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.