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Three things I learned from 'The Internship'

What do you get when you toss two down-and-out former salesmen into a hiring pool full of young web geeks? More than you might think.

The other day, my wife and I were browsing around our local Family Video store and settled on “The Internship,” expecting only a few cheap laughs. Surprisingly, though, it proved to be a decent, rental-worthy flick.

Although some critics have likened the film to a 2-hour Google promo video, I have to disagree — even if the depicted internship process is nothing like the real thing.

Aside from the one-dimensional plot and the sophomoric Vince Vaughn humor, “The Internship” actually touches on a few topics the tech and web design industries tend to take for granted.

Here are three to focus on. *Warning: The sections below contain details that may spoil the movie for those who have not yet seen it.

It's never too late to learn something new

Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson play two former middle-aged salesmen who suddenly find themselves jobless. On a whim, they apply for an internship at Google even though they know very little about computers or the Internet.

After smooth-talking their way through the initial interview, Vaughn and Wilson are selected to participate in the internship program. Once they arrive at Google headquarters, they quickly discover the other interns are half their age and significantly more tech-savvy.

But that doesn’t discourage them. They realize they’ll need to adapt if they’re to have a shot at being hired. Sure, they humorously stumble along, but they never use their age as an excuse.

Instead they attend seminars, pick the brains of Google executives, and teach themselves the basics of web languages like HTML and CSS.

Sound intimidating? The truth is, it’s never been easier to learn on your own — you just have to have a genuine curiosity. Not only are there a plethora of blogs and books readily available, but online education sites like Treehouse, Code School, and Lynda make it easy to study up for a low monthly cost.

Regardless of whether you want to learn about web design, knitting, or carpentry, the Internet has made it easy to develop a new skill and surround yourself with others who want to do the same. Take advantage!

The web is for people

Throughout the Google internship, Vaughn, Wilson, and their designated team of young geniuses compete against other groups of interns in various challenges.

One in particular is a simple app-building contest. Struggling for a solid idea, Vaughn and Wilson take their team to a nightclub as a way to bond and unwind.

After a wild night of partying, the group stumbles upon an idea for an app that requires users to answer a difficult math problem before they can send a text message while intoxicated.

The app is built and submitted just before deadline and ends up a huge hit. Why? Because the app addresses a problem people frequently encounter. It forces you to do something at a time you normally can’t when you’re drunk — think about what you’re doing.

Need a more practical, real-world example? Google was founded to help people find relevant information quickly online. Apple sought to make computers easier to use and affordable for the average consumer. And Facebook was initially developed to help Harvard students connect with one another.

People were the focus.

No matter your next big idea, never forget that the Internet was made for people. Make sure your website is user friendly with clear directives and not cluttered with bells and whistles.

Creative thinking is the difference maker

It’s no secret that the characters portrayed by Vaughn and Wilson are a couple of oddballs. They aren’t hip to the Silicon Valley culture, they’re a bit overeager, and their age makes them easy targets.

But over the course of the film, it becomes apparent they have honed a skill many of their fellow interns lack: creative problem solving.

When others are mindlessly hacking away in a race against the clock, Vaughn and Wilson are considering other approaches and thinking about how to expand on existing ideas.

It’s something employers wished job applicants and college graduates possessed, according to a 2013 study by The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace that found nearly half of the 704 employers surveyed believe recent graduates can’t communicate effectively and struggle with adapting, problem-solving, and making decisions.

For better or worse, it’s no longer enough to be exceptionally skilled in one or even several facets. Your talents must produce results.

Speed and efficiency will always be valuable in the workplace. But execution without creativity or forethought is like the blind leading the blind.

These are just three things I took away from the movie. Have you seen it? What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments below or tweet at our company Twitter account: @visionaryia. We love hearing from our readers!

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