Around the world, 2020 has been a year fueled by unprecedented change. Under the threat of a global pandemic, various aspects of our lives have been turned upside down, including our careers.

Around the world, joblessness is at an all-time high, and an increasing number of long-standing small businesses are shutting their doors permanently. Yet change isn’t always a bad thing: Despite its myriad challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic has also opened up opportunities for many people seeking a career change. 

If you’re looking to find a new job or even enter a completely new industry post-COVID, you may find inspiration in unlikely places. Even the movies you’ve been watching to pass the time in social isolation can motivate you to succeed. Whether you prefer comedic films or a thought-provoking drama, Hollywood has plenty of offerings that may just fuel your job search efforts. At the very least, they make for a satisfying and safe movie night.

The Pursuit of Happyness

Will Smith’s portrayal of struggling salesman Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness is considered some of the renowned actor’s finest work. The film follows Gardner, a struggling single father suddenly faced with both job loss and homelessness. Under overwhelming odds, Gardner works his way from an unpaid intern to a paid position as a stockbroker in 1980s San Francisco.

Played by Smith, it’s easy for audiences to sympathize with and root for Gardner, a struggling everyman of sorts. Gardner must undergo extensive training, similar to modern career development training programs, in order to even be considered for a stockbroker position. Many times, under continued adversity, he considers giving up, but ultimately realizes his dreams.

Under the threat of a global pandemic, and without a steady source of income, you may find yourself feeling as hopeless as Gardner does. But you can also follow in the character’s footsteps and optimize your job search by thinking outside the box. You may want to focus on your soft skills and abilities alongside job-specific training. Skills such as creativity and exceptional verbal and written communication will help you stand out from the crowd. 

Jerry Maguire

In 1996’s Jerry Maguire, the protagonist, a successful sports agent humbly portrayed by Tom Cruise, has communication skills to spare. Unfortunately, he takes his ambitions too far, and is let go after publishing a “mission statement” in which he proposes sweeping changes to the established firm where he works.

In the blink of an eye, Maguire’s life turns upside down, and many job seekers navigating a post-COVID landscape can likely relate. Once a promising young upstart, Maguire is effectively blacklisted in the industry and manages to secure a single client, football player Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) Cruise gives a truly nuanced performance as Maguire, for whom unemployment initially seemed an insurmountable challenge. But by staying true to himself, and rising above despair, Maguire ultimately found renewed success, on his own terms. 

The Wolf of Wall Street

Although it might be a stretch to call Martin Scorcese’s The Wolf of Wall Street an “inspirational” film about a unique career path, it sure is fun. Released in 2013 and starring Leonardo DiCaprio in an Oscar-nominated role as Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street ranks among the best films about stock trading.

The award-winning film follows Belfort’s rise and subsequent fall as a cutthroat stockbroker. Interestingly, the film is based on a true story.

Unfortunately, Belfort didn’t come by his success in a completely legal manner. Belfort and his partners ultimately become involved in a massive securities scam in which investors lost millions, resulting in Belfort’s arrest. He spent 22 months in prison, and his story is a colorful example of how you can take it too far in terms of career trajectory.

Get a Job

Of course, films about job searches and career changes can be lighthearted. The Wolf of Wall Street has plenty of comedic charm, but Get a Job provides a rather silly take on the overall job search process. The 2016 film follows Will (played by Miles Teller), a recent college graduate and struggling tech writer who’s searching for steady, stable employment.

Will’s struggles will likely resonate among young job seekers who, like Will, have used an unpaid internship as a catalyst towards gainful employment. Throughout the film, Will must navigate the tumultuous waters of inter-office politics, and also learns the value of networking. In this way, Get a Job is surprisingly relevant to job seekers in a post-pandemic world.

Key Takeaways

As you look to Hollywood for effective job search tips, you likely won’t learn what to include in your resume or best practices for remote interview success. But as you swap out unnecessary demographic information for a list of relevant soft skills on your resume, fictional characters can serve as a source of continued inspiration. If Chris Gardner can rise above homelessness, and Jerry Maguire can enjoy true fulfillment without compromising his beliefs, why can’t you?