Top tips to take from Donna Paulsen- COO in the Netflix series ‘Suits’

OK so I don’t work at a law firm and I may not be a lawyer, a paralegal, or have the slightest clue how to pass the bar. I work in a search-led digital marketing agency, but it doesn’t mean that I haven’t learnt a few things by watching the ever so addictive US Netflix series Suits (I mean come on, who doesn’t love Louis Litt just as much as the great Harvey Specter?).

Seeing them arrive to work hours earlier than they need to, in their super classy dresses, heels and suits… I have no shame in saying that it inspires the hell out of me.

As an Operations Manager myself, I find watching the iconic Donna Paulsen, long-time secretary to Harvey Specter and now well-deserved COO to the firm, extremely useful for taking away career tips from the sassy lady herself.

With her quick wit, displaying exceptional problem thinking skills, and high level of integrity and loyalty to the firm and her colleagues, I think we would all be wise to learn a thing or two from Donna, no matter what industry we’re in.

1. Always be prepared

Donna never starts a task or approaches a situation without doing her research beforehand. This admirable trait is why she is so reliable and allows her colleagues to have the confidence and trust in her to get the job done.

In any job role, being prepared is so important for meetings, presentations, writing out contracts for new suppliers/clients. Preparation and organisation are key.


2. Be a team player

You will never see an episode where Donna doesn’t show her unending loyalty to her firm. No matter who she is working with, assistants, paralegals, her boss Harvey, she is always a team player and shows loyalty to them all. Having the ability to be able to work fluidly with all of your colleagues is really important to enable you to deliver the best results as a business and for your clients.

3. Have Integrity

This is one of my personal favourites. Throughout the season, Donna never fails to stand by her integrity (despite the firm’s reputation for bending the rules slightly). When Harvey is about to make a potentially very bad decision she is always the first one to speak her mind and advise him on the right thing to do. I think this is so important for any business, director or employee to stand by. There will be times where we all have to face really challenging decisions to make, so it’s important to do what’s right, and to stand up for yourself if you ever feel pushed into doing something you don’t feel is right. Better way to do it? Speak up and channel your inner Donna.

4. Be open to making sacrifices

You will notice in many episodes of Suits that Donna is always the first one in the office before 9 am, and the last one out the door. Her dedication to getting her job done and occasionally prioritising her career over her social life is sometimes something we all have to do in our lives. There is no shame in spending a little less time watching Netflix and spending it reading that self-help management book before bed if it means progressing yourself and your career.

5. It’s OK to make mistakes… learn from them

Now despite Donna being Wonder Woman 98% of the time, let’s face it, she’s made her fair share of mistakes in the season, breaching client confidentiality was NOT the best idea Donna but like I discuss in point 3 I can empathise with why you did it!

We all make mistakes in our careers, but if we didn’t we would never learn from them. This is something I often struggle with myself, I’m forever trying to avoid making mistakes rather than taking a leap and see how it goes. However, we can never truly learn from having attitudes like this. So allow yourself to make mistakes, and then make them 10 times over, you will only be gaining the best kind of experience which is a great way to learn.



So what can we take away from this?

Donna is a fabulously sassy, organised COO who shows fierce loyalty, and integrity in her career.
Donna is great.
Channel your inner Donna.
Add ‘watch Suits’ to your to-do list.

P.S If you’re more of a Gossip Girl kinda gal, then, by all means, you stand up and be the Blair Waldorf we all love xoxo.


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