OK, I admit it, “Shark Tank” is my latest guilty pleasure. I have been known to binge watch this reality show for hours on a weekend or holiday afternoon.
For those of you not familiar with this phenomenon, “The Tank” allows inventors and entrepreneurs to appear before a group of millionaire investors in an attempt to secure financial and intellectual backing for their endeavors. The so-called sharks – who risk their own money to support the people who make their pitches — are folks like Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Kevin O’Leary, founder of O’Leary Financial Group, and Lori Greiner, the “queen of QVC,” so there’s no shortage of business savvy, corporate guile and just plain chutzpah.
But before you go judging me on my TV grazing habits, hear me out because even reality shows can offer up a little nutrition for the would-be job hunter. I’m no entrepreneur, and I certainly haven’t invented a better mouse trap, but I can see many parallels between the folks who appear on the show and your average person seeking employment.
1. Elevator Speech: First and foremost, you must be able to tell the story of you in 90 seconds or less. No digressions. No veering off into the intellectual ditch. Just the story of your career smoothed down to the highlights.
2. Know your worth: On “Shark Tank,” the sharks always want to know what a company is valued at; what their net profit is; and what the prospects are for the company. Likewise, you should be able to give an honest (not exaggerated) assessment of your talents; paint a clear picture of what you’ve been able to do in the past; and then forecast what you can do for the company you’re applying to for work.
3. Be sure what you’re asking for: Often times on the show, people come in asking for money, when what they really need is business knowledge or corporate connections. If the job is described as being x, then don’t expect that you can change the job to y during the interview process in order to meet your skill set. Be prepared to interview for the job that is advertised because those are the things the employer is looking for.
4. Don’t be a prick: Nobody likes a know-it-all. You may know all the answers, and that’s great, but be polite, humble and respectful. If you’re overbearing in an interview, the hiring manager can sense that almost right away, so dial it down a notch and check your ego at the door.
5. Win gracefully: If you get the job offer, accept it with poise, humility and grace. Just like nobody likes a sore loser, a poor winner can be equally bad. Remember, just because you’ve been hired it doesn’t mean your journey is over. Now the real work begins in earning your co-workers’ trust and your boss’s confidence.
6. Don’t burn a bridge: Few things are more frustrating than missing out on a job, especially one you feel is the right fit. And everyone gets emotional when they get bad news. It’s OK to show some emotion. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t. But smart bosses, just like smart sharks, can sense a winner even when the person comes up on the losing end on a particular day. So don’t argue, just swim out of the tank and get ready to play another day.
7. It’s not over until the last shark is out (and even then it’s not always over): Often times, the participants on “Shark Tank” may strike out with the sharks on the show, but the exposure is enough for another entrepreneur who is watching to swim up and save the day. Just because you didn’t get this job, doesn’t mean the hiring manager won’t remember you for a position down the road sometime. Plus, it’s a small world, and folks in the same industry talk, so if you do well in an interview at one company, chances are your name will get around.
So while you may never find yourself watching “Shark Tank,” you probably will end up swimming with the hiring sharks more than once during your career. Just remember the lessons you can learn from a little guilty binge watching of reality TV.