Workplace Survival Tips from The Hunger Games

March 23, 2012 4:15 PM

We love a good blockbuster with a strong female heroine and it doesn't get much more fierce than The Hunger Games' Katniss Everdeen. But long before the movie release had fans lining up, Amanda and I plowed through the books by Suzanne Collins, staying up late on work nights and calling eachother in the morning to discuss like old-young adults. I can't even call it a guilty pleasure because there's nothing wrong with two thirty year old women enjoying a good post-apocalyptic YA book when it's so full of lessons you can apply in your everyday life. It's surprising how many similarities there are between the district of Panem and recessionary society and between a televised fight to the death and the race to the top of the work ladder. Here are some of the things we learned from Katniss about staying on top of it all…

Katniss using bow and arrow in The Hunger Games

1. Learn a skill that feeds you

Even if it doesn't feed you literally, like Katniss' hunting, it's good to have a skill, or skills, that will always enable you to put food on the table. It affords true confidence because you know you can face worst case scenarios. Even if Katniss didn't consciously think she'd be using her hunting skills in a reality show death fight, she did grow up watching the Games, and somewhere in the back of her mind she must have known she could handle herself. The ideal approach is to identify and hone those skills that get you what you need in the present while at the same time building towards the thing you were meant to do.

Katniss dressed up for The Hunger Games

2. Look good

You don't have to look like Jennifer Lawrence to look good. Looking good is about effort and originality and showing people you care, as Katniss' stylist, Cinna, taught her. His designs were audacious enough to make people notice the District 12 team and thoughtful enough to win everyone over. And when people notice you and like you, they'll listen to you and help you. So, play your own stylist and show people you're there to win.

Haymitch and Katniess in The Hunger Games

3. Find a mentor

The alcoholic Haymitch may not have been the most forthcoming mentor, but he'd been where Katniss was going and had succeeded. As a result, he had the best advice to give her. You may be smarter, better and less drunk than your senior co-workers, but they've seen and done a lot more than you, so take in what they have to say with an open mind.

One of the most important things Haymitch told Katniss was to lay low during training and observe the strengths and weaknesses of her competitors. He advised her  to save her own amazing archery skills for the Gamemakers' eyes only, since they would be the ones judging and scoring her on her skills (and building her hype for the competition), and a secret skill could take the competition off guard at the right moment. So, don't be in a rush to show everyone how good you are at everything all the time and run yourself ragged. Just make sure you do it really well when it really counts.

Katniss in The Hunger Games

4. Pace yourself

Sure, you could go for the giant Cornucopia right away and take on the major risks associated with that kind of move, or you can play it calmly, safely, and pace yourself, like Katniss did. Sleep, rest, water are also as essential to workplace survival as they are to the arena. So, instead having a heart attack in your thirties, develop a smart strategy for doing great work and reaching your goals and try to maintain some balance. It'll make you a consistently strong player and keep you in the game for the long haul.

Katniss and Primrose in The Hunger Games

5. Be kind and genuine

She might be a good killer, but Katniss has heart, and that makes her more than a great competitor – it makes her a leader. She volunteered for the Games to spare her sister, she made friends with Peeta, she wore the Mockingjay pin to show allegiance to her home town, she defended Rue, she refused to abandon Peeta, and her heroine status grew and grew from a genuine place. In any situation, getting help and cooperation from people, inspiring them, even changing the way they think starts with showing that you're not just out for yourself.

Katniss and Gale in The Hunger Games

6. Make them earn your trust

Was Katniss off making friends and sharing secrets with all the other Tributes during training or at the start of the Games? Hell no. You don't need to be best friends with everyone at work right away. Just wait to suss out who the quality people are and make them your allies. And remember, as long as competition for roles or promotions is potentially there – which it will always be – betrayal is always possible, so never be too loose-lipped.

Enjoy the book or the movie, then back to work on Monday and let the games begin!

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