What ‘Apprentice 2’ Applicants Should Have Learnedby David Bloomberg -- 09/10/2004
The Apprentice does not just look for a winner, like on most reality shows, but for somebody to actually get a job. It is, as Donald Trump says, a 15-week job interview. As with any interview, there are some things applicants should know going in.
Regular readers of RealityNewsOnline are familiar with my articles that address what contestants on Survivor, Big Brother, and American Idol should have learned, and weekly columns on why people lost. Last year, I did similar columns about why people lost on The Apprentice, though without the benefit of a blueprint article to work from. Now that we have a season of Trump behind us, it’s time to put that together, right here.
The Apprentice is very different from Survivor and Big Brother in an important way: Fellow contestants don’t decide who is going. Sure, one person picks two others to go into the Boardroom, but only Trump picks who doesn’t return to the suite. That means some of the classic rules from those blueprint articles won’t apply here. For example, scheming and plotting is not the #1 key in a competition that doesn’t really reward alliances because nobody votes (though it could come into play, as you’ll see). So what should Apprentice 2 contestants have learned from the first series? Let’s take a look.
1) Show Leadership
Trump is looking for an apprentice – but he is looking for an apprentice who can lead, not follow. That is what makes this the #1 rule to remember.
On several occasions, people were taken to task because they had not volunteered to be Project Manager as many times as somebody else who was with them in the Boardroom. By not being Project Manager, it could look to Trump like you’re trying to hide. Indeed, Trump told Nick flat-out that he wanted Nick to be the next Project Manager (which Nick did, and won, thus impressing Trump).
Sure, the Project Manager can end up getting more than his or her fair share of blame. After all, only the Project Manager is guaranteed to go to the Boardroom if the team loses. But the rewards are well worth it. Trump will notice if your team wins when you’re in command – especially if it happens more than once. The new rule this season only bolsters this notion, because the winning Project Manager one week is immune from firing the following week. Besides, we know that Trump doesn’t usually fire people based on one bad performance – he keeps a mental tally. You want to add up all the pluses you can to keep you going when you eventually hit a minus.
And when you are the Project Manager, by all means be the manager. Don’t let other strong personalities overwhelm you. If you’re going to be blamed for a loss, make sure it’s a loss that you created! Kwame showed leadership in the art challenge when he picked Meghan, the weird artist. Yes, it cost them the challenge, but he took a risk that could have paid off. When he got into the Boardroom, he didn’t make excuses or blame somebody else – he explained his reasons and came across as strong and decisive, even though he was wrong.
What is worse than walking into the Boardroom after having lost? Walking into the Boardroom and saying, “Yes, we lost, but it wasn’t my fault because I had no control over my team” or making some other similar excuse.
2) Stay Cool Under Fire
This rule cannot be stressed enough – and you, as a player, are going to be stressed plenty. Let’s face it, this is a bizarre situation. You are competing as teams, but within those teams you are also competing to stick around. Pressure will be placed on you by other team members while working on tasks. Then, if you lose, pressure will be placed on you in the Boardroom – possibly by team members, possibly by Trump and his cohorts.
The key is that you can’t let the pressure get to you. Trump told Newsweek, “You have to remain cool under fire and let criticism roll off you. Good leaders handle conflict easily and bad ones are eaten up by it.” This is not to say you should ignore criticism – especially if it comes from Trump, George, or Carolyn – but rather that you can’t let it consume you. If somebody fires on you in the Boardroom, you’d better be prepared to fire back, calmly and without emotion. Explain why the other person is wrong. Or, if they’re right, then say so in a way that shows you understand what happened and you are willing to accept your mistakes. One mistake probably won’t get you fired. But one mistake and then losing your cool about it could.
But the Boardroom is not the only place you will find stress. In the first series, Protégé lost some of their cash during the flea market challenge. Kristi became flustered about it, but Omarosa came across as cool, calm, and collected. In the Trump Ice challenge, both Nick and Bill said that Ereka was too emotional – this led directly to her uttering, “Don’t say it, Mr. Trump” in the Boardroom when it was clear he was about to fire her. Collapsing under pressure and begging is not the way to stick around.
3) Have a Backbone
Both Kristi and Jessie were fired because they meekly accepted whatever was thrown at them, even hideous attacks from Omarosa. Trump flat-out said that he didn’t like the way Omarosa was behaving, but what was worse was that Jessie sat there and took it. So if somebody attacks you in the Boardroom, you need to stand up for yourself.
