How many times have I seen Home Alone? I couldn’t tell you for sure. But I know the number is big because it’s a blooming Christmas classic. When I first watched it I was but a stupid little child, so I thought the key themes of the film were about not taking your family for granted, good triumphing over evil, Christmas miracles etc. etc. etc. But last weekend I watched it through the wisened (wrinkly) eyes of a UCL Careers Consultant, and I was finally able to discern its true meaning. And as luck would have it, it’s actually all about careers. Below are the top three career messages I took away from this festive favourite. They contain spoilers…but come on, who hasn’t seen Home Alone?!
1. Build a brand
When Harry and Marv get their comeuppance at the hands of Kevin, they pay not only for breaking and entering the house in which they were found, but also for all the previous houses they’ve burgled. This is because they have a calling card, an MO, a brand: they are the Wet Bandits.
So ok, if you’re committing crimes, maybe a brand isn’t such a sensible idea. But when you’re looking for a job, having an MO can be very attractive to employers. It tells them who you are, and what you can contribute. So what brand are you building? If an employer googles you or peruses your LinkedIn page, what picture will they get? Is it clear enough? In your application documents and on LinkedIn, make sure you mention all of your interesting projects and achievements, and even include links to relevant work, like presentations you’ve given, code you’ve created, blogs you’ve written (hopefully about subjects that reflect your brand) etc. Then you too may be as recognisable to an employer as a Wet Bandit is to the cops.
2. Get organised
Kate and Peter McCallister seem like nice enough people with a very lovely house, but they certainly wouldn’t win the award for Best Parents Of The ‘90s. Their problem boiled down to a lack of organisation. They woke up late, took their eyes off the ball, and ended up flying to Paris without their youngest son. Oops.
Just like Kate and Peter, jobhunters often learn the hard way that it’s good to be organised. Well, not quite like Kate and Peter. They rarely inadvertently abandon their children. But instead they find themselves in a pickle when they’re called to interview for a job they have little recollection of applying for, and the job advert has now disappeared. What’s more, they’ve sent off so many applications they’re not sure exactly what they said in this particular one. They then have a decision to make: ask for the job advert to be sent over, thereby admitting their disorganised approach to the employer, or face an interview underprepared. Awkward.
So don’t learn the hard way. Learn the easy way: from this blog about Home Alone. When you’re in jobhunting mode, keep clear records – maybe even in a spreadsheet – of where you’ve applied. And save every job advert, person specification, and application, ready for when you’re called to impress in person.
3. Make time for fun – it may even help your career
Home Alone’s Kevin knows how to enjoy himself. He plays with BB guns, seesaws, and Micro Machines, and he watches gangster movies. He does these things because they’re fun, but they also turn out to be pretty handy when he has two burglars to tackle.
At UCL Careers, we may be guilty of making you think your career plans should motivate every choice you make. Actually, that’s not really how life works. Often you have to put yourself out there, do what you enjoy, and work out how that might be useful in your career later down the line. This is exactly what a UCL PhD-turned Life Sciences Consultant told us when we interviewed him a few months ago. He loves theatre, so he got involved in writing show reviews. When applying for Consultant roles, he used this as evidence of his written communication skills: he can put together accessible and persuasive writing about a show, even with the limitation that he couldn’t reveal the plot to his readers. And clearly it worked – he got the job! His advice is “Although to some degree you should cover the bases, do what you enjoy, and figure out how to tell the story in your CV along the way”. Great message….even if it was obviously nicked from Home Alone.