By Sarah Marlor
Pop culture has taught us many things about our careers. In various cases, it has also taught us what not to do. However, when it comes to shining examples of success, nobody comes as close as Anne Hathaway. I know I may be a little bias (I have always wanted my occupation to embody a combination of being Catwoman, a princess and an astronaut). However, I think we can all agree that the characters she plays often exemplify empowering messages of growth and triumph – particularly in relation to their professions and careers.
Let’s unpack three of her most iconic films: The Princess Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada, and The Intern, and re-learn some of the classic career truth-bombs that Hathaway has dropped on the big screen.
The Princess Diaries
Whilst this movie isn’t exactly relatable (unless you’re Meghan Markle), it tells the magical tale of Mia Thermopolis (played by Hathaway) discovering her birth right as a real-life princess. Throughout the film, Mia takes the audience on a hilarious journey as she protests her way through ‘princess lessons’.
But what does this have to do with your career?
Mia teaches us to make authentic decisions.
As a result of Mia’s royal rise to fame and the sudden media frenzy that followed, Mia was subjected to a whole lot of external pressure. Her friends and family were often seen weighing in on her decision to take the thrown or not. We see Mia jump into a decision that was not truly hers, as she fumbled her way to the crown. Following a particularly clumpy incident, she then decides to reject her offer to royalty.
After some deep self-exploration, and a taking a serious look at her values and preferences, Mia decides that she is truly ready to move into the castle. What is important here is her commitment to her own best interests. Landing at this life-changing decision was authentic to her, and was not shaped by her grandmother or best friends.
So, next time you have a big career decision to make. Yes, listen to those around you but make sure you prioritise your own insight. Let your personal passions, motivations and strengths drive your decision. Remember: you are the expert of you!
The Devil Wears Prada
This classic film may be slightly more realistic than the previous – you know, casually dripping in head-to-toe designer threads on the reg’. For Andrea Sachs (played by Hathaway), this was certainly not her comfort zone when she started her role as Assistant to the powerful fashion magazine Editor, Miranda Priestly. A tale of choice and consequence, we follow Andrea as she navigates her way through the brutal fashion world until she ultimately finds her feet.
What is the career lesson here?
Andrea teaches us to find a mentor.
In the early scenes of the film, Andrea is seen struggling to keep her head above water at work – she is tormented for her fashion choices, receives no formal training, and struggles to integrate into a workplace that promotes working long hours fuelled solely by copious amounts of coffee. In the midst of this skirmish, Andrea befriends Nigel – the Art Director of the magazine. He is warm, responsive, and tuned into how the organisation runs.
Nigel spends quality time with Andrea, teaching her everything from how to dress for success, to how to delicately navigate the complicated workplace politics of the tough magazine. It is through this relationship that Andrea begins to mobilise her career and starts to kick some serious goals. With Nigel’s support, and years of experience up his sleeves, Andrea is provided with a confidence boost and a friend to call upon.
Having a mentor is imperative when starting your career. Mentoring presents many benefits, both professionally and personally, including increased knowledge sharing, additional support and encouragement, and the opportunity to learn from a different perspective and skill set. So, go find yourself a Nigel!
Whilst this film may have bombed at the box office, it still reveals some serious insight into the contemporary workplace. The film explores the unexpected bond that develops between Jules Ostin (played by Hathaway… obviously), the CEO of an e-commerce start up, and Ben Whittaker, a Seventy-year-old, retired widow. With a hint of scepticism, Jules agreed to participate in a community outreach program where seniors would intern at her firm.
Jules and Ben teach us that diversity is key.
Whilst the ride to multi-generational team success was not initially easy for Jules and Ben, we slowly see them both embrace their different interests and strengths. With Ben open to up-skilling his technical capabilities, and Jules learning many life lessons from Ben’s varied personal and professional experiences (especially re: work-life balance) – both individuals flourish towards the end of the film!
With the workforce becoming increasingly diverse, we can now all expect to operate within a landscape that is rich in varied culture, skills, and knowledge. Hot tip: use this to your advantage! Do as Ben and Jules do! Learn from those around you, and collaborate with people who have different experiences as you to encourage innovation and growth.
There you have it! Anne Hathaway (or rather, her characters) schooled us!
We now know that it is imperative to be honest and truthful with ourselves when making key career decisions, ensure we find a mentor to bounce ideas off, and that we learn to fully embrace, and immerse ourselves within the current diverse workplace!
Sarah is a driven HR practitioner with employment experience spanning across talent acquisition, on-boarding, customer service and career advisor roles, so it is fair to say that people are her thing! With a bursting enthusiasm for helping individuals work towards being their best selves, Sarah brings a passionate vibrancy to her current role as a Recruitment Advisor at the University of Technology Sydney.
Featured image courtesy of Variety