Career Exploration Parallels to Downton Abbey


Like millions of Americans, I’ve been completely seduced by the intrigue, romance, verbal sparring and fashion of Downton Abbey and am so excited that season three is finally here. And when you work in career services, you can’t help but see parallels between just about any show you watch and the job hunt. And apparently, this time I’m not alone since PBS has just launched a “Which Downton  Abbey Job is Right for You?” quiz, which is actually quite well done.  This quiz obviously plays off of one of show’s strongest themes: Finding one’s appropriate role in an ever changing society. downton3Since I lack Lady Grantham’s gift for barbed wit, I’ll refrain from attempting any cute one-liners in this post but this is a struggle that most of us share with the characters of Downtown Abbey.

Most Penn students and alumni I see want to find careers that are rewarding but many don’t know where to start. A great first step is thinking about your values–what’s important to you in a workplace or job as well as your own personality traits and strengths. Do you favor an environment which depends upon you to be entrepreneurial and have creative spirit or are you happier in a more structured and traditional environment? Today we are very fortunate to live in a world where you have many more options and choices than the characters of Downton but that can also be overwhelming. Here are some other lessons learned from Downton Abbey that also will help you find a career path that is right for you.

Information is Gold

Take a page out of O’Brien and Thomas’ playbook and collect as much information as you thomas obrien can, though hopefully with less devious motives. One of the best ways to find out what a job, company, or field is really like is to talk to people about what they do. This gives you a better perspective on what a typical day is like and even the frustrating bits.

Find Your Use

carson2Just as Edith does in Season 2 during World War I, sometimes you just need to figuratively roll up our sleeves and try something out to truly test if it is a good match for you. Ideally, this means doing volunteer work or an internship in a new area to test the waters. You will know you have found the right path when you feel the work you are doing matters. Certainly, the characters of Downtown most satisfied with their lot, like Mr. Carson, are those who feel they provide a valuable service and that their efforts are recognized.

“O, heavens, girl. You’re building a fire, not inventing it.” — Mrs. Hughes to Daisydaisy

You have many resources to help you with your search so don’t feel like you need to do it alone or reinvent the wheel. Beyond the Downton Quiz, we offer a variety of career exploration assessments including the Meyer’s Briggs personality test, the Strong Inventory Test and StrengthsQuestand will discuss your results one-on-one. While no test can answer the question of “What should I do with my life,” they can offer helpful insights into types of jobs that may be well suited to your skills and values, so they can be great for brainstorming.  In addition, we are happy to meet with you one on one to discuss career options and choices (or just dish about Downton)!

Author: Claire Klieger

Claire Klieger is an Associate Director of Career Services for College of Arts & Sciences undergraduates. She earned her Ed.D. from Penn and did her undergraduate work at the University of Virginia. Fun Fact: Claire spent 11 years in the Middle East and North Africa.