It won’t have escaped your attention that last Sunday night was the annual Academy Awards where the great and the good of Hollywood lined up for their annual back-slapping and selfie festival. I didn’t watch the whole event – I made that mistake a few years ago - but it was splashed all over Monday’s press. Indeed, it was hard to avoid photos of Neil Patrick Harris in his underwear and John Travolta leering uncomfortably in the background.
However, one thing that did strike me, and strikes me every year, was the lack of accurate representation of the business and employment world in Hollywood movies. Films can have a significant impact on people’s career choices and can even lead individuals down a path they hadn’t considered in the past. Top Gun, for example, kicked off a wave of army and navy recruitment in the United States. Recruiting officers from the armed services even set up stations outside cinemas that were showing the film in an attempt to lure in potential soldiers. One report suggests that applications for Naval Aviators rose by 500% following its release while countless scientists have stated they were influenced by productions like Star Wars and Star Trek.
While these movies had an extremely positive effect on recruitment in their particular fields, you may have noticed that most industries and individual businesses are generally painted in a much more negative light. Films such as Fight Club, The Devil Wears Prada and Horrible Bosses all portray medium-sized organisations as truly awful places to work and the individuals holding positions of power don’t come off much better. After all, who’s ever likely to forget this toe-curling portrayal of middle management in Office Space? And Monolithic, mega-companies tend to come off even worse. The Tyrell and Soylent Corporations, whilst being extreme examples, are essentially seen as the epitome of evil in their respective films.
But why does the film industry portray employers in this way and is there any sign of change on the horizon? Jeremy Hildreth, an identity and brand consultant believes there might be. “Hypothetically, I don’t see why an industry association shouldn’t lobby to have its sector used positively as a kind of product placement.” Currently, very few industries are spared from being tarred with the same brush and the sales arena, in particular, is often portrayed in a particularly negative light. Depending on your viewpoint (and employer), The Wolf of Wall Street was either a perfect advert for working in the industry or a horrific snapshot of the cutthroat sales lifestyle and Glengarry Glen Ross did enough to put anyone off working in property.
Recruitment is one that is largely spared because there are very few high profile films that focus on the industry. Friends with Benefits focuses on the life of an executive recruiter (very briefly) while Headhunters, as the name suggests, also highlights this particular area of the hiring industry before descending into a tale of murder and art theft. However, we’ve outlined below the films that any aspiring recruiter should watch:
Glengarry Glen Ross – Even if this is just to convince you that recruitment is considerably better than property, this is a must-watch. The classic boiler-room sales techniques are likely to be familiar to a few with some questionable employers in their past and it also features one of the greatest monologues in movie history that can’t fail to get you motivated – just make sure you remember your ABCs.
Training Day - A slightly alternative choice and you may be questioning how corrupt policeman and LA gang bangers tie into recruitment, but they do. This is the perfect example of knowing who, and who not, to listen to, something that many recruiters are likely to have faced in their careers. Even though you’re not likely to face a punishment as severe as Denzel does, the message is clear – follow your instincts.
Gladiator – Finally, what better way to get motivated then to watch this masterpiece. Even though there’s no real connection between recruitment and the Roman gladiatorial scene, this film can’t help but get you in the mood to succeed. Pep Guardiola even showed a remixed version of the film to his Barcelona squad before winning the 2009 Champions League final and his is generally a good example to follow.
Do you agree that movies can influence careers?
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