Five Career Lessons from The Wizard of Oz

One of my favorite childhood films, The Wizard of Oz, offers many wonderful life lessons.  As a devotee of professional development as well as the film, here are several of my favorite career take-aways from Oz.

1. Seeking Your Dream Job in the Emerald City
While the term “career path” implies a straight line to a destination dream job, the reality is stuff happens — like avoiding a bad witch with a minion of flying monkeys — that makes the path curve in unexpected directions.

To survive, you’ll need to carefully navigate a series of twists and turns that involve obstacles to be overcome and opportunities for self-discovery. As Dorothy Gale learned, it’s an incredible adventure that’s best shared with people you trust.

2. The Good Witch or Bad Witch School of Management
While at some point we’re likely to work for an Elvira Gulch-like clone, wouldn’t it be great to have Glinda the Good Witch watching out for us on the job? Along with that wishful thinking, many people naively presume that everyone in a position of authority is competent and capable of leading and/or managing effectively.

Sadly, not every manager is skilled at communicating and working well with others, and keeping a bucket of water nearby won’t remedy the situation. In addition to bad bosses, there are managers who feel they have to “hide behind the curtain” to be perceived as power players. Nonetheless, it’s important to respect even those self-proclaimed Wizards’ position and authority level, even if you don’t respect them personally.

3. The Path to Wisdom
The Scarecrow’s journey may have ended with being awarded an official degree, but there’s no end to seeking knowledge. On-the-job training and continual learning (e.g.,  reading, networking, personal and professional development, etc.) are just as important as formal education.

4. Courage in Your Endeavors
Despite the Lion’s false bravado, you can’t lead when you’re paralyzed by fear of failure. “Fake it til you make it” isn’t an effective strategy for the King of the Jungle or anyone in a position of power. As Conan O’Brien acknowledged, “[Don’t] be afraid to fail … whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction …”

5. Heart – a Key to Success
As the Tin Man would learn, “Do work with your whole heart and you will succeed — there is so little competition.” – Elbert Hubbard

And one other quote from Conan O’Brien that relates to Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Lion on their fantastic journey:  “Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.”

Your turn
There are many more film-related lessons that are applicable to the workplace, and I welcome you to share your favorites.

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