Guest post: What Ferris Bueller can teach us

In this guest posting, recruiter David Jackson argues that we have a lot to learn from Ferris Bueller.

OK, it looks like the worst is over. Whether it’s the stimulus levers the government pulled, the ingenuity of all of us hard-working Australians, or just plain luck, we have so far avoided a recession, and after a disastrous year for the digital job market, things appear to be on the upswing.

If you’re an employer, you’ve no doubt promised yourself you’ve learned your lesson and will only hire people who tick all the boxes from here on in. If you’re an employee, you now realise that even digital jobs don’t grow on trees and finding a company with a good cultural fit is important. So how can you make sure you make the most of the recovery and cushion yourself against the next downturn?

You can find inspiration in seemingly odd places – like, for example, Glenbrook, Illinois, home of fictional folk hero Ferris Bueller. I’ve been thinking about Ferris lately, because his creator, director John Hughes, died this month. Growing up in the 1980s, Hughes’ films, most notably Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, formed part of the soundtrack of my life.

FBDO chronicles the adventures of a larrikin high school student who lives life to the full, engineering a day off school for himself and his closest friends so they can take advantage of a beautiful spring day. They cleverly avoid their parents and the dean of students in a borrowed classic car as they wreak gentle havoc across Chicago, and along the way Ferris teaches his best friend how to enjoy himself and stop worrying about the small stuff that comes his way every day.

For a simple comedy about an impish student who makes the most of a sickie, there are plenty of gems of wisdom in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that can easily apply to digital businesses in Australia that want to create a thriving, enduring workplace. Here are a few:

  • Cherish your employees/colleagues and be unrelenting in showing them the good things in life – and in themselves.
  • Establish a large network of admirers and find a way to turn them into loyal customers. When asked who Ferris Bueller was, his classmate said, “He’s the guy who’s getting me out of summer school.” Be the person who gets your customers out of trouble.
  • Believe in yourself. Confidence goes a long way in convincing others as well as yourself. Ferris said: “I quote John Lennon, ‘I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.’ Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus.”
  • Your current situation doesn’t have to be your fate – there’s always another way; look for it.
  • Deal with your fear and learn when it’s appropriate to break the rules. Zen teacher and writer Cheri Huber says, “Every time we choose safety, we reinforce fear.” Or, as Ferris put it, “Do you realise that if we played by the rules, right now we’d be in gym?”
  • Schedule specific times and create elaborate plans for wagging school (at least) nine times a year. As Ferris concluded, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t look around, you could miss it.”

Remember why you got into this fast-paced business in the first place – I can guarantee you that one of those reasons was that it is a fun industry to work in. Working hard, playing hard and looking for positive options helps to create a stimulating and motivating workplace. Let’s all take the time to get creative with our work.

  • David Jackson is managing director and principal talent broker for S2M Digital, a recruitment agency specialising in the digital space. He can be contacted at djackson@s2m.com.au

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