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4 Career lessons from Marley and Me

The 2008 comedy-drama Marley and Me is most memorable due to its main star, an adorable but badly behaved golden Labrador. We may think that the only lessons we can gain from Marley and Me involve how to cope with dogs so wayward they get banned from dog training class, but when they’re not busy dealing with Marley’s exploits, the main characters in the movie, Jenny and John Grogan hold down successful careers as journalists. Although their careers are more of a background plot and take second place to Marley’s mischief, there are still some valuable career lessons we can learn from Marley and Me.

  1. Take inspiration from anything around you

    John Grogan often suffered from writers block and lack of inspiration. When he was struggling to think of things to write about for his column, he found that he did his best writing when he moved away from more serious topics and focused on his everyday life and the challenges this presented, namely looking after Marley. It’s a good lesson for our careers – when we’re looking for inspiration, sometimes try looking closer to home. There are always things in our personal lives that others would find interesting or amusing, even if we think they’re mundane.    

  2. Your dream career might not be where your real talents lie.

    John is portrayed as being very unsettled in his career. He has ambitions to become an investigative journalist, but eventually has to give this up and settle on being a columnist. It may not be what he planned but John soon realises that he has a real talent for writing relatable and funny columns and finally accepts that this is where his true talent lies. It’s the same in real life – we might find that we pick a career that is what we think we want, but in reality it’s not where our true destiny is.

  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for a raise when appropriate

    In order to support his wife Jenny when she wants to give up work, John decides to ask his boss for a raise. Unfortunately, he hasn’t planned out his approach that well and answers the question “Why should I give you a raise” with the tentative response, “Because I’m doing a good job?” which sounded more like a question than a positive statement. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a raise, but make sure you go about it in the right way. Prepare evidence of your achievements and ensure you research the market thoroughly so you know what your contemporaries are earning. In other words, prepare concrete evidence of why you’re worth the extra money.

  4. Don’t be resentful of co-workers or partners

    John sometimes begrudges the life of his single colleague, Sebastian, who gets to travel to exotic locations and write the kind of things that John would like to write about. However, when John meets up with him again many years later, he’s still doing the same thing and hasn’t really evolved. John, whose life has taken a different track, finds he no longer has anything in common with him. Most of us at some point in our careers have found ourselves envious of one of our co-workers, but it’s important to try not to let this get to us. They might seem like they have the perfect lives and careers, but we all have our own paths in our careers - so try to concentrate on your own one.  

Marley and Me perfectly epitomises a couple’s journey through life and their career highlights along the way. Whilst we get the feeling that John Grogan is constantly seeking more from the career that he’s got, he finally learns how to live in the moment and appreciate what he has.  And through it all is his constant companion, the adorable Marley. As John says in the movie, “A dog doesn't care if you're rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his.”

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