Hired 101: Lessons From A Trump Apprentice
The “reality”: Getting hired for a business TV show is no different than doing so for anything else
Recently, I posted on my Twitter page (www.twitter.com/marshawnevans — you should be following me!) that Donald Trump and NBC were casting for season 10 of The Apprentice—not the celebrity version, but the original format! I was a contestant on Season 4 with my friend and brother-from-another-mother Dr. Randal Pinkett. I was actually on the show 10 out of 13 weeks—eight before I was FIRED, and then brought back by Randal (the only woman by the way) for the final two episodes.
As soon as I shared Trump’s announcement on my Twitter and Facebook page, I received tons of messages from people wanting to know how to get on the show, and, of course, whether I had a hook-up. I could not respond to all of the messages, but all of the questions made me think. People were really asking the wrong question. The “reality” is that getting hired for a business television show like The Apprentice is no different than getting hired for anything else. In fact, getting the job of your dreams, securing a great opportunity, or landing clients requires the same strategy. It’s about positioning, strategic communication, and adapting based on the circumstances.
Here is the skinny on what you need to know:
Number One: Understand Your Value. Positioning yourself well in the marketplace requires you to understand what value you bring to table. When I applied for The Apprentice, I was completing my final semester as a law student at Georgetown University. I knew before I showed up for casting that I wanted my “character” (all shows, like all jobs, cast characters) or my “brand” to reflect one of intelligence, competitive drive, and fearlessness. So, I focused on highlighting a resume that showcased my education, my scholastic accomplishments as a Harry S. Truman Scholar, the recipient of over $200,000 in scholarships, and being an ambassador to the International Summit of Achievement in Dublin, Ireland.
Being a student at the time, I was an entrepreneur with a pretty successful consulting company, but I had largely spent the prior three years focusing on law school—hey, $50,000 a year in tuition will make you keep first things first! But, instead of focusing on what I did not have (traditional, recent work-experience), I focused on what I did have. Even as a student, I had gained a wealth of trial experience as a lawyer with the Juvenile Justice Clinic. I highlighted my experience in defending juveniles and the cases I had won. Additionally, I focused on the fact that through my consulting company, I was able to coach dozens of Miss America and Miss USA contestants, along with athletes and politicians— all while in law school.
In other words, I positioned myself as a “standout” by focusing on the elements that “stand out.” Positioning is about understanding what value, or difference, you specifically bring to the marketplace. You do this by strategically highlighting what you have done. Make sure it is relevant. And, make sure it paints the picture you are trying to portray. The picture I painted is that I was a multifaceted, entrepreneurial female lawyer who mixes style with substance. Thankfully, it worked.
Number Two: Communicate Strategically. One of the things that I write about in my book, SKIRTS in the Boardroom: A Woman’s Survival Guide to Success in Business & Life (you can get your copy by clicking here —it’s great for men, too), is the importance of strategic information sharing. The key in business communication is to focus on results, solutions, and again, value. If you know and understand your brand, you must know sell your brand by sharing the right information at the right time. Doing so will require you to do your research in advance, and to listen.
The casting directors from The Apprentice cast in groups of about ten at a time. So, immediately, I could see that I would need to ensure that whatever I said would “standout” because there were so many people at the table. The key, however, was not standing out for the wrong reasons, which many people did. The first question asked, which also happens to be the most difficult question for most people, was as follows: “Quickly, in a couple of sentences, tell me about yourself.” Because the casting was in Washington, DC and I was a former Miss District of Columbia, I decided to use that to my advantage. Here is what I said: “My name is Marshawn Evans. I’m a former Miss America runner-up, talent and interview winner, and also a Georgetown University trained lawyer (I had a provisional license to practice law in DC) that runs a national communications consulting company working with entertainers and media personalities.” I could have simply said I’m a lawyer and entrepreneur. But, there is no explicit value communicated in the latter. Make your value known clearly and concisely.
Number Three: Adapt as Necessary. Most people do not know that I actually went through the majority of the casting process interviewing for the Martha Stewart version of The Apprentice…remember that? She was only around for one season. I showed up that day fully intending to interview for Trump’s show, but the line for Martha was shorter! I had on high heels, and it was a cold February day, so I followed the still voice in my spirit that said get in the other line, and get in it now.
Weeks later, after going through five rounds of interviews, background checks and video diaries, I received an invitation via phone to attend the final round of interviews in Los Angeles. The only catch was that the producers felt my personality was more “suited” for Trump’s show. I wasn’t sure if that was compliment or not! However, I learned the critical importance of adaptability and trusting your God-given intuition. It has helped me in every area of my personal and professional life. For anyone looking to go to the next level, get hired, grow business, or get on a television show, being flexible and willing to adjust is key. The truth is that most people are overly rigid, unteachable, and unwilling to go-with-the-flow. The “flow” might be what you have been waiting for, even though it does not look like the open door you expected.
For additional insight on how to prepare for any career opportunity, become a stronger communicator, and how to brand your way to the top, sign-up for my free ME Unlimited® e-Newsletter featuring daily “Motivate ME” affirmations and reinvention advice at www.marshawnevans.com, and you can follow me on Twitter for quick tips.
What strategies have worked for you in getting the job of your dreams? If you’ve been fired, what mistakes have you made? What do’s and don’ts can you share with our online community of readers. As always, I look forward to hearing from you.