In the first parts of Downton Abbey’sThomas Barrow’s job search, we saw Thomas’s frustration coupled with his lack of preparation. Fortunately, in the series finale, we discover that Thomas’s job search was “successful,” to the extent that he found a new job, but that ultimately he was able to finally land back “home” at the Abbey in a position he will truly enjoy. The journey provides some additional messages for job seekers, extracted from Thomas’s experiences in the early 20th century, but relevant for all job seekers in today’s environment. Related: An Interviewing Lesson From ‘Downton Abbey’ The second interview we see with Thomas is very different from the first and Thomas’s assertiveness is to be praised. Obviously seeing a visual difference between the condition of the estate and the advertisement for the job, Thomas assertively asks “Perhaps you could tell me more about the job?” When Sir Michael Reresby ignores the question as he tours the dilapidated Dryden Park estate with Thomas, Thomas persists, again asking for “more about the job? How many staff do you have?” It is obvious that Thomas decides to move quickly to get away from this situation, finally taking himself out of consideration with “Maybe I’m not quite up to it?” Job seekers today, like Thomas, need to assertively inquire about the real expectations of the job. And they need to be willing to walk away from a job that does not meet their expectations – even if the need for job is great – which is exactly the situation Thomas sees. In the same episode Mr. Barrow responds to Carson’s comment on his sullen attitude: “I can’t see the future, Mr. Carson. But then I suppose, none of us can.” This is an interesting comment because it is so important for job seekers to be looking at the future, in determining the vision for their future and in the need to monitor the trends of the job market and job search techniques. In the series finale, the story returns to Mr. Barrow’s job search with the early scene of his announcement that he’s found a new job, working at the estate of Sir Mark Styles, with Mrs. Jenkins and a maid, Elsie, as the only other staff. Unfortunately, we are not treated to any details of how Thomas interviewed. He is offered the job via a letter. But we do learn very quickly that it’s a pretty safe assumption to conclude that he took this job under the pressure he was feeling to get a job, any job. And that makes it equally easy to conclude that no matter how the interview went, Thomas endured it under that pressure. One online review site summarized Thomas’s new job perfectly. “Barrow landed a job at another Yorkshire estate, working for a dull old couple who would have caused the statuary to keel over from boredom.” It is obvious from every scene with Barrow at his new job that he’s bored and hating every minute of it. Perhaps Thomas is reflecting the frustration of the 70% of employees today who reportedly are “disengaged.” When prompted by one of his former co-workers from Downton Abbey to get along with everyone, he responds “there isn’t much of an everyone to get along with.” But the final scenes of Downton Abbey bring Thomas Barrow back to Downton Abbey in the esteemed position of Butler, replacing the seemingly irreplaceable but ill Mr. Carson. And in this final moment, there two outstanding messages for job seekers. Barrow’s job searches and short experience with his new job with the Styles have demonstrated to him how good his job at Downton was. A colleague e-mailed me with a perfect description: Barrow now has an “attitude of gratitude” that shifted his whole being making him a much more “likeable” character. When he is at the wedding and volunteers to serve champagne during the crisis he did it out of true commitment and concern which is not the Mr. Barrow we had come to know and love (conniving and manipulating). The truth is HE CHANGED which changed his whole perspective and hireablity AND made him the right candidate for the Downton job which he would have never had been considered for previously. In today’s competitive world, several top companies have realized the value of recruiting from former employees. I’m familiar with a top U.S. company which actively recruits from “alumna” and has found that when these former employees return, they have noticeably stronger attitudes, higher retention, and lower absenteeism than employees who’ve never left. I had a student several years ago who actively contacted employees who left on a regular basis, offering strong incentives to return, with excellent results. The final point from Downton Abbey is a solid point for all job seekers. Barrow has clearly earned this job based on his job performance – his selection for the position is easy. Even though he’s left – for a very short time – it’s really an internal promotion. His performance, over ten plus years of service, is known. His flaws are known, his growth as a person is known. Plus, when Mr. Carson is asked if this is OK with him, his response is clear: “Of course, sir, I trained him.” It is the challenge for every job seeker today to make their performance known, in the interview, on the resume, and on the LinkedIn profile. It’s performance, clear accomplishments, that distinguish top performers, not skills and experiences.
Did your PTO request get denied? Due to restructurings, layoffs, and crunches, companies are now buckling down on employees and their PTO. Here's my concern...
Quitting isn't going to help your situation.
If you quit because your PTO request was denied, that will, in fact, hurt your chances of getting hired. And if the economy tanks, there will be fewer jobs, and then it's going to be a lot harder to get a reference or explain why you quit.
What You Should Do If Your PTO Request Is Denied
@j.t.odonnell when your PTO request gets denied... @workitdaily @j.t.odonnell #joblife#worklife#pto#careeradvice#careerhacks#careertiktok#edutok#learnontiktok♬ original sound - J.T. O'Donnell
When your PTO request is denied, you want to ask why.
- Why is this happening?
- What can I do to make this timeslot work?
- What would I have to do before or after?
- How can I get to the point where this could be approved?
Maybe your employer can't approve the entire time off that you're requesting, but they could approve part of it. Or maybe your boss is just worried about some coverage, but you could assist in getting that coverage. The goal is to try to work with them on that.
But if you don't get your requested PTO, I'd be really careful about taking that time off anyways or quitting, because it could hurt you and your career.
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I recently worked on a pro bono project for a friend, and it reminded me of a time early in my career and how lucky I was then to get such great advice from the more seasoned pros around me. Advice that ultimately saved me from some major pitfalls. I made mistakes here and there over the course of nearly 20 years of projects, but with each hiccup came a lesson. Here are some takeaways from my lessons learned and all that sage advice.
Questions Equal Clarity
Clients come to us designers for our expertise, and it is our job to guide them through the process. We are helping them find clarity about their vision and goals for their project. To do that well means asking questions! It is important to remember that not all clients are going to be good at communicating their vision—and that's okay. You can still work with them and get amazing results by asking them lots of questions and following up on those answers with more questions until you're both on the same page. This dialogue will help set clear expectations for project scope, deliverables, and everything in between while avoiding frustration for both parties.
Think about the word 'classic.' Now think of five things that could be described as 'classic'—it probably varies wildly, right? So, which version does your client imagine? You could guess… or you could clarify with more questions like "Can you show me an example of what 'classic' looks like to you?" or "What makes this classic?" And so on. It's a silly example, but it illustrates just how subjective descriptions can be and how necessary it is to have good communication between you and the client. Remember that your clients don't do this for a living, so asking questions will help you get to the root of any issue quickly with less time spent guessing. And no, it won't look unprofessional if you ask a lot of questions, but it will make you a better creative.
Collaboration For The Win
On one side of the table, you have a designer with knowledge and experience. On the other side of the table, you have the client who knows their business, audience, and goals. As creatives, we have to remember that we are on the same team as our clients and aim at collaboration over confrontation. Design should be a collaborative process: both parties are at the table with different perspectives and different knowledge to contribute. It is this diversity of viewpoints that will make the creative stronger and your client ultimately happier.
When you work collaboratively with your clients, they'll often tell you what they need before even realizing it themselves—and sometimes, those needs are things that they didn't even realize they wanted until after having talked it through with someone else! This is because people often have trouble articulating what they need out loud (even if they think they know exactly what they want), so getting clients involved in the process can help ensure that everyone's needs and project goals are met.
It all boils down to communication. Everyone at the table, both clients and designers, want to feel heard and respected. Good communication and listening skills are a way to ensure that clients understand that they don't need to be designers themselves, but they are still contributing meaningfully to the project. This helps keep them fully invested in a great outcome.
Contracts Are Your FriendPhoto by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash
Contracts can help you set clear expectations for both parties. The best way to protect your business and make sure you don’t get burned by a client is to have a signed contract before doing any design work. If you’ve ever been burned by a client (or had to fire one) it’s probably because you didn’t have a contract in place when you started the project with them.
As a designer, it can feel a little awkward to send a contract and you may be tempted to just dive right into the work even when a client hasn't signed a contract. But there are several reasons why you should always, ALWAYS get a contract signed before doing any design work.
First, this will help you protect yourself from scope creep. Clearly defining the project scope is essential. If the client wants to add extra elements or changes their mind four times about what they need to be designed, it's much easier when you have a contract and clearly defined deliverables to say, "Sorry, but we have to go back and renegotiate the scope of our agreement." This way, you won't end up doing more work than you agreed on.
Second, a contract will help your client trust you. When working with someone new, trust is everything—and they need to know that they can rely on what you say and how it will be delivered. A contract helps build that trust by setting expectations around quality and deadlines.
Third, contracts help clarify your client's definition of "done." If there are any questions about what constitutes acceptable deliverables for them (or if their definition changes), it's much easier for all parties involved if those questions are answered in writing before any work begins.
Finally, if something goes wrong and you need legal help, your contract can help prove that you did what was agreed upon in the first place or at least show that there was an agreement in place.
Go With Your GutPhoto by Paolo Bendandi on Unsplash
You were built with intuition; use it! Learn to trust your gut when working with clients. I've found that clients who don't seem like they are being straight with me are often problematic. I don't run into these issues very often these days because time and experience (and a good contract) have made me better at spotting potential issues. When I meet with clients I make mental notes of red flags and green lights. Red flags are the things that a client or potential client might do that give you a moment of pause or make you worry a little. Green lights are, of course, the opposite.
Red flag clients will push boundaries like expanding the scope of work but expecting the cost to stay the same, or delaying payment in an attempt to negotiate a lower price after the work is done despite being happy with the project results. Sometimes it is better to pass on a problematic project; it leaves you open to take on a great one. That's a hard pill to swallow when you are first starting out because you are excited and want to take on as many paying projects as possible. I simply urge you to beware. If something doesn't feel right about a client then it is probably your intuition throwing up a red flag.
Ultimately, it is up to you if you take on the project. Just remember, if you do decide to proceed, get a deposit to start, have a signed contract and make sure it is specific with a detailed deliverables list.
Followthrough Is EverythingPhoto by Josh Hemsley on Unsplash
Last but never least, this one seems like a no-brainer to me but I feel it is essential to call out. Deliver on everything that you say you will do for clients—and do it with a smile! I can't stress how important it is to nurture relationships and build a reputation of being trustworthy, reliable, and awesome to work with. When clients trust you, life just gets easier. They will value your design decisions more easily, they will continue to work with you, and they will recommend you to others that need your services. I promise it is a win-win.