meant to be. 

Hilary’s willingness to pivot.

Like many teens and early twenty-somethings, Hilary is lost. The show lets viewers know that the Coco Jones-led character is spending time at home after taking a gap year from Spelman—an institution that her mother Viv used her connections to help get Hilary into. While there, she’s tried and quit many opportunities she felt  weren’t a fit for her. 

She’s not alone. The Great Resignation has left many workers taking a closer look at what matters most in their lives, with a large group quitting their unfulfilling jobs after realizing they want to focus on building their dream careers. Fortunately, like Hilary, people are taking a chance on themselves. 

Smart, strong and outspoken Hilary knows she’s destined for greatness—she’s just not quite how to get there. Nonetheless, the talented cook forges ahead, sticks to her guns and eventually shows signs of inching closer to  landing an opportunity that’s just right. 

Lesson learned: Lean into exploring different professional verticals, but be sure to hatch a plan along the way to keep you on path. 

Uncle Phil’s commitment to prioritizing personal values over career advancement.

Already a successful lawyer, the ever-ambitious Philip Banks (Adrian Holmes), is running for the campaign of his career to become L.A. County’s next District Attorney. Unfortunately, Will’s run-in with the law has forced Philip to pull strings to keep his nephew out of serious legal trouble. That puts them both in the line of fire and jeopardizes Phillip’s campaign. In the end (spoiler alert) he chooses to put his family first and drops out of the race. 

Lesson: Although career ambitions are important, they shouldn’t eclipse what matters most–personal values. 

Jazz’s enterprising mindset.

Speaking of Hilary, Jazz (Jordan L. Jones) is her smooth-talking love interest and Will’s older, more experienced friend who’s always there to offer words of wisdom to anyone who will listen. Fortunately, he’s not only well-versed in matters of the heart–it seems like he knows a thing or two about finances as well. 

Ever the hustler, in the first episode it’s revealed that Jazz operates a “chauffeur-service” and later in the season we find out he’s also the owner of a record store by way of a family member. This points to an important  lesson on building multiple streams of income. 

Studies show that 65%  of US self-made millionaires have three streams of income, 45% have four streams of income, and 29% have five streams of income. Each stream gave them the money needed to invest in another. It looks like Jazz is onto something. 
Lesson: Aim to diversify your income whenever you can.

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