9 Holiday Movies With Hidden Career Advice

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: December 15, 2014

Holiday Movies Have Some Good Work Advice

If you're like most Americans, you enjoy one, most, or all of the holiday classics that play around the clock during the holiday season. But I'll bet you didn't realize it's more than just entertainment.

That's right, your favorite holiday classic movies also contain some timeless and accurate advice about work, furthering your career, and work/life balance as well. I mean c'mon, did you really think Rudolph was just pulling a sled? Did you think there was nothing more to Frosty than simply being a magic snowman? And don't be fooled by Clark W. Griswold's goofy outward demeanor, because even he has some valuable things to teach people about getting ahead.

So when you're celebrating the holidays this year around the TV, look for these hidden lessons and then enjoy your favorites in a whole new light.

9. Scrooged

Bill Murray plays a career-obsessed, mean-spirited, win-at-all costs television executive who has alienated everyone in his personal life in order to get ahead at work. And despite being very accomplished professionally, he's friendless and miserable -- except he doesn't even realize it.

It takes being visited by a series of ghosts for him to realize he's been focusing on all the wrong things, but he finally comes around in the end and finds a balance between work and life.

Many of us know this person. Some of us ARE this person. And while there's nothing wrong with hard work and valuing our career accomplishments, that can't be all there is. Without balance, things will eventually topple over and fall. That's why this movie teaches us the importance of working hard, but never forgetting our personal relationships are vital too. Not to mention treating subordinates and coworkers with respect, because no one will want to help you when you finally need it if you've been a heartless miser.

8. Elf

I know you're probably thinking "Elf is just Will Ferrell clowning around in tights, there's no career lesson here." But hear me out.

Even though Buddy the Elf is happy at the North Pole, he's always felt slightly out of place. Like he didn't quite belong. Like there was something more out there and he would never be satisfied until he went out and at least tried to give it a whirl. In short, Buddy took a calculated risk and left a place he was comfortable in order to strike out on his own and try his hand at something different. He also spent most of the movie applying his zany slant on things to his new environment, which is a great example of making your unique characteristics work to your advantage in a new setting.

But I wouldn't advise eating that much sugar. Ever.

7. It's a Wonderful Life

Unlike Buddy the Elf who had a real need for new adventures, James Stewart's character, George Bailey, can't seem to recognize a good thing when he sees it.

Bailey had to come home from college when his dad died to take over the family business. Even though he dreamed about leaving Bedford Falls, he could never seem to get out as one crisis or life event after another conspired to keep him in the place he vowed to leave. He had an important business in town, a wife, kids, and he made the community a better place. But he was blind to all of that because he was only focusing on things he hadn't done instead of the accomplishments he had achieved.

It was only after Clarence showed him what life would be like if he had never been born that he realized what a good thing he had. Likewise, if you're thinking about switching jobs make sure it's for the right reasons and not just because you're in a rut. If you take a step back and look at it objectively, you might find you've got a really good thing going and it would be a shame to throw it all away.

6. Home Alone

Kevin McAllister wasn't even old enough to drive a car or vote when he was left Home Alone, yet he still manages to teach us valuable career lessons every Christmas.

Think about it this way. Kevin was unexpectedly put in an unfamiliar situation in which he initially lacked the tools and experience to get the job done. But when push came to shove, Kevin pulled through. It wasn't always pretty or conventional, but he used his ingenuity and inherent skills to finish the job in the best way he knew how. When in doubt, he simply rolled up his sleeves and got it done. Something the working world could use a bit more of all around.

He also sent a strong message about protecting what's yours and not letting would-be predators come in and erase all of your accomplishments.

5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The Grinch hated Christmas, and he was dead set on ruining it forever. He was never, ever going to change -- until he did.

Despite living apart from the Whos in Whoville and spending copious amounts of time reviling them in every way, shape, and form, the Grinch was ultimately moved by their kindness and goodwill. And because of that, he was able to completely reverse course and improve himself. If you've been working in one fashion for many years, it's never easy admitting you're wrong or that you've been stubbornly clinging to a system that doesn't work. But if you remain open to feedback and constructive criticism, you just might find change is a good thing. You simply have to allow it to happen before you reap the benefits.

Oh, and if you have employees don't run them into the ground like the Grinch did to Max. You won't get the best results and you'll likely be arrested if you strap one of them to a sled. Just FYI.

4. A Christmas Story

You remember Ralphie, right? The kid who wanted a "Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time" more than ANYTHING in the world? Well he has taught us multiple lessons about work.

First of all, persistence is key. He was told "you'll shoot your eye out" no less than 486 times during the course of this movie, yet he kept at it. Leaving reminders for his parents, writing an essay about it in school, and even going right to the top (Santa) to request it. He never let rejection and constantly being rebuffed get him down, and eventually he got what he wanted.

Except then he really did shoot his eye out. Which brings us to Part II of this career lesson: be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.

Perhaps you've got a promotion or new job in mind and you're coveting it like Ralphie did his bb gun. And if you really want it then by all means be that persistent. But if you're only luke warm about it, if it's just for the extra money, or if you're not truly interested in a management position, then give it some more thought. Too many people have their careers derailed because they took a position for which they weren't suited.

3. Frosty the Snowman

Yes, even a fictional magic snowman can teach us about work.

The thing about Frosty is he has to strike while the iron is hot (pun intended). His work is seasonal and he is only in demand in winter, which means he needs to accomplish quite a bit in a relatively small amount of time. Frosty does not have the luxury of dilly-dallying.

This can be directly translated to performance reviews and salary negotiation. Now, either at the end of the year of after Jan. 1, is when most people have job evaluations and it's the prime time to ask for more money. Make sure you have your ducks in a row and use this free tool to see what the median salary is for your job in your area before you go into negotiate. Do it now, before your confidence melts away.

2. Christmas Vacation

Watching Clark W. Griswold in action gives us a clear indication that performance reviews and salary negotiations mean walking a very thin line between self-advocacy and being overly aggressive.

For instance, seeking recognition for a job well done and touching base with your boss is a good thing. When Griswold volunteers to type up his notes for a speech his boss is giving, that was a welcome example of positively injecting yourself into the conversation. However, when things didn't go Clark's way, he took it too far. So even though you sometimes feel like barging into your boss' home, kidnapping him, tying him up, and holding him hostage until he gives you that raise or bonus you deserve -- just don't. It'll never work out as well as it does for Clark.

1. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Ah Rudolph, the quintessential Christmas holiday show and the ultimate example of what you should do in the workplace.

Sure Rudolph didn't look like much, and the other reindeer openly mocked him for being -- and looking -- different. But the brilliance of Rudolph's story and the reason so many people relate is because he's an underdog. Rudolph used what was different about him and turned his perceived weakness into his greatest strength.

Without his nose as Santa's guiding light, Christmas would've been a catastrophe. Likewise, employees need to identify their strengths and always be sure to play to them. Also, you always need to be aware and on the lookout for opportunity, and never hesitate to jump into action when it presents itself.

Write Your Own Successful Script for Success

No salary negotiation follows one set script. But if you at least study the lines, you'll have a much better chance of success. And Salary.com can help you get paid fairly what you do.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.