With the farewell season of Parks and Recreation premiering on January 13th, I had some catching up to do. I hadn’t watched season 6 yet, so as you’d expect, I binge watched it all over two weeks. Each character has baited me, and I’ve become emotionally attached to the entire cast and their individual roles in the show. Although Parks and Rec sounds like a strange place to discover life lessons, I seemingly find them in every episode, but one idea that continually comes up that has always bothered me is the concept of fake it ‘til you make it.
TV shows are notorious for riddling this phrase into the public which I’ve always figured to be of a negative interest. Doesn’t it promote the idea that deceit is acceptable? Although that may hold true to an extent, I had only looked at it from a very limited perspective. It wasn’t until I finished season 6 of Parks and Rec that it really hit me: fake it ‘til you make it is the counterpart to defining your own job.Throughout each season Tom Haverford’s job titles are questionable and ever changing, but the one thing that remains constant is his dream to get rich contrasted by his efforts to avoid work. He spends all of his time trying to maintain his luxurious persona and constantly needs to protect his ego. As entertaining as Tom is, and as cool as he may try to make himself seem, Tom epitomizes the concept of fake it ‘til you make it.
His wardrobe is compiled of a wide variety of high fashion brands as he wants to be at the forefront of trendy; however, his outfits are always borderline ridiculous because he is always trying so hard. It’s unclear just how Tom is able to afford any of his clothes, but it appears as though he spends every paycheck on them—a nearly desperate attempt to being better than everyone else in the office. You see, Tom is constantly putting on a show. In the first season he purposely loses to his boss, Ron Swanson, in a game of scrabble because he thinks that’ll help him further his career. When Leslie asks him to jot down notes for him he just scribbles on a piece of paper. He constantly flaunts about his attractive wife, but their marriage is actually just a green-card marriage. He tries to make his own cologne titled Tommy Fresh which is immediately unsuccessful when he tries to pitch it to a fragrance mogul. When the Parks and Rec team goes camping everyone takes the traditional approach of using tents, but Tom brings a bunch of electronics from SkyMall which he attaches to the van, eventually draining the battery. Tom feels as though he must constantly craft a lifestyle image of luxury no matter where he is or what he is doing. Despite his obsession with being cool and trendy, Tom is one of my favorite characters on the show. He’s arguably the opposite of me in a lot of ways, but perhaps that’s what I find humorous.
He starts a Entertainment 720, Pawnee’s first and only entertainment media conglomerate, which quickly goes bankrupt when he spends all of his money on ridiculous things such as hiring Detlef Schrempf to play basketball in their lobby space. Tom ends up broke and jobless. He initially refuses to go back working at the parks department because he wants to tackle bigger and better things, but eventually returns to his old job when he realizes he has no other options. Tom thought he saw his future beginning to blossom when he started Entertainment 720, but after that failed he wasn’t ready to settle again. I don’t blame Tom though, going back to square one is the last place you want to end up. To no surprise, Tom is back at it and starts another company called Rent-A-Swag where he rents out “his own high-end clothing to middle school boys whose mothers won’t buy them nice things through puberty.” Unlike his last business Rent-A-Swag is very successful, but as you may expect something is bound to go wrong. An unknown business owner opens up a store across the street from Tom’s which takes on the exact same business model, but is called Tommy’s Closet. Soon enough Tom is no longer getting any business, and since things aren’t going his way he doesn’t know what to do. He eventually sells Rent-A-Swag to his competitor, and with no where to go ends up at the Parks Department once again.
When Tom returns to the parks department he doesn’t go back to his old job, instead he takes on the title of business liaison, a position he created. Another character on the show, April, also took this approach in an earlier season when she also created her own position. Both of these characters are notorious for their laziness, but later flourished in their newly created positions. Using April as an example, Tom pitched his idea of becoming the business liaison to Ron claiming that “the town could use more private-sector money after the merger,” and “as business liaison, [he] would find companies looking to move or expand, and convince them to do it in Pawnee.” Although Tom was returning back to square one he had approached it in a radically different manner. This is a rare occasion in which Tom’s passion is truly visible and vocalized, he could have easily went back to his old job, but instead having the ability to create a job specifically for himself allowed him to grow according to his interests. Tom constantly tried to pursue different job titles using the fake it ‘til you make it approach, but never found any true success because he was always miserable. He figured success required cookie-cutter positions until he tried some of them out only to discover that he needed to define his own job. Tom excelled in his new job position and genuinely enjoyed it. In comparison to the previous Tom who avoided work, business liaison Tom took his work very seriously and his position already had financially benefited the city. Although Tom is just a fictional character in a tv show, it reminded me of someone else who created their own job: Kevin Carroll, who joined Nike as a Katalyst where he aimed to help others change their ideas into reality, and he described himself as “an excitatory agent that speeds up or changes a process.” Some companies, such as Everlane, are beginning to recognize that not everyone fits a generic job title, and those who are smart give potential employees the chance to define their own job.