Oh Lizzie Bennet Diaries, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
This webseries adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice took off in early 2012. It was the first of its kind – a scripted vlog series posing as a real blog series, taking the characters and situations from a literary classic and transplanting them to modern day.
So, if you know the story of Pride and Prejudice, the emotional plot of LBD follows a similar path of miscommunications, prejudices, and stubbornness, eventually leading to a happy conclusion.
A quick breakdown for those who don’t care about spoilers (last warning!):
Lizzie, a passionate 24-year-old grad student, sets out to document the life of herself, her cynical best friend Charlotte Lu, and her two sisters, beautiful and adorably sweet Jane, and wild party animal Lydia, as they fend off the matchmaking of their old-fashioned mother.
When single medical student Bing Lee comes to town with fashionista sister Caroline and stuffy friend William Darcy, Jane and Bing’s attraction leads to Lizzie having to deal with Darcy, whose initial impression of her being only “decent enough”… well… doesn’t give her the best impression of him.
Simultaneously, graduation is fast approaching, and swift changes in her life, from Charlotte and Jane moving away, to family financial and personal troubles, to the reveal of Darcy’s affections and true character, make Lizzie question her life and career choices.
In the end, Lizzie learns to see past her prejudices, appreciates her familial relationships, begins a relationship with Darcy, and makes the decision to start a business of her own after graduation.
I didn’t catch onto it until over midway through the run, but I quickly fell in love. When the companion novel The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet came out a year later, I downloaded the audiobook, voiced by the actress who played Lizzie in the original series, and felt like I was reliving the best of it all over again.
So, why do I love this series so much? And why is it relevant to getting a dream job?
Because, while in Austen’s day pursuing a relationship and a living were the same thing, today young women look to enter the work world before getting married, and thus: where matchmaking struggles were the main concern of Pride and Prejudice, career struggles are the center of Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Lizzie says right up front her goal is to prepare for a career, despite her mother’s machinations to set her up in an easy, comfortable marriage.
Lizzie and friends’ struggles in family, love, and career are the ultimate comfort blanket for anyone still searching for their dream job, or even a mildly satisfying job, saying: you are not alone, and you will get through it.
So, here’s how Lizzie and her friends found success:
Sort Out Your Priorities – And Stick By Them
Sorting out what you value from a prospective job, what you can and can’t live without, is important in any job search, as well as understanding that not everyone has the same priorities.
In Episode 16: “Happiness in the Pursuit of Life”, Lizzie and Charlotte disagree on each others’ ideas about future success. Lizzie believes her friend is guaranteed success and happiness due to her intelligence, talents, and hard work. Charlotte, however, argues that you can’t predict happiness – “Too many variables.”
This shows early on that they have different views of what they envision for their future. But Lizzie is still horrified when Charlotte takes a job offer that Lizzie had refused on principle of poor company values and obstruction to finishing her Master’s degree. As Lizzie tries to talk her out of it, this unfortunate exchange comes out:
Lizzie: You’re throwing away your dreams!
Charlotte: What do you know about my dreams?
LBD Ep 42: Friends Forever
Charlotte spells out that her family is in much more dire financial straits than Lizzie, and she prioritizes a job where she can work in something at least related to the field she loves and move out her parents’ house, over one that will fulfill all her dreams off the bat. One that may never come.
Because of these priorities – to have a stable job and support herself, no matter the personal cost – Charlotte takes charge of her seemingly limited opportunity and runs with it. She gets her company off the ground, does the work that the boss has no ability to do, and manages, by the end of the series, to rise to the top as head of the main branch.
But this doesn’t mean Lizzie was wrong to refuse the opportunity. In The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, Lizzie defends to her mom that just because Charlotte’s life wasn’t ruined by taking the job and quitting school, doesn’t mean Lizzie’s life would have turned out the same. She stands by her own priorities and knows the job wasn’t right for her.
So because Lizzie and Charlotte both had their priorites sorted, and stood by them despite opposition, they were able to find relative success along divergent paths.
This reminds us that we don’t have to take the first job that comes around, but that even a job that doesn’t seem stellar can yield opportunity. You just have to know where you stand.
Don’t Burn Your Bridges
When Lizzie turns down the aforementioned job offer from Mr. Ricky Collins to work for his corporate new media startup, she does it in a… volatile way, to say the least. While we may applaud Lizzie for sticking to her guns (and Ricky wasn’t exactly innocent of rudeness), her methods, when it comes to a career, were perhaps short-sighted.
Charlotte, because she had been patient and kind with Ricky, was able to get the job offer Lizze turned down. She kept the door open for Ricky, and it lead to a career. It also lead Lizzie to shadow Collins & Collins instead of going back to school, which helped her to get more value out of her last year and figure out what she wanted to do. So, props to Charlotte!
In a more extreme case, this also happens with Mr. William Darcy. When Darcy confesses his love to her, she once again turns the offer, and the man, down. Vehemently. While the reaction was provoked, it lead to problems down the line when Lizzie realized the third company she would be shadowing to finish her degree… was Darcy’s. As her professor points out in the companion book,
Lizzie, you are going to encounter the unexpected in your professional life[…] Someone you interned with may be interviewing you one day, or your teacher might set you up to shadow a company that belongs to someone you’d rather not see, but you have to work with the unexpected, not against it. Who knows? The results might surprise you.
