“Devil Wears Prada” Lesson: You’ve Got to Develop Career Self-Awareness
No one purposely makes a bogus move hoping it will lead to a major screw up. It doesn’t happen that way. I have, however, seen myself make a string of seemingly benign choices that over time led me to a very painful destination. In the movie “The Devil Wears Prada,” Anne Hathaway’s character Andy Sach gives us a big screen lesson on how little decisions over a period time can take us to a place we would have rather not gone.
DWP begins with Andy turning down Stanford law school for a position under NYC fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly. Andy doesn’t care for fashion or the admin position itself, but sees it as a first step in for launching her journalism career. Her friends and family are scratching their heads wondering why she made that call, but they support her nonetheless.
What begins to surprise everyone around Andy is how Miranda’s constant demands consume her. First she goes from a drab Midwest look to New York sheik. Then we see her repeatedly interrupt dinner with her father (who flies in from out of town for a short visit) to arrange Miranda’s flights so she can leave Florida during hurricane weather. Later we see her miss her boyfriend’s birthday party because she couldn’t get away from an afterhours engagement.
Those closest to her see the problem clearly. They point out the craziness of it all even catching her compromising herself. Her reaction is to outright deny it. She’s convinced herself it’s only a wardrobe change. But those around her (and us watching in the cinema) see how addicted she’s become to delivering on Miranda’s every request.
As a father of three daughters, I caught myself wincing a few times when she made some clearly bad decisions. I found myself hoping she’d come to her senses thinking, “How can she not see what’s happening to her?” But as I thought about it some more, I realized she had slipped down the same slippery slope I know I have taken myself.
It reminded me of my DOT.COM days when I made my supposed “career super move.” It came with promises of huge financial rewards taking my career to the next level. The learning opportunities were tremendous. I figured the sacrifice was worth it. What I failed to notice is how quickly the excitement and stress of the new gig set in. It was impossible for me to disconnect. I did acquire knowledge and experience that drives my career to this day. But looking back, I don’t like the person I had become. I can best explain it by describing myself as a rude, disconnected house guest. My head was constantly buried at work when I could have been making the most of what little time I had at home.
Developing self-awareness is a “gotta have” for stopping this drift. It’s the clarity that prevents us from taking too many steps down that dark alley to avoid that danger that lurks ahead. Self-awareness is my ability to recognize and acknowledge my mood, emotional state and motivation at a given time. It’s becoming aware and recognizing these internal drivers (many of which are deeply ingrained) early on so I can circumvent their ability to take over.
Becoming self-aware is not easy. Not only that, the things you may discover about yourself can be downright painful. See I’m the kind that dislikes having to admit, “My actions say my work is more important than my wife of twenty-five years and three daughters.” I’m not the kind that likes facing the message I send when I’m perpetually postpone visiting my 89 years old grandfather. I care for him, but my action sometimes say otherwise.
For other people it may mean having to face personal monsters most of us prefer stay quietly hidden in the closet. Leaving things as they are allows us to continue doing our thing with a clean conscience.
Granted, in these tough economic times, you have to make sure you keep the job that pays the bills. We have to stay focused and do our best. But is that all that’s driving us? What other things outside our field of vision push us to do what we do? And what are the thing we can do to increase our self-awareness so we avoid trouble before it stares us right in our face?