Will Smith is one of my favourite actors. From his early days as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, to his ongoing role as Mike Lowrey on Bad Boys, he’s made some great TV and movies. I loved him so much that a nine year old Luke and my good mate Adam dressed up in suits and mimed the word to ‘Here come the Men in Black’ for our Mt Annan Public School talent quest. Needless to say we didn’t take home first prize.
But there is one Will Smith film which stands out. Not because I necessarily think it is his greatest film, but it taught me a number of lessons which drive my passion.
Pursuit of Happyness.
For those who haven’t seen the film (you should btw), the film is based on the true story of Chris Gardener – a San Francisco based salesman who due to a range of unfortunate circumstances finds himself homeless with his five-year old son while he competes for a job as a stockbroker as an unpaid intern.
Why do I find this movie so compelling? The fact that Smith’s character Gardener is a highly-intelligent, highly motivated individual yet ended up living in a subway bathroom not only makes compelling theatre, but also shows major societal issues.
Gardner was motivated to succeed, but the system let him down.
Last week as part of a training session our team at WithYouWithMe all discussed what we’re passionate about and what drives us to work at WithYouWithMe. Some of the answers are truly inspiring, but it was the experience of Gardner which drives my passion.
I want to help people who are driven to help themselves, but have been let down by the system.
Our overriding mission at WithYouWithMe is to solve underemployment, which was borne out of helping veterans on their transition journey. Veterans are a perfect example of this passion, with many highly motivated to succeed in the next step in their career, but the current system puts up too many roadblocks. Often giving veterans a simple roadmap of how they can navigate the transition journey is all that’s required to propel them to success.
This idea of overcoming systemic issues is more important now than ever. We’re soon going to be facing a significant spike in unemployment and job losses as the full economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis hits as stimulus starts to taper off. What we will see is a significant number of highly-motivated individuals out of work for the first time in their lives – a situation where that roadmap is looking foggier than ever before.
So what exactly should we do about it? We need to be providing these individuals with a pathway of how they can reenter the workforce. Focusing on upskilling and allowing an individual to reach their potential will go a long way, but to do so we must change the system. If we focus too heavily on an individual’s experience and what they have done in the past, it’s unlikely we will be able to get everyone back to work quickly enough.
It’s going to take a shift in thinking from a lot of different parts of the employment system. I know it’s something WithYouWithMe is working with a number of organisations to allow to happen.
And hopefully no one will need to spend time living rough with their kids while doing an unpaid internship to make it happen.