So, the innovation world is small – you never know who you’ll be working with, so best not to cut anyone out too soon.
Lizzie takes this advice, stays at Pemberley Digital, and learns loads. On the personal side, she rides out the initial awkwardness with Darcy, and ends up getting closer to him.
A lot closer. (*wink*)
Now I’m not saying go fall in love with your coworker or anything, but taking advantage of opportunities and not shutting out connections, even if you don’t initially get on, can be very beneficial.
Not everyone can be an artist professionally, but anybody can be creative. And fostering creativity should be a priority in professional life as well as personal.
Creativity in Personal Projects
Lizzie’s video blog is not just a project for school, but an outlet for her creativity. She employs ever-hilarious costume theater, over-the-top charts, and so on, to illustrate her views and better understand her life.
This is why the vlog becomes her thesis project, why she is driven to create 100 episodes documenting a year of her life even when things are going horribly wrong. It helps her develop skills of value in the workplace, find confidence in herself and her abilities, and learn to work with many types of people.
The video diaries end up being the vehicle in which Lizzie finds a life and job she loves. She turns her passion project into its own startup company at the end of the series, supported by an audience that loved the content she produced. This, and not marriage, opens up the possibility of sustained happiness in her life. Getting together with Darcy’s just the icing on the cake.
Creativity in the job search
It’s also important to find companies that foster creativity. The two new media companies illustrated in the series, Collins & Collins and Pemberley Digital, are markedly different in atmosphere.
Where Collins & Collins is a rather square office space churning out bland corporate videos, Pemberley Digital is full of creativity and innovation. As Lizzie observes the employees in the companion novel, she notes that, “Everyone [is] curious, everyone energized. It reminded me of the best of college campuses.”
Pemberley Digital, like the original Pemberley Estate in Pride and Prejudice, represents the ideal. And shouldn’t companies want such an environment? A place where people can freely share their ideas and collaborate creatively?
Shouldn’t those be the companies we aim to work for?
Talk to People
There are two ways that Lizzie Bennet Diaries emphasizes clear communication as beneficial – to career and to life.
Communication in Career
In terms of career, Lizzie makes a bold move halfway through the series to spend her last year of grad school shadowing new media companies for independent study, instead of attending lectures.
(This on top of the thesis she already has to work on. When did she sleep?)
But while intimidating and unorthodox, this ends up being Lizzie’s best move.
Lizzie kept seeing a real world career as a distant dream while living at home and studying. She reached a point where she needed to see what was out there. By shadowing real companies and talking to people in the industry she wanted to join, she was able to see what she did and didn’t want out of a job, and applied what she learned by starting her own company.
Communication in Life
In terms of life, much of the story has to do with communication… or a lack thereof. Lizzie, despite being a communications major, has a lot to learn about actually listening to people when they aren’t being upfront.
Additionally, most of the supporting characters in the story have some sort of slip-up in the communications department:
- Jane’s justified reserve in her relationship with Bing Lee leads to him questioning her commitment.
- Darcy’s general inability to express himself clearly with the Bennets makes their relationship fraught with friction, and causes quite a bit of heartbreak along the way.
- Lizzie and Lydia’s initial inability to connect leads to explosive arguments, leaving Lydia vulnerable to the manipulations of Wickham.
Once these characters start opening up and listening to each other, the dramas of the series resolve themselves, and fill the Bennet family’s lives with love and promise. The ones who stay closed-off and secretive, namely Caroline and George Wickham, are left alone and unsatisfied.
As Lizzie says in the companion novel, “‘I think that you wouldn’t believe the problems that can be resolved just by people taking the time to talk to one another.'”
Probably the biggest takeaway from Lizzie Bennet Diaries, next to the power of communicating with others, is the power of communicating with yourself.
Lizzie’s biggest struggle is acknowledging that she can be her own worst enemy. Though Lizzie lampoons her mother’s tendency to steamroll and overdramatize, Lizzie, early in the series, often takes on the same traits.
This causes her to be swayed by people like Caroline Lee and George Wickham, who add fuel to her prejudices in order to manipulate her, and to shut out people like Lydia and Darcy, who actually care about her though they don’t always see eye-to-eye.
Though Lizzie still slips into these tendencies near the end of the series, she is much better at catching herself. This is a subtle, but powerful thing. It shows that personal change may not happen overnight, but even taking it one step at a time can make a world of difference.
It’s something we all need to face now and again, and is essential to both professional and personal relationships. I struggle myself with feeling oblivious to my own worst traits. I work hard to look at myself and see myself as others may see me, correct where I may be going too far wrong. It can be challenging, but I have seen the alternative in others, and I refuse to fall to that fate.
So I’ll keep trying, and ask myself: What would Lizzie Bennet do?
Have you seen the Lizzie Bennet Diaries? If you haven’t, what’s stopping you? What are some stories that have inspired you in your professional life?
Take a hand in helping a writer grow, and let me know what you think!