Seinfeld's Guide to Job Hunting

What Job Seekers Can Learn from Seinfeld

In honor of the Seinfeld quasi-reunion taking place during the next few weeks on Curb Your Enthusiasm, we thought it’d be fun to watch through old episodes of the show re-examine the job tactics of Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer, as well as some of the recurring characters on the show. Much has been written about their personal lives on (and off) the show, but what about their professional lives? We asked Tory Johnson to give us her opinions on the lessons we can learn. Tory is the CEO of Women For Hire and author of Fired to Hired. You can also find her on Good Morning America where she is the Workplace Contributor and follow her on Twitter. Photo Credit: Seinfeld.com


Jerry

Both in real life and on the show, Jerry has had the most consistent employment. He worked as a successful stand-up comedian and eventually parlayed that success into a TV show. LESSON: “Everyone can learn from Jerry's success: It comes from doing not only what he's good at, but more importantly, what he really loves.  What do you think about outside of business hours even when you don't have to? That's the stuff you should build a career on--one that aligns your strengths and passions like Jerry has done. Comedy is what he's good at and it's what he loves--a powerful combination.” Photo Credit: Seinfeld.com


Elaine

For most of the show, Elaine worked as a writer and editor in publishing. But later, while hunting for a job, she bumps into the owner of a clothing company on the street and gets a position out of it. LESSON: “Get out of your house. The worst mistake job seekers make today is hiding behind a computer in an effort to find work.  Be open to those chance encounters. Not every meaningful encounter has to happen at an oh-so-serious formal networking event. Playing with your kids at the park, going grocery shopping, attending a Barnes & Noble book signing by an interesting author---all simple activities that can lead to an introduction to your next employer if you're open to the possibilities.” Photo Credit: Seinfeld.com


Kramer

He never works, except for a short period where he works at a bagel shop after allegedly having been on strike for years. Instead of steady employment, he hatches get rich quick schemes. In one episode, he hires Cuban immigrants to make cigars only to find out they are actually Dominicans. LESSON: “Yikes! It's unsettling to worry month to month how you'll pay your rent. That lifestyle's not for everyone.  One thing, however, that we've seen in this economy among determined people without jobs is a willingness to hustle with gigs here and there.  From odd jobs to freelance projects, my hat's off to those who are not at all shy about figuring out how to make it through a rough patch.” Photo Credit: Seinfeld.com


George

He bounces around from one job to the next, holding positions in real estate and working with the Yankees, and pretending to be an architect and marine biologist at other times. He is also unemployed for long stretches of the show. In one episode, he even goes so far as to make up a company (extra credit if you can name it) that he's interviewed with in order to keep his unemployment benefits. LESSON: “It's hard to feel good about lying, but it's also silly for state unemployment offices to require that kind of paperwork.  As for job-hopping: it's always a red flag for employers to question why you're not content in one place for very long. But among younger generations it's not uncommon to go where the best opportunity takes you--a free agent mentality--especially after watching parents and grandparents get pink-slipped despite their loyalty to an employer.  So while cradle to grave employment is totally outdated, flitting around can ultimately catch up to you in a not so great way. Be strategic in your moves.” Photo Credit: Seinfeld.com


Newman

Like Jerry, Newman is consistently employed as a mailman. The difference is Newman doesn’t enjoy his job. He often complains that the mail never stops. This leads him to take part in several of Kramer's get rich quick schemes. Still, he never quits his post.LESSON: “Nobody relishes sticking with a job they hate, yet there's a lot to be said about a steady paycheck. A huge reason why we work is money--and even though he's miserable (something I don't envy), in this economy it's easier said than done to assume you can up and quit to find greener pastures elsewhere. Hold on to your job, keep your performance strong and use side gigs as your source of fun!” Photo Credit: Seinfeld.com


Soup Nazi

He antagonizes customers who come to buy soup from him, but his product is so good, people keep coming back (that is, until he bans them from his store outright). LESSON: “I hate rewarding bad service. No product -- not $5 soup or a $2,500 Gucci bag -- is worth subjecting yourself to that kind of torture. I'd love to see the Soup Nazi spend a day with Tony Hsieh [CEO of Zappos.com] who'd show him a thing or two about why sprinkling some TLC around his shop. It would increase his sales immeasurably.” Photo Credit: Seinfeld.com


Mr. Lippman

He is Elaine’s boss at Pendant publishing until he’s let go after a big merger. He eventually opens his own store that sells only the tops of muffins (Elaine’s idea). LESSON: “If I had to choose today, I'd go for the muffin tops shop over publishing in a heartbeat. It'd be the new cupcake, which does well no matter what the economy (unlike publishing, sadly). Entrepreneurship is all about risks--nothing's a sure bet except perhaps that people still buy baked goods even when they're down to their last few bucks and owning a business is a faster way to riches than being an employee. If you can't get hired now, hire yourself. A service business, however, is cheaper to launch than a product or a storefront.” Photo Credit: Seinfeld.com


Frank Costanza

He worked as cook in the army but is retired by the time the show starts. However, he does come out of retirement briefly to invent the Bro (a brassiere for men) with Kramer. LESSON: “Too many retirees can't even think of retiring in this economy. They've tapped their already-dwindling 401(k)s or IRAs to avoid losing their homes. So, it’s not a bad idea to keep working in some capacity. I wouldn't bet my life savings on a bra for men; maybe those muffin tops are a better idea. I've helped many retirees get hooked up with customer service related positions. It brings in some cash and keeps them feeling vibrant. Plus they're more patient and loyal -- thereby providing better service than many of their younger counterparts.” Photo Credit: Seinfeld.com


J. Peterman

Another of Elaine’s bosses, Peterman is a flamboyant and jet-setting entreprenuer who is as successful as he is crazy. He owns a very lucrative self-named clothing company. LESSON: “There's a crazy gene in every truly successful entrepreneur--perhaps not always the case with a boss or executive who's an employee at the company. But when you actually own the shop and you've built it from nothing, mixed within that cash, blood, sweat and tears is a healthy dose of insanity. It's all in the secret sauce.” Photo Credit: Seinfeld.com


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