Five Career Tips I Learned from Willy Wonka

It doesn’t take pure imagination to realize that when it comes to your career, inspiration may come from the least likely of places — a concept we’ll explore in this two part series of posts.

It also doesn’t seem possible that four decades ago “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” hit the silver screen. Growing up, it was one of the few movies I always made sure to watch whenever it was on TV. I’m sure I wasn’t alone.

The movie features a cast of wise, worldly folks, including good ol’ Grandpa Joe, Bill the candy store owner, and Charlie’s teacher Mr. Turkentine, although between Grandpa Joe’s general lack of get-up-and-go most days, Bill’s lack of career advancement, and Mr. Turkentine’s lack of patience, especially when calculating difficult percentages, they may not be great candidates for job advice.

There are always the self-made men in the film, including Violet’s dad, used car salesman extraordinaire Sam Beauregarde, as well as Veruca Salt’s dad, the nut tycoon. But unless you think swindling or buying your way to the top are viable career options, let’s look elsewhere for our mentoring (and parenting) guidance.

For serious career advice you can use, look no further than the main man himself – Willy Wonka. His lines are filled with sage advice that can help you better any employment situation.

Tip #1 — So much time and so little to do.
A pitfall that many people fail to avoid in the workplace is unavailability. If you want 9-to-5 pay, then work 9-to-5. But these days, you’re sure to find that good jobs can be demanding of your time. BlackBerries, laptops, and VPN connections make us potentially way more available to our employer’s beck and call. If you’re not willing to be available whenever needed, you will come off as unreliable to your superiors. Model employees are reliable whenever and for whatever.

Tip #2 — If the good Lord had intended us to walk, he wouldn’t have invented roller skates.
Another mistake many people make is avoiding any travel, after-hours duties, or special assignments that may come up at work. Ducking work is going to get you nowhere faster than a slow boat on a thick, rich, chocolately river. If you’re unable, or worse, unwilling to go where your superiors need you to go, you could find yourself without a job or stuck in one that allows you plenty of time to catch up on your old movie viewing.

Tip #3 — No, no, don’t speak. For some moments in life, there are no words. Run along now.
Communication skills are essential to anybody who expects to move up in an organization. I learned this from Wonka mainly because communication isn’t his strong suit, and that’s very apparent. Even so, I think he’s mostly being the naughty candy maker rather than a bad communicator when he tells Mrs. Teevee, “Fortunately, small boys are extremely springy and elastic” after her son shrinks himself. Stating the fact that putting him in the special taffy-pulling machine should do the trick is pure harmless fun, right? Nonetheless, he makes his point clear.

Tip #4 — A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.
Even the most hard-nosed boss realizes that a team needs to cut loose every now and then. When appropriate, a little nonsense can go a long way to maintain some sanity, especially if your workplace is unusually stressful. But some departments might need a little help. If you work in a demanding environment, the rewards of some much-needed nonsense could go far. Some of the most productive departments you’ll find in any company are the happy ones, so letting off a little steam is highly recommended. I don’t necessarily recommend a Fizzy Lifting Drink-fueled acrobatic flight to the top of the Bubble Room, but it’s important to make sure you and your team laugh a little and take a moment to chill out every now and then.

Tip #5 — Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple.
I’m not much of a drinking man, but I think I’m as tempted as the next guy by some tasty butterscotch ripple. Despite that, Wonka’s focus here is obviously the 93% perspiration (remember, please don’t involve Mr. Turkentine when it comes to percentages.) It’s no surprise that Wonka is a fan of hard work. He’s enterprising, enthusiastic, dedicated, if not a little loony, but he surely reaps the rewards from his diligence (and perspiration). If only Mr. Slugworth had the same mindset. Genuine hard work doesn’t only pay off in Wonka’s Inventing Room. Bringing a good work ethic to your everyday duties is welcome in any workplace. Just make sure you keep up with the whereabouts of your Everlasting Gobstoppers.

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  1. dan Reply

    nice article, love the inspiration but i have to wonder what the equivalent of hiring ompa lompa’s is and how the hr department would view this suggestion!

    1. John Mark Ivey Reply

      Interesting point to ponder Dan. I’m not sure how the job market is in your area, but I’m sure we could find some folks in my area to dress up in green hair, orange faces, and walk around on their knees if they had to for gainful employment.