Last week I published a piece on lifelong learning lessons from the perfectly fine Google recruitment video and/or raucous, adventurous workplace comedy, The Internship. This week I will focus on another perfectly fine (except for the last 20 minutes, but this isn’t a film critic column) feel good workplace comedy, The Intern. The movie stars Robert De Niro as a senior citizen intern at a startup-online-fashion-retailer. Anne Hathaway is the CEO of said startup. Advice is given. Problems are solved. Relationships are built. Here are six lifelong learning tips from The Intern movie.
As was the case last week, below are six categories that will weave together elements of the competencies that our team at The Potentiality uses to help you align personal and professional growth with building healthy communities at work, at school and in your neighbourhood. Each theme will explore how these competencies come together within different examples from each movie.
Ben Whittaker is an experienced and congenial man and everyone likes him a lot pretty quickly because he listens, he’s empathetic, he’s helpful, and his only agenda is to add value for the folks at About the Fit. With humility and authenticity, Ben connects with fellow interns (he even welcomes fellow-intern Davis as a roommate when the young man’s parents kick him out of the house) and also connects with CEO Jules Ostin’s family as a babysitter, friend and mentor.
Being a Respected Rebel means being a benevolent disruptor and innovator while honouring the chain of command.
Conservatism and tradition are elements of Ben’s Respected Rebel-ness. He wears a suit, which is a bit rebellious for an intern with an online fashion startup, and he totally get noticed for his differentiation. Ben is also confident. He believes in his abilities, especially the ability to bring out the potential of others, like Becky, who is Jules’s overwhelmed assistant with untapped abilities.
Jules is annoyed by an ever-growing pile of junk on a central office table. It’s an eyesore for everyone in its proximity and grossly violates the clean, minimalist design of About the Fit. Everyone has the opportunity to do something about the mess, but it’s Ben who comes to work early one day and cleans the table. A lesson here is that you can make a positive impact by solving simple problems. What’s a problem in your workplace that everyone knows about, but no one is doing anything about? Solve it!
According to, um, Google, “Googliness” means having a mashup of passion and drive that’s hard to define but easy to spot. People with this trait think – and, crucially, act – like entrepreneurs.
After Jules mistakenly sends a nasty email to her mother and then convenes a busy IT team to help her, Ben interrupts the meeting with a declaration that breaking into Jules’s mother’s house and stealing the computer is the only way to solve the problem. This is the intangible stuff that he brings to the workplace.
Learning happens everywhere for everyone in this movie. Boys learn to be gentlemen from Ben. Ben learns about fashion from Jules, Cameron and his colleagues. Other interns learn about fashion from Ben. Jules learns about letting go and leaning in from Ben and her husband, Matt (played by Anders Holm). Having a growth mindset is what allows Ben to fit in with the team so seamlessly and so quickly and it’s also what allows for Jules to continue leading her company, but with more clarity in terms of what the role requires of her.
Jules Ostin cares so deeply about so many things in her life that it drives the culture of the company and her family. Ben’s observation of her walking folks in the warehouse through how to properly display the clothes in the boxes reflects the CEO’s attention to detail and, more importantly, the deep passion and commitment that she has for the company and its reputation.