Career Lessons from The Hunger Games

In February I got caught up in the pop culture phenomenon The Hunger Games. This trilogy of books follows Katniss in the distopian society of Panem – America in the future. To keep the country in check, the capitol requires each district (think states) to send one boy and one girl (in their teens) to compete in the annual Hunger Games. Of the 24 that arrive to compete, only one survives. I read all three books in the matter of about a week. They were suspenseful and the author’s writing just compelled you to keep reading. I loved it! Anyway, the first of the Hunger Games movies comes out tomorrow. Well, it’s out tonight at midnight. There’s Hunger Games stuff, everywhere. I even saw a Hunger Games nail polish display last night at Ulta. A couple week’s ago, I came across an article in the USA Today College section titled, “Lessons Learned from The Hunger Games.” I thought I’d share these lessons with you once I realized that not only are they “life lessons” but that they are also great “career lessons.” Instead of rehashing the article or even talking about how each lesson is depicted in the book…I recommend you read the book and read the article. I’ll just share my take on the “career lesson” part. 🙂

1. Recognize your strengths. What is your best talent? What do you like to do and do well? Knowing your strengths can help you make decisions about finding a career or even how to proceed with your career. For example, math is NOT a strength of mine, therefore, I did not pursue a math major in college. An actual strength of mine is positivity and I have used that to decide what I’ll do with my career in student affairs. During my first year of graduate school, I worked for our Assistant Dean of Students as a Student Conduct Officer. While my boss was awesome, I found that I did not function well in a job that was surrounded by negativity pretty much all of the time. Once I was no longer working in that position, I was able to boost my own positivity levels and transfer that energy to the students I was working with in Career Services. My advice to you is take time to figure out what you’re good at and develop those strengths. This is the philosophy behind the assessment StrengthsQuest (or StrengthsFinder). Instead of focusing on what you don’t do well and improving those items to mediocre, focus on the items you naturally do well, and develop those into solid strengths.

2. Realize the value of a good mentor. Mentors can be a fantastic resource of career advice and pep talks. They are people who you trust. They are people have an actual interest in your future, help develop your career path, and potentially help to be just a better version of your current self. At work, this person could be a supervisor, a co-worker, a colleague from a different department (or even a different institution). It can be nice to have a mentor not attached to your department or institution so that you can talk to them about issues you may be having with co-workers or your position. Talking to a third party not involved in the situation can often help you find perspective that you may lacking. If you have a mentor outside of work, you could find them anywhere. An example that comes to mind is through your church, if you are involved in organized religion. In my own experience, even your friends can be mentors. This type of friend tends to be someone who has enough similar interests as you so that you can carry on a good conversation, and at the same time has enough different interests that they can teach you something. In that teaching, or mentoring, you may find yourself with some new interests. I don’t know if I would have gotten into blogging or social media when I did if it were not for this type of friendship. Bottom line, find someone who is willing to invest in you as a person and as a professional, and you could have fantastic seeds for a mentor/mentee relationship.

3. Stay true to who you are. From my own experience, I’ve learned that sometimes the true pieces of who you are can slip away and you don’t even realize it. It’s only when you’ve removed yourself from that situation, or even that job, that you realize you’d lost yourself. This is where a good mentor can come in handy. They can knock you back to reality when needed. Staying true to yourself can start with finding an organization or institution to work for that you believe in. What is the mission? Values? Company culture? All of these things can be good indicators of how you’ll fit into the organization. If you are working for a company that you believe in, it can make it easier to not only stay true to who you are, but to develop further who you are.

So, those are my career lessons from The Hunger Games. I’m excited to check the movie out in theaters…probably not this weekend though since I’ll be hanging out at this fun thing called ACPA National Convention. 🙂

Note on ACPA: I don’t know if I’ll have a chance to blog while I’m at ACPA. However, I strongly encourage you to check out my Twitter feed (on the right side of the screen) for pictures, what I’m learning, and possibly who I’m meeting.

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