01/22/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Kick in the Career: A Headhunter's Guide to the Highest-Grossing Films of 2008

As an executive recruiter, it is my job to examine trends, gauge the needs of the marketplace and get my clients into jobs that will make the best use of their skill sets. When the process is firing on all cylinders, it is extremely rewarding. The client is happy, and so their work flourishes. The hiring entity is happy because when someone flourishes under their roof, their productivity is likely to increase. And I'm happy because my own hard work has yielded a satisfying payoff: my gifts have been used to help someone else's gifts get their due.

Pop culture often affords us a glimpse into the emotional landscape of the general populous, and while it may not be a predictor of business world trends, it does clue us into the mindset of both its creators and those who flock to lose themselves in the message of the medium. As such, the protagonists of hit movies, usually conflicted about where they are in life (conflict makes for a good story after all) cannot help but reflect our own inner workings, and, to my mind, are worthy of a little career counseling in their own right. To that end, I consulted The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for a list of 2008's top ten highest-grossing films. Below is a headhunter's assessment of these movie heroes and their careers.

1. The Dark Knight
Protagonist: Bruce Wayne
Job Skills: Unorthodox crime-fighting prowess and the underlying belief that he is as spiritually ugly and tormented as the heinous arch-enemies with whom he battles, thereby making his quest for so-called justice an ultimately hollow one.
Ideal Job: Lobbyist

2. Iron Man
Protagonist: Tony Stark
Job Skills: Immense wealth has left him chemically dependent and dissolute, but when driven by the passion to carry out his own ideology, his wizardry with the design of technological weaponry makes him unparalleled in the field of modern machine warfare.
Ideal Job: Inner-city high school teacher.

3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Protagonist: Indiana Jones
Job Skills: Adventure and the study of history. An almost insatiable need to track down legendary artifacts. Ability to withstand physical punishment. Tentative grasp on the importance of having a son and what that means to his work/life balance stability.
Ideal Job: Reality TV producer.

4. Hancock
Protagonist: John Hancock
Job Skills: His interesting career trajectory finds him drunken and embittered after his efforts as a superhero go unappreciated by the citizenry, who call for his retirement. As a result, Hancock submits to the will of a public relations giant who has a plan to rebuff his image and get people back on his side. Hancock's willingness to reinvent himself in the face of public hatred is thus the key to his career flexibility.
Ideal Job: Meter Maid.

Protagonist: Wall-E
Job Skills Cleaning up the billions of pounds of trash left behind by a thoughtless multinational and being a non-sentient being.
Ideal Job: White House Press Secretary.

6. Kung Fu Panda
Protagonist: Po the Panda.
Job Skills: Very few at the outset. He is lazy, and does not want to take over his father's business, fueled instead by hopes of being a Kung Fu master. However, when his fantasy, by chance, becomes a reality, he finds he is put to the test and must somehow accomplish that which he had once only dreamed about.
Ideal Job: Target Team Member

7. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
Protagonist(s): Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe and Gloria the Hippo
Job Skills: Severely limited by spending so much time in captivity. They find that when plunked down in the wilds of Africa, they seem to lack the proper skill sets needed to hold their own. At first glance, this lack of any measurable expertise in what they do certainly leaves them with limited employment marketability.
Ideal Job: Head of General Motors.

8. Horton Hears a Who!
Protagonist: Horton the Elephant
Job Skills: Persistence, protectiveness, resourcefulness. Horton has considerable experience in a wide variety of sought-after traits, stemming from his efforts to keep the microscopic community of Whoville from being destroyed by his peers, all of whom do not believe such a place exists. His sweetness, unabashed belief in the goodness of all living things, willingness to do what is right, loyalty and faithfulness would be an asset to any organization fortunate enough to hire him.
Ideal Job: No current openings for someone with these assets.

9. Sex and the City
Protagonists: Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, Miranda
Job Skills: Sex, the city, shopping, worrying about marriage and relationships.
Ideal Job: Presidential running mate.

10. Mamma Mia!
Protagonist: Sophie Sheridan
Job Skills: An enterprising young woman who has the presence of mind to try and root out the identity of her biological father by inviting the three men who could be that man to her wedding without informing her mother. She is a risk-taker who is unafraid to face potentially disastrous consequences in the dogged certainty that the gamble will pay off for the best.
Ideal Job: Mortgage banker.

Who can say what the top ten highest-grossing films of 2009 will be, and how they might be reflective of the zeitgeist? We do know, at least, that there will likely not be another movie containing a bunch of songs by Abba. As far as I'm concerned, that means things can only get better.