Career Advice from Ricky Gervais

Published: Mar 18, 2011

 Workplace Issues       

The Harvard Business Review interviewed comedian Ricky Gervais for their "Life's Work" series recently. Who better to glean some tips on work, life and all things career-related than the man who created The Office, and the legendary character of David Brent?

Here are some of the highlights. Be sure to click the link at bottom for the full interview.

On his current situation:

"Winston Churchill said 'if you find a job you really love you'll never work again,' and that's what it feels like. I was a very lazy person, unambitious, a slacker. Did what I wanted, but now I feel I'm a workaholic because of the privileged position I find myself in."

On fame (and money):

"I'd rather people would want to be rich than want to be famous, because at least that's real freedom. That's something tangible."

"Money's never excited me. I've never done anything for a million pounds that I wouldn't have done for free."

On the character of David Brent:

Brent is a "Frankenstein of a few people that I met growing up…those people that worry more about their reputation than their character. That's a subtle distinction, really, because they're both very important, but your reputation is what people think of you; your character is who you really are."

Brent is "not a nasty person. Probably his worst crime is he mistook popularity for respect."

On management:

"I think fairness is the most important thing in managing a team, I really do."

On creative control:

"I don't think I'm the best producer or director or actor in the world, but I know how I want it done, and that's all that this job is. This is making sure it's done how I want it."

"I don't try and please anyone except myself. And if people like what I do, that's fantastic. But if they don't like it, then that's good too…because if you start trying to water it down or second guess people, you end up with something so safe and homogenized that a lot of people will like, but they won't love it."

On collaboration:

"It's twice as fun, which makes it easier…but there's a compromise, which is bad. The best things are a single vision, so you've got to find a single vision between the two of you."

Obligatory (and equally funny/cringe-worthy) clip of Gervais in action as David Brent:

Listen to the full interview at HBR Ideacast

--Phil Stott, Vault.com