5 Career Lessons You Can Learn From Miley Cyrus

In her hotly debated performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, Miley Cyrus completed her transformation from wholesome child star into future train wreck before our very eyes. But her disturbing and controversial dance number can teach us more than what not to do with a foam finger. Here are five things from Miley Cyrus's VMA performance that you can learn (and avoid) to further your own career.

Miley Cyrus's VMA performance can teach us what not to do at work

(Photo credit: MTV/Getty Images)

1. Manage up.

Nude underwear, rampant allusions to drug use and all that twerking may resonate with raucous ravers, but will their parents be as willing to pay for Miley's new album of club anthems as they were to buy Hannah Montana dolls? For entertainers targeting a younger audience, appealing to parents is the equivalent of staying on the good side of your upper management at work.

2. Too much of a good thing... is a bad thing.

In trying to establish a sexier, more mature audience, Miley is wisely leveraging sex appeal. But how many write-ups have you heard since the VMAs praising all the crazy tongue acrobatics? When you're building a personal brand, play up your strengths, but don't go overboard.

3. Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse.

In theory, doing a duet of another pop hit, "Blurred Lines," with Robin Thicke sounded like a great idea. But the lack of rehearsal on Miley's part was painfully obvious, and no amount of writhing on stage could distract from the fact that she hadn't spent enough time practicing an unfamiliar song. When you're reinventing yourself at work, do not neglect the importance of practicing the new skill you want to excel at.

4. Don't rely on props.

Miley Cyrus is actually a pretty great dancer. But after the VMAs, most people just remember her inappropriate use of that foam finger and a nightmarish array of dancing teddy bears. When you want to rebrand your career, resist the urge to bury yourself in flashy props and use the opportunity to showcase your actual skills and strengths.

5. Think long term.

Miley's edgier new image may garner a lot of short term press attention, but her long-term success hinges on a group of kids who may be too busy owning the night to have any real purchasing power. In the meantime, she's received an avalanche of criticism about the lewd and racially insensitive aspects of her flashy performance. When it comes to your own career, clearly define your long term goals and make sure that your intermediary actions won't have negative long-term consequences.

Tell Us What You Think

What did you learn from last night's VMAs? (Besides the fact that nude vinyl isn't flattering on anybody.) Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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  10. 10 Mike 12 Oct
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  11. 9 pefs 28 Sep

    Next time Miley sticks her tongue out, somebody should lop it off. She really looks stupid and dumb.  I think she has gone way way psycho.


  12. 8 Leelee 26 Sep

    This is why people shouldn't do drugs. Period.

  13. 7 Logical One 05 Sep
    The above comments are great!  In addition, it was so sad to see that Miley sought only to shock and get attention for being bad, as in literally bad at her job (no one would mistake her disturbing display as something tantalizingly naughty, so it was not that good kind of "badness"), and she had no interest in even attempting to provide the audience with a performance of any artistic merit.  Guess I'm referencing Lesson #4 - the most important thing should be substance and quality at the core of one's work, not empty flash with nothing to support it.  And definitely not nightmarish stream-of-consciousness dribble.   
  14. 6 Yo 03 Sep

    What a mess. Nowadays, just act stupid, look like an idiot, get attention and put a few bucks in the bank.  She should be embarrassed.  She forgot to showcase her singing, seems she did everything but that.  Too bad.

    Hope she's not a train wreck in a few years.


  15. 5 Linda S 30 Aug
    Her performance screamed desperation to move from being a talented wholesome young gal to being a young adult who displays raunchy and classless exhibitions more for the shock value than anything else. I feel her parents pain.  Whoever has her ear is destroying her future in the business. Life is about choices however and she is the one making the choices.  Only when enough people get up and walk out will any impact be made.    At the moment she reminds me of a scantily clad exotic raunchy dancer.  There is simply no redeeming entertainment to be had for anyone halfway respectful.   How incredibly sad.
  16. 4 cessnab 30 Aug

      Miley's manager mislead this poor young girl. She made

      a total fool out of herself. She wants this career more than

      anything. What a huge mistake. She went way too far.

      The act and her outfit could have geared down a bit.

      I understand where she is coming from. Miley messed up.  Big time. Can't wait to see how she is going to undo

    her awful mess she has made of her career.

  17. 3 Cypriania Aubergine 30 Aug
    I am not condoning child abuse or hitting/beating of children, but I think a parental hand to the back-side of the misbehaving child/woman would do a lot of good. She has been manipulative toward her parents and they let her get by. She needs some accountability to them and either treatment (shock might be the answer - just kidding), but she definitely needs a wake-up call. She has just lost any credibility toward the younger generation whose parents give money to buy her merchandise.  Wonder how many will cough up money now??? That was disgusting to watch and her tongue hanging out reminded me of an old coon dog sweaty from out hunting trying to cool off.. suppose she was a dog in "heat"???
  18. 2 Jennifer 29 Aug
    Her performance struck me as a young woman who was ill prepared and totally winging it onstage.  The props and the costume were horrific.  I hope she is not invited back to perform on any televised awards show until she has established a desire to provide an entertaining performance.  Her performance at the VMA's appeared pretty well planned out - props, dancers, etc.  So if her plan was to be shocking, props to Miley as it was spot on.  However, shocking isn't necessarily entertaining and I for one hope to never be subjected to a performance such as that ever again.  I hope someone she listens to will send the message that just because she can so certain things, doesn't mean she should.  As hard as she seems to be trying to prove how much of an adult she is, what I see is a child taking direction from the wrong people and making bad choices.
  19. 1 Manny 29 Aug
    This performance will affect her carrer for a long time enough for the young people that follow her since her disney show growp up and forget that she ever was a star


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