Four lessons job hunters can learn from Downton Abbey


By: Scott Morefield

For those of us who enjoy getting our ‘fop’ on once in a while, the PBS drama Downton Abbey is an enchanting journey into a different world, albeit one that actually existed less than 100 years ago. This critically acclaimed period soap opera chronicles the fictional British aristocratic Crawley family and their servants as they live through and are affected by notable historical events, such as the sinking of the Titanic in series 1, and the first World War in series 2.

The most fascinating aspects of the show are not only its great characters, which range from the dignified, good-hearted nobleman and his family, including his snobbish, sharp-tongued ‘Dowager Countess’ mother, to the servant class working downstairs, good and bad, likeable and fun-to-hate, who tend to their every need, but the relationships between the characters based on their social class at a time when the social class system in England still existed, yet clearly was in its dying throes.

While certainly there is much to be thankful for about our modern era, less than 100 years removed from a way of life that seems more foreign to us than life would be on another planet, there were many great qualities about that period. The sense of honor, of nobility even among the ‘lower’ classes, is admirable. They clearly operated under a different system of morals back then, one which, to our discredit, society today has lost. Downton Abbey may be a ‘soap opera,’ but it’s no Days of our Lives.

I believe we can all learn a lot from the show and the period of time it portrays. Since this is an employment blog, I especially think job seekers should pay special attention. In truth, it’s not all that difficult to stand out from the plethora of other job hunters, but a few lessons from Downton Abbey couldn’t hurt!

For effect, as you read each point, be sure to read it in your most snobby British accent, Dowager Countess style!

1.) Show some respect, man!

OK, maybe ‘my lord’ might be a stretch, but would a ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ be too much to ask, especially in an interview? Most interviewers would probably fall out of their chairs! Be polite, accommodating, friendly, and respectful, and you will differentiate yourself from those who aren’t.

You don't have to be a servant to show respect
You don’t have to be a servant to show respect

2.) Learn to use the King’s English appropriately!

In both written and oral communication, typos and grammatical errors not only spell incompetence, but indifference as well. If you struggle in this area there are steps you can take to improve – take a community college English class, start reading more (reading helps solidify sentence structure, word usage, spelling, etc. in your subconscious without having to really study – a good reader is often a good writer and speaker!), and, if you aren’t sure, Google is your friend. Finally, for goodness sakes, have a friend look over your cover letter and resume before you send it out!

speak properly, or don't speak at all!
speak properly, or don’t speak at all!

3.) Get your ‘fop’ on! (OK, the Dowager Countess wouldn’t have said that, but it’s funny to imagine it!)

Back then, even the maids and kitchen help were decently and appropriately dressed. Folks in positions such as ‘butler’ and ‘driver’ were dressed almost as well as the nobility. Today’s job seeker doesn’t need to wear a full tuxedo or corset, but they should at least dress a step above the position they are applying for.

casual dinner dress...
casual dinner dress…

4.) Keep your chin up!

British folks may be known for their steadfastness in the face of adversity, but that doesn’t mean others can’t attain to that as well. Job hunting is hard! The sense of despair and loss of self-esteem that comes with constant rejection, especially when the job hunter is facing financial issues (most, by definition, are), is one of the most difficult things many have ever faced. While all the answers to this are another topic entirely, it’s important to find ways to stay optimistic, to keep your chin up, during this process. Don’t let your lack of work at the moment define who you are. Desperation is not a desired trait to an employer, so don’t let them see you sweat!

Sure life is hard, but I've got my dignity, and a bowler hat
Sure life is hard, but I’ve got my dignity, and a bowler hat