Akeem presents the logo for their cruise company (Photo: BBC)
Just when you thought panto season was coming to a close, the new series of The Apprentice is back on our screens, and 16 aspiring Dick Whittingtons are off to the big city to seek their fortunes, while King Rat aka Lord Sugar, Baroness “Ice Queen” Brady and Tim “Buttons” Campbell will judge how they fare in the mettle-testing ordeals in the weeks ahead.
Part of the fun of the series has always been the Widow Twanky-like delusions of grandeur exhibited by many of the contestants in contrast to some of their genuinely talented colleagues.
We loved the late Stuart “One Trick Pony” Baggs for his outsized ego and sense of humour, while admiring the likes of series one contestant Ruth “The Badger” for her sales genius. Those early series were a tad educational too, as its broad audience learnt about what was actually involved in starting a business such as creativity, costings, sales and marketing and logistics.
However, The Apprentice has become ever more gladiatorial as contestants tear chunks out of each other to get more screen time, win Lord Sugar’s attention and an influencer following which they hope will continue after the show.
As always, the contestants are all well up for it. Aggressively confident, the similarly dressed and coiffured Karren clones are happy to describe themselves as a “bitch” while the guys have nicknames like “AK47” or boast about being “killers” aiming to wipe out the competition. Even if they say they are kind, then their plan is to “kill people with kindness”. Normal people don’t talk like this, or if they do they’re usually escorted off the premises.
In this first episode, the task was to create a new marketing strategy for a cruise line. It didn’t disappoint. Incessant squabbling. Emotional intelligence and teamwork gone AWOL. A logo that looked like a tidal wave of poo in a yoga pose.
It’s a measure of the calibre of the candidates that the logo creator wasn’t the one to go home. Yes, there was someone who Lord Sugar thought was worse and Harry, the would-be bath-bomb entrepreneur, headed home for an early soak.
And this is where I feel slightly conflicted. As a TV viewer, the series is highly entertaining. But as a career coach, my job is to help people be the best version of themselves at work and present themselves confidently and authentically to those they want to impress.
Deliberately shoved outside their comfort zone, all of the Apprentice candidates will make mistakes, appear out of their depth and try to blame it on their colleagues. The bravado that got them on the show is going to be cruelly exposed in front of millions of people.
These are huge reputational risks for them both personally and professionally. Bad behaviour and lack of professionalism may grab attention and be entertaining in the limelight, but it’s deeply unattractive in the daylight, which is where they’ll need to live after the series is ended.
So my advice to all the contestants is to give it their best shot, but keep their sense of humour and be gracious. In this way, whether they win or lose, it will be a fun experience and a great talking point for the rest of their lives.
Corinne Mills is a career coach with Personal Career Management and author of best-selling books on CVs and career change.
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