As we already discussed earlier, this doesn’t mean attacking them back or getting emotional. But you need to explain your side of the story and show how the person attacking you is really the one who deserves to be fired. A good example is Nick in the Planet Hollywood challenge. He was in danger because he kind of shut down during the challenge, as he disagreed with the ethics of what was going on around him. When his lack of effort was mentioned in the Boardroom, Nick stood up for himself and presented his side of the story. It still wasn’t smart to have gone into autopilot mode during the challenge, but he made up for it in the Boardroom.
However, having a backbone doesn’t only apply in the Boardroom. You also need to stand up for yourself and your ideas during the tasks (which is what Nick didn’t do, above). If you think you need a better location, by all means say you need a better location. If the group agrees with you and you do well because of it, you will gain some status. If they disagree with you and you don’t do well, you can say you told them so. Worst case is if you move to a different location and still do poorly, but even then at least you took a stand on the issue.
Also, if you think you are the best at doing something, you should try to do it. Trump wondered why Katrina had not done the apartment negotiations in one task – after all, she was the one who had experience in real estate. I wondered the same thing! She should have said it was her area of expertise and just done it, leaving other tasks to other people.
4) You Can’t Be One-Dimensional
As something of a corollary to Rule 3 (but we’ll give it its own number), we need to note that Trump is not looking for a salesperson. He isn’t looking for an idea person. He isn’t looking for a new ad exec. He is looking for a leader. You might be the best salesperson/real estate agent/lawyer/whatever in the world, but that doesn’t mean you’ll win The Apprentice because, well, that’s not what he is looking for.
Look at who won the first series – Bill Rancic, a man who had already built his own business from the ground up. He showed leadership, he showed an ability to sell products, he came up with smart ideas. He had many different aspects of business acumen down pat.
5) Be Loyal – Or At Least Don’t Be Disloyal
As we discussed earlier, The Apprentice puts people into a weird situation (for business, though not for reality TV). You compete as a team, with a specific team leader, but then if you lose you compete as individuals to avoid being fired. Being loyal helps you in several ways.
First, of course, if you are loyal to your Project Manager, there is less chance that person will pick you to face Trump in the Boardroom. It’s not 100%, as we’ll discuss later, but it certainly can’t hurt.
Second, Trump told Newsweek: “You must work well with others and be loyal to your team. Disloyalty is the worst of all traits.” Simply put, he doesn’t want to see you turn on your cohorts just to try to win. Yes, it’s a game for individuals when it comes right down to it, but those individuals still have to work together. If we need a case in point, we only have to look at Tammy. “I think we were duped.” Yeah, well, maybe your Project Manager was duped. But you were fired. Who got the better deal?
There is a corollary to this rule as well. The flip-side of being loyal is that when you have the opportunity, you should surround yourself with the best people. This means people who will be loyal in return, but it also means capable people. Before the casino challenge, Troy and Kwame had Bill join their team even though they had disagreed about the way to work in the past. But they knew Bill was valuable and loyal, and indeed his idea of courting VIP gamblers ended up winning the challenge for them. Then, in the final challenge, Bill picked Amy, Nick, and Katrina, with whom he’d had good success. Kwame ended up with Omarosa. ‘Nuff said.
6) Don’t Show Your Hand
No, this isn’t Survivor or Big Brother, so you’re not going to run around building secret alliances to vote people off. However, playing things close to the vest can still help. Before Boardroom sessions, it can’t hurt to feel out where people are leaning, without giving away too much of your own thought process. If you find that most people are gunning for the same person, by all means join in! If you find that people are trying to avoid you, then you’d better be prepared to have all the guns turn on you.
There are other aspects of this as well. If you are the Project Manager, you should never let people know you’re planning to take them to the Boardroom. Doing so only gives them a chance to get their stories straight and figure out ways to attack you. For example, Ereka told Nick and Bill that she would be taking them. Guess who was sent packing? Hint: It wasn’t a guy.
Meanwhile, Omarosa had not told Jessie or Heidi that she planned to take them to the Boardroom, and both of them kissed up to her during the initial phase, apparently in hopes they wouldn’t be chosen. Surprise! They were, and Heidi ended