In the first parts of Downton Abbey’s Thomas 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.
In the final season’s second episode to Masterpiece’s award-winning Downton Abbey, under-butler Thomas Barrow, convinced he will be one of the first of the staff to be let go because of rumored staff reductions at the Abbey, goes on an interview for an assistant butler job. While viewers are not presented with the entire interview, there’s enough portrayed to draw some important lessons for job seekers. Related: Job Seekers: Prepare For Bad Interview Questions Thomas’s attitude toward the interview is obvious before it begins. When a fellow member of the “downstairs staff” wishes him good luck before his interview he responds: “If I was lucky, I wouldn’t be leaving.” While the interview segment portrayed is short, it contains some interesting dialogue. Responding to a question as to why he’s leaving Downton Abbey, his response is short: “It seems like the right time for a move.” He then asks, in a slightly condescending tone, “Tell me Mr. Moore, what exactly is an assistant butler. I’m not familiar with the term.” When told the job combines the duties of an under-butler, a footman, and a chauffeur, Thomas is told that “I think you need to climb off that high horse,” and he responds with “Goodness, this is a job for a one-man band.” His response, including the non-verbal tone, prompts Mr. Moore to respond with “You’re a delicate lookin’ fellow aren’t you?” After what today would be considered an illegal question about whether or not Thomas is married (he isn’t), Mr. Moore ends the interview with “All right Mr. Barrow, I’ve got enough. We’ll let you know.” Again the non-verbal tone and look tell the story that he’s being dismissed. Even in this short segment, there are four classical and powerful messages, on attitude and preparation. Thomas Barrow is unhappy about his potential dismissal from the Abbey. He transfers that to a decision to be clearly unhappy about looking for a new job. The first message is a positive note. Thomas, thinking he’s going to be dismissed, immediately starts looking for a new job. We see him studying the ads in a newspaper. A timeless message for sure. We know that the best time to be looking for a new job is while you still have one. At least, Thomas faces that reality. The second point is also a reality that’s timeless. People lose jobs frequently for reasons unrelated to their performance. Today we talk about how technology is eliminating jobs, how online shopping is closing retails stores and eliminating 1000’s of jobs. So in 1925, Thomas Barrow is facing the potential loss of his job caused by changing social, cultural, and economic factors. History repeats itself. Thomas’s first problem is one common with some job seekers today. Attitude is key, and a hiring manager will read a poor attitude within seconds, and it will influence the entire interview. This was beautifully portrayed in just a few minutes on Downton Abbey. You can see from Thomas’s non-verbals and responses that he is not looking at this interview positively. Kelli Barrett is a Broadway actor who’s written some wonderful articles aimed at actors but perfectly on target for all job seekers. In one of the best, she argues that actors must “love the audition” even if it's the most frustrating, time-consuming process that results in an overwhelming majority of rejections. If actors need to “love the audition,” job seekers need to “love the interview.” Thomas needs to “love” that interview even as he’s upset by the possible situation he’s facing. Thomas Barrow is easy to dislike as a character on Downton Abbey. Faced with a hiring decision – with a thorough job of interviewing him and checking his background, few would hire him. However, Thomas Barrow does have some significant accomplishments in his previous five years at the Abbey. But he’s unprepared and unwilling to present these during his interview. And that’s the second lesson from this incident. Unprepared, he fumbles with his answers and instead becomes aggressive toward his potential new boss. With the first question, why is he leaving the Abbey, he avoids the opportunity to present an answer related to his accomplishments and provides an almost sullen “seems like the right time” response. Then when given a golden opportunity to present his wide-ranging talents and accomplishments, his response to the expectations of the new job is the very negative “one-man band” comment. A final, very important point. Thomas Barrow shows absolutely no curiosity about jobs other than his challenge to the title – and no genuine curiosity about the challenges being faced by his potential boss. His interviewer lays out the need for changes, providing Barrow with a great opportunity to not only show his interest in the position but his willingness to meet the new challenges. Attitude, preparation, and accomplishments – three critical elements of anyone’s, anytime, success in a job search. Portrayed beautifully here in a segment from Downton Abbey.