Build Your Career and Life with Lessons from ‘The Internship’

UPDATED: July 1, 2022
PUBLISHED: June 23, 2022
Build Your Career and Life with Lessons from ‘The Internship’

It’s high time we had some synergy around here, so let’s get some going this week with our parent brand, SUCCESS, by focusing on the future of work.

How exactly do you do that with a motivational film criticism podcast? By talking about a movie that’s about work. That’s why we’re looking at The Internship this week.

It’s a great movie with plenty of personal development takeaways to sink our teeth into. So, get your teeth ready to sink in. Welcome back to SUCCESS Movie Rewind, the only personal development podcast talking about a movie Vince Vaughn wrote.

Embrace life’s irony.

I won’t recount too much of the plot of The Internship, but here’s the idea: Billy McMahon (Vince Vaughn) and Nick Campbell (Owen Wilson) are 20th century salesmen in a 21st century market, and they get downsized. They stumble their way into an internship with Google, and comedy (and character development) ensues.

That’s all you really need to know about the plot. Now, take a minute and go listen to the Alanis Morissette classic “Ironic.”

That concludes our first and last episode of SUCCESS Music Rewind, but it springboards us head-first into our first SUCCESS Movie Memento™ for this week: Embrace life’s irony. 

That song is the pump-up song McMahon and Campbell are listening to before going to meet with a client and finding out that they have lost their jobs. We have a little on-screen irony playing out because they have no idea they’re about to be fired, but everyone else does.

They take the loss of their sales jobs pretty hard, but, as the movie reveals, they ultimately have to embrace the irony in order to move forward with their careers and lives. The duo doubles down on the energy that carried them far in old-school sales to land a coveted Google internship.

We could all learn from these two. As you push forward in your career and life, you’re almost certain to encounter a setback or failure that was a long time in the making but completely unknown to you. Unlike the scenarios Alanis Morissette describes in her classic song, that’s ironic. 

Embrace it. It doesn’t mean you can’t mourn what you’ve lost, whether it’s time, money, a job, whatever. It just means you have to accept that irony is a part of life, one you can use to move yourself forward.

Sometimes, you just have to break the blender.

At one point, we see McMahon and Campbell interviewing for their Google internship with a group of much younger, more tech-savvy candidates. The interviewers give this classic “brain buster” question: You are shrunken down to the size of a nickel and dropped to the bottom of a blender—what do you do?

The dialogue that follows is great. Campbell—who notes that he and McMahon used to sell blenders—points out that, if there’s no liquid in the blender, they can lie on their backs as flat nickels and wait when the blender turns on, safe from the whirling blade. Befuddled, the interviewer says that once it turns on, the blender is on forever. Campbell doesn’t accept that; even the best blenders in the world will break after several hours of continuous use, he says.

After that blender breaks, Campbell and McMahon would climb out and become “two nickel-sized men in the free world. Think of the possibilities!”

Possibilities, indeed. They could repair sunglasses or even go inside people’s bodies to cure diseases, they say. It’s wacky, but I love it. Here’s why: They’re thinking outside of the box, hardly even noticing the path the interviewer laid out for them. And they’re speaking to their own truth. They were nickels who just got out of a blender. They lost their identity as salesmen and now have to remake themselves in a world that feels so much larger than it once did.

Many of us reach a point in our careers and lives where we feel that way. And that’s when it’s important to remember our second SUCCESS Movie Memento™: Sometimes, you just have to break the blender. We either have to break the blender we’re stuck in to enable our own growth, or the blender breaks unexpectedly and we have to reconfigure ourselves in a new setting. In any case, let the blender break.

Don’t outcast the outliers.

Thanks in large part to their performance during the interview, the guys get the internship. But they’re just at the start of their journey. They’re older than the other interns, and they’re less knowledgeable about stuff you would assume is important around Google HQ. Among their cohort, they’re outliers.

As we watch the movie, we see that discounting McMahon and Campbell’s value because of their outlier status would be a mistake. And that’s the inspiration for this week’s third SUCCESS Movie Memento™: Don’t outcast the outliers.

As repeat listeners of this podcast will know well, we love double meanings around here. And this Memento™ does not disappoint. We get this handy little double meaning for “outliers” in that we shouldn’t discount outliers who are people we encounter, and we shouldn’t discount outliers within ourselves.

As you build your business or work toward whatever goal it is you’re trying to achieve, you will meet and/or work with others. Some will be different—it will be clear that they think differently, or they may come from circumstances entirely different from the norm in the environment you’re in. Don’t discount them. They could bring a new perspective or even a game-changing evolution to what you’re trying to achieve.

Then, make sure you’re not casting out the outliers inside your own mind. To a certain extent, we learn to do this as we develop. The world teaches us what we can and can’t, should and shouldn’t do, and we listen. But after you’ve matured, you may feel certain outlier thoughts or ideas that you’ve previously cast out coming back to you. If they’re coming back again and again, there’s probably a reason. Don’t just cast them out again—give them a shot.

That’s where I’ll wrap it up for The Internship. It’s a fantastic movie with a lot to teach us, and if you haven’t seen it at all or just haven’t seen it in a while, I suggest you give it a viewing. Until next week, Rewinders. 

Alex Stevens invented motivational media criticism and reinvents the genre every week on SUCCESS Movie Rewind. Alex is also a lawyer, creative consultant, and artist, sometimes all at once. Alex lives with his family in Dallas, Texas.