The Big Career Lesson from Top Gun: Maverick

The Big Career Lesson from Top Gun: Maverick

By Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

A Management Lesson from Coach K

When I saw “Top Gun: Maverick” in the theater, it was the first movie I’d been to since the pandemic began. I was delighted by the story and enjoyed the experience of being in a movie theater and watching Tom Cruise reprise the role from the original movie.

Recently, I watched it again at home on @Paramount+ and realized I missed a subplot that was important. Let me not spoil it but share (or remind you of) afighters few segments.

The opening act of the movie has Maverick as a test pilot for a program an Admiral wants to kill. Before the Admiral arrives on the base, Maverick takes the plane up, exceeds the speed the Admiral has demanded the plane be capable of, and pushes it to the point where the instrumentation fails and he has to parachute out of it. Criticized, he is told he has to report to Top Gun school at the request of his old nemesis, Iceman Kazansky, now and Admiral himself, and the reason why Maverick wasn’t thrown out of the military tells him he has to train the new top gun pilots.

After going to a local bar owned by a former girlfriend, he is mocked by the new pilots, referred to as Gramps, and eventually, tossed out of the bar by them, the door slams behind them. Of course, the next morning, the same pilots who tossed him out discover he is their new trainer. It is only when Maverick takes them up for dogfighting practice and he defeats every team of them that they start to pay attention.

Notice anything yet?

One of many subplots in the story is that older talented people are dismissed by systems (the Navy). In addition, those younger (the pilots) ridicule and dismiss him without knowing anything about him other than he is an older pilot. They assume he is incapable until he proves to them that the impossible-to-survive mission is survivable by flying the training course at high speed and proving the mission could be accomplished. Ageism is the first subplot.

The final half hour of the movie is about how Maverick needs the younger pilots to escape including the son of his RIO from the first movie (who hates him for his father’s death) and the most arrogant of the young pilots.

You see, we need one another—old and young. Each has talents that can help the other. Unfortunately, the walls we put up between generations leave older pros on the outside unheard and ignored. It leaves younger pros unable to help their elders because their arrogance blocks that possibility.

Now in the cinematic version of the story, Maverick does nothing to contribute to the divide. In real life, “know-it-all” older professionals act dismissively to their younger colleagues. I’ve seen a lot of this and, to be completely honest, acted badly to less experienced younger professionals much too often.

How have you contributed to the chasm between generations? What can you do differently?

Who Gets Your Attention?


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. He is hired to provide No BS Career Advice globally. That can involve job search, hiring staff, management, leadership, career transition and advice about resolving workplace issues. Schedule a discovery call at my website,

He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with over 2500 episodes.

I do a livestream on LinkedIn, and YouTube (on the account) Tuesdays at 1 PM Eastern. You can send your questions about job search, hiring better, management, leadership or to get advice about a workplace issue to me via messaging on LinkedIn or in chat during the approximately 30-minute show.




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