5 Career Tips from “Home Alone”

Michelle Jones

Michelle serves as the Associate Director of Coaching and Education for the Career Development Office at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, where she supports all students in their career growth. She comes to Carey with 7 years of experience working with students 1:1, teaching courses, developing workshops, and managing large-scale career events. Michelle holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from James Madison University and a M.A. in College Student Development from Appalachian State University. She is a certified Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), CareerLeader, and StrenghtsQuest practitioner and is a certified MBA Career Coach through The Academies.

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“Buzz, your girlfriend …WOOF.” It’s hard to believe that Home Alone, one of my favorite holiday movies, is now 26 years old. I remember the moment of pure joy when I received the videotape on Christmas morning: I screamed just like Kevin did in the movie. I could (and still do) relate to Kevin on many levels, particularly his flippant attitude.

Image: Hughes Entertainment

Here are 5 hidden career tips from Home Alone:

  1. Have a back-up plan: Before the McCallister’s flight to Paris, their house loses power, causing the family to sleep in and nearly miss their flight. Missing the alarm on a big day, whether personal or professional, is one of my biggest anxieties. The last thing I want before an interview or a major presentation is to scramble last minute and forget things (hopefully not a child!). Have back-up plans for things that may go wrong, like setting a few different alarms or giving yourself extra time in case of traffic or technology glitches.
  2. Be truthful about what you really want: After Kevin ruins the family dinner and is sent to bed early, he tells his mom, “I hope that I never see any of you jerks again!” While he may have felt that in his moment of anger, later he regrets what he said to his mother. Sometimes you can get caught up in the emotional rollercoaster of the job search or a tough moment in your career and say things out of anger, frustration, or desperation. And while loved ones may forgive outbursts, most people won’t. Keep your support systems intact to help get you through the tough times.
  3. Get creative with your resources: When the robbers make 3 attempts to break into the McCallister house, Kevin uses all resources available to him to protect his home, from a life-size Michael Jordan cut-out to blow torches and broken Christmas ornaments. As you search for your next career move or are feeling stuck on a work project, do an inventory to make sure you are using all resources to your best ability—and be creative in the process!
  4. Believe in yourself, even against the greatest odds: Kevin pushes past his fear of the robbers and being “home alone” to accomplish a seemingly impossible goal of keeping his home safe. After making a plan and setting up a house full of booby-traps, he gives himself one final pep talk: “This is it, don’t get scared now.” Even when you make all of the necessary preparations for your big professional moments, fear and anxiety can be overwhelming. Positive self-talk and believing in yourself can push you past that fear and also has many health benefits, such as increased life span, lower rates of depression, and more.
  5. Make your own judgments: Kevin is fearful of his elderly neighbor ‘Old Man Marley’ because of rumors from his older brother Buzz. This affects Kevin’s judgement and treatment of Marley throughout the movie, but Kevin eventually realizes the true character of his neighbor. Too often you may let office gossip cloud your judgements of colleagues and you do not take the time to get to know someone to form your own opinions. You may be surprised by what you find, and you could gain an important ally, like Marley!

Bonus: While I do not condone the actions of the robbers, there are some professional lessons to be gleaned from them. The “Wet Bandits” are very thorough in researching the neighborhood; noticing which families are traveling and when light timers go on and off. They do their research on their targets and are well-prepared, aside from the unexpected kid home alone. An often overlooked part of the job search is doing thorough research when preparing for an informational interview or job interview, which is one way of ensuring that you won’t get any leads or offers. The robbers also leave a calling card by leaving water running after blocking sink drains and brand themselves the “Wet Bandits.” It is an easy name to remember and the police knows exactly which houses they burglarized. Spend some time this holiday season to think about your professional brand and what you want to be remembered for on the job search. Use the webinar and resources in the Professional Branding section of the Career Navigator for ideas on how to get started!

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