Besides being a passionate talent acquisition professional, I am also an avid movie fan. I’m in total admiration of the actors and actresses that portray the roles scripted for them and the directors that make the scripts come to life. Whenever I come across a movie that has relevance to me in my career, I’m always eager to see it at the first given opportunity. So, if like me you are interested in how movies deal with work related subject matter, you may want to check out the following titles.
The premise: The movie is focused on Mae’s character (Emma Watson) who successfully secures a dream job at a powerful tech company called the Circle. Things get off to a flying start in the beginning but she soon discovers that the company is up to no good and that its products may adversely impact humanity. She becomes the whistleblower and the chief architect of the company’s downfall.
Takeaway: I see this movie as a bit of an essay on the tech sector revealing the prevalence of bad practices including weak corporate governance and overbearing leadership. The company’s products clearly pose serious ethical concerns around privacy which kind of reminded me of the Facebook privacy issues and Uber during the Travis Kalanick years.
The premise: Ben Whittaker (played by Robert De Niro) is a recent retiree who quickly struggles to deal with life post retirement. He spots an opportunity to get back into work and applies successfully to become a senior intern at an online fashion company founded and run by Jules Ostin (played by Anne Hathaway).
Takeaway: What was really pleasing about this movie was that this was the first time a ‘talent acquisition team’ is featured in a movie setting. We actually see the candidate experience in flow. Indeed, Ben’s first interaction and interviews are with several members the TA team which suggests that the company in the movie probably has a robust interview and selection process. The movie also raised some important issues about work life balance. In the movie, Jules’s husband is a stay at home dad allowing Jules to pursue her career often to his frustration. The movie also reassuringly tackles the issue of ageism in the workplace. Instead of casting aside senior citizens, it proactively puts together a program of inclusivity to reintroduce senior citizens back into work and really utilize their experience. This probably suggests that the company in the movie values diversity and inclusion. In this movie, Ben helps Jules to reinvigorate both her and the company to overcome operational issues.
The premise: Dane Jensen (played by Gerard Butler) is a headhunter operating in the cut throat world of agency recruitment. His job is made even more challenging driven by his desire to outperform his peers, own the company whilst fulfilling the needs of his family – thus creating a clash of priorities.
Takeaway: Lays bare the inner workings of agency recruitment. It reveals the tactics – often underhand and unethical that recruiters use to win jobs and place candidates. A ‘win at any cost’ approach reveals an industry culture that is incompatible with work life balance. Agency recruitment isn’t for everyone. Struggling to juggle work and family life, Dane is fired from his job and then starts his own company working from home to take back control of his life.
The premise: Ryan Bingham (played by George Clooney) works for an HR consulting company that specializes in terminating employees on behalf of employers. This sees him travelling up and down the country and pleasingly collecting air miles in the process. He enjoys what he does but soon comes across issues that threaten his lifestyle by the emergence of a love interest, and a new hire which prompts him to reassess his life.
Takeaway: Firing people is unpleasant. Sadly, whenever a company goes through a rough patch, it’s human capital that has to pay the price through layoffs. This movie details that process and the issues that companies have to deal with in order to remain profitable. The movie also chronicles the life of an individual (Ryan Bingham) who seems content hopping from one city to another doing a very sensitive job. How happy would you be constantly travelling for your job?
The premise: Based on Chris Gardner’s true story (played by Will Smith). The movie depicts a struggling salesman taking custody of his son and the immense difficulties he faces in pursuing a professional career.
Career takeaway: A hugely inspiring and motivational movie that reveals in spectacular detail the struggles and stresses we face as human beings. An emotionally charged account of the worst that can happen to any capable person. Chris Gardner was a phenomenal hero of his own life facing one challenge and setback after another. In the end, he prevailed through his commitment and self- belief.
The premise: Billy (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson) are two salesmen who find themselves struggling in their careers because of the digital age. They somehow manage to get internships at Google where they compete against a talented bunch of youngsters to secure employment.
Takeaway: Whilst critics referred to this movie as being a Google documentary, it’s really about how one needs to adapt themselves in a changing labor market that is being disrupted by technology.
The premise: Jennifer Anniston plays a CEO of a family run company who threatens to shut down his brother Clay’s branch (played by T.J.Miller). In an attempt persuade her to change her mind, Clay throws a lavish Christmas party in order to land a big client to save the day, but things do not go as he intended.
Takeaway: Both funny and rude, this movie is about the challenges involved in running a family business. It also highlights the importance of company culture. In the movie we see the client rejecting Clay’s business proposal because he doesn’t like the culture of his company which led me to the conclusion that you could think that you are the best company in the world but if your culture isn’t good to those outside the company, you run the risk of damaging its reputation and profitability.
The premise: In Horrible Bosses 1 (2011), three friends concoct plans to murder their awful managers in order to secure their happiness. In Horrible Bosses 2 (2014), the three friends featured in the previous movie start their own business but get into problems when an investor cheats them prompting them to plot revenge against their tormentor.
Takeaway: You’ll really relate to this movie if you ever worked for a boss who was passive aggressive, a micro manager or just plain unpleasant to work for. It’s a light hearted look at how three individuals driven to despair by their managers are desperate to ensure their happiness.
The premise: Andy Campbell (played by Charlie Day) inadvertently causes the dismissal of another teacher Strickland (played by Ice Cube). This act leads to Strickland challenging Andy to an after school fight.
Takeaway: Shows the impact of weak leadership trickling all the way down to employees. You’ll end up with disharmony among your employees and a workforce that is isn’t engaged. In this particular story, the inability of leadership to manage an employee relations issue results in a fight between two teachers. Poor governance and a lack of concern for employee welfare are strong themes here.
The premise: Focuses on the life of Alexander (played by Ed Oxenbould) and his family. They each face back to back setbacks. He ends up thinking if he has somehow managed to curse the family.
Takeaway: Ben Cooper (played by Steve Carell) and Kelly Cooper (played by Jennifer Garner) are both working parents who face struggles in their professional lives. In the movie, Ben has the weirdest interview experience when he’s forced to take his toddler son with him to the interview, and Kelly who works for a publishing company, accidently changes the words in a children’s book which result in the book being full of rude words. Despite their individual misfortune, Ben actually ends up impressing in his interview and gets the job whilst Kelly’s mistake actually ends of benefitting her company. The movie is a reminder that we are all not perfect at end of the day and that sometimes it’s ok to have a bad day and you can’t do anything to change it.
So these are my favorite career related movies. If you get the chance, I encourage you to watch them as most of them are comedies so you’ll enjoy them. Happy viewing!
Image Credit: Manu Mohan