Mr. De Niro Teaches Soft Skills

Building SkillsIf you haven’t yet seen the film The Intern, starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, stop reading right now and go buy a ticket. This one is a must-see for anyone old enough and fortunate enough to be teaching at a community college. Spoilers are about to follow in this post, so keep reading only if you don’t mind having your cinematic experience tainted by my efforts.

The Intern recounts the experiences of 70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker (De Niro), who accepts a “senior internship” with an e-commerce company run by Jules (Anne Hathaway). The story is a feel-good movie in the best possible way. It walks the tightrope between heart-warming and saccharine, between thought-provoking and moralizing, between farce and melodrama. The characters are fully developed and superbly cast.

As the story unfolded, the “soft skills” celebrated in Beth Mann’s recent presentation to our faculty kept springing to mind. Ben learns from his younger colleagues even as he teaches them a thing or two…or twelve…about how to be a good employee and a decent human being.  Ben clearly understands:

  • The importance of being on time. He sets not one but two alarm clocks each night before retiring.
  • That clothes make the employee. Ben wears a suit in spite of the company’s casual dress code, noting that, “I’m comfortable in a suit.” The_Intern_Poster-Robert-De-Niro-Anne-Hathaway
  • That you can learn something from everyone. He graciously accepts tutorials on tech skills from his savvier coworkers.
  • That helping others trumps sitting around. He offers to help with mundane tasks and comes in early to tackle jobs to make his boss’s life easier.
  • That explosive issues require prompt but thoughtful solutions. (I won’t ruin those parts for you.)
  • The importance of showcasing the talents and accomplishments of others.

You will probably find enough examples in The Intern to fill a blog post of your own. In fact, why don’t you see it and then send me your thoughts? I promise to publish and give you the glory…because that’s what Ben would do.


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