29 June, 2011

The Company Men: The Star-Studded Downsizing Film You'll Want To Watch With Your Unemployed Friends

Despite it's star-studded cast - Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner, Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, Maria Bello, Craig T. Nelson  - the most honest film I've ever seen about the resetting of America's job market, was a box office flop - perhaps because its natural market (unemployed people) can no longer afford to see movies. That's too bad, because The Company Men deserves to be seen by every right-sized, downsized, unemployed and underemployed American so I hope my unemployed and underemployed readers will rent it as I did last week.

The Company Men's main character, Ben Affleck, is a $150k per year account executive at a ship-building company until he is fired along with thousands of his co-workers by CEO (Craig T. Nelson) and the HR director (Maria Bello). The Company Men realistically follows Affleck as he goes to company-paid "outplacement", sells his upscale house, sells his Porsche, moves back in with his parents, deals unsuccessfully with headhunters, loses job opening after job opening to younger MBAs willing to work for less than half what he used to make, lets his wife go back to work (she's a nurse so she can work any time she wants)  and eventually takes a manual labor job carrying building supplies to the skilled laborers at his brother-in-law's (Kevin Costner) construction firm.

My regular readers will understand why I especially liked the advice Affleck got from the outplacement firm: they told him and his fellow outplaced workers to make a list of everybody they know - friends, relatives, former co-workers, former bosses, former clients - anybody who might help them find their next job.

The Company Men is honest about ageism. One of Affleck's co-workers (Chris Cooper) commits suicide when he discovers that no matter how much he amends his resume and dyes his hair, he's just too damn old to get a job. When Affleck's old company loses a major account and starts a second round of firings, workers over age 50 are fired in disproportionately high numbers but company attorneys insist they can get away with it.

The Company Men is honest about what I call the "low percentage game" of sending resumes and going to interviews. If you've sent thousands of resumes and gone to dozens of interviews that didn't lead to job offers, you may be tempted to think there's something wrong with your resume or your interview skills - and there are plenty of people who are more than willing to take advantage of your insecurities and charge you hundreds of dollars to write you a killer resume or thousands of dollars to coach you how to interview. My readers know that the truth: its not better resumes or better interview skills but better relationships that will get you the job. The candidate with a great resume is no match for the candidate who is introduced to the hiring manager by a mutual friend. I call this mutual friend the "social co-signer". (Read more in my Feb 28 thru March 5 posts).

The Company Men is honest about where your next job is likely to come from: somebody you already know. Affleck finally escapes manual labor with his brother-in-law and gets back into a "more suitable" job when one of his fellow fired executives (Tommy Lee Jones) uses the profits from his stock options to start his own company and hire a few of the down-sized workers.

Kudos to John Wells for writing and directing the most honest film I've ever seen on job search in modern America. Kudos to The Weinstein Group for getting this realistic, almost instructional film out on DVD. Rent it today. Watch it with a few of your job seeking friends.

Higginbotham At Large is not affiliated with anonymously or pseudonymously published websites - even sites that quote from or link to my blog. See my March 12 & 13 2011 posts for details.

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