Eight career lessons Disney movies teach us

Date published

Friday 29 January 2021

Our resident ‘Mouseketeer’ Evelyn Bell-Jones gives us eight career lessons we can learn from Disney.

Disney, the ultimate Mickey Mouse company, is a goliath of popular culture. From Donald Duck to Tony Stark via Darth Vader and Buzz Lightyear, Disney owns it all. So what can we each learn from Disney’s films in terms of employability and career development? Careers Coach and our resident ‘Mouseketeer’, Evelyn Bell-Jones, gives us eight career lessons we can learn from Disney.

I have always been a massive Disney fan.

In reception, I remember being asked by my teacher what we wanted to be when we grew up. All the kids in my class wanted to be firefighters, nurses and police officers.  I, of course, wanted to be the little mermaid.

Unsurprisingly, my dream didn’t come true, but I do believe our favourite Disney characters could provide us with some valuable career lessons!

Here are a few of mine:

Never stop learning

I was a real-life Belle from Beauty and The Beast whilst at university. I was constantly reading journal articles, research papers and always had my head in a book.

Belle from Beauty and the Beast stood on ladder

In the workplace, consistently learning new skills helps you to develop and keeps your role interesting and engaging. Taking on further training and development opportunities will open doors for your career, and if you work for an employer who wants to invest in you, they will encourage this.

If you think there’s a skills gap on your CV, there are so many learning opportunities you can utilise. Your Add+Vantage module, online training such as LinkedIn Learning, or the old-school library approach, can help you to build your skills in a particular area.

Hard work pays off

Most things don’t come easy in life. We can’t be like Mary Poppins and click our fingers to make things happen. Tiana from The Princess and The Frog, however, had a vision to own her own restaurant and worked two different jobs through the day and night to achieve her goals.

University is challenging, and with the juggling of assignments, applications and factoring in time for a social life, it’s easy to lose focus. Try to visualise your end goal and with each step you’ll become closer to it!

Tiana from The Princess and the Frog looking at a mirror


Build your resilience

Mulan climbed the log tower, and even though she kept sliding back down she finally made it to the top! The moral? Life will always throw obstacles your way. Perhaps you failed an assignment recently or were not shortlisted for an interview – the important part is how you deal with the setback.

Graduates need to be resilient now more than ever before, due to the competitive nature of the job market. Try to lift your head back up and bounce back when things don’t always go to plan. It is important to treat obstacles as a learning process, and make sure you ask for feedback from your employer or peers so you can identify your areas of development.

Fa Mulan from Mulan with the caption, "Believe you can then you will"

Sometimes you have to work with people you don’t like

Do you remember how much Woody disliked Buzz in the first Toy story? Regardless, he still put his reservations to the side and welcomed Buzz to the group.

Often a working environment requires you work alongside others you clash with, or, at the very least, wouldn’t normally socialise with. Try to have an open mind, and be aware of your own emotions and actions.  Sometimes getting to know someone is all it takes. After all, at end of the film, Woody and Buzz were inseparable!

Toy Story dressed in hot weather clothes looking out of window

Fight for what you care for

Pocahontas stood up for what she believed in, fought for her people, her homeland, John Smith and all the things she cared deeply about.

Try to find an organisation which shares the same values as you, as these influence the working culture and behaviour. Usually within the interview process the values become a primary recruiting tool, and you will be required to do your research beforehand. Moreover, if you want to change something you feel isn’t right or doesn’t work, make your voice heard! It’s unlikely you’ll save anyone’s life, but you might make a real impact.

Pocahontas looking to the side with her hair blowing in the wind

Develop your emotional intelligence

In Frozen, Elsa suppresses her emotions and hides her true self from the outside world.

It’s important to be able to deal with emotions in a healthy and constructive way. Developing your social skills, self-awareness, and overall emotional intelligence is key to success; not just in the workplace but in all areas of life.

Positive working relationships increase also your satisfaction and well-being. If you’re bottling up a problem, share it with someone you can trust, then perhaps have an open space to discuss areas of improvement with peers in a constructive way.

Don’t build yourself an ice kingdom – sometimes you just have to let it go.

Frozen cast chin-deep in snow

Be curious

Alice followed a talking rabbit down a rabbit hole and drank from a bottle in wonderland.

We’re not recommending you take up recreational drugs, but it’s good to be curious and try new things. For every graduate with a clear picture of what they want to do after graduation, there is one who doesn’t have the foggiest idea. If that is you, don’t panic! Only half of graduates are working within a field which is relevant to their degree. Explore different career paths, and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Consider booking an appointment with one of our Careers Consultants who offer Careers guidance.

Alice from Alice in Wonderland laying down in flowers

Cherish the people by your side

Friendship and family is a consistent theme throughout many Disney films. Inspiring Disney duos throughout the years include Timon and Pumba, (Lion King) Dory and Marlin, (Finding Nemo) Sven and Kristoff (Frozen).

In order to have a good balance in your Career, factor in quality time with friends and family. They will help keep track of your goals, as well as being your comfort when you need it the most.

So when you next sit down to watch Tarzan, you can do it guilt-free knowing that you’re learning a valuable career lesson! (Then get back to writing your CV).

Evelyn Bell-Jones' wearing Minnie Mouse ears

Evelyn Bell-Jones


Evelyn Bell-Jones


Author Bio

Evelyn is a Careers Coach within Coventry University's Talent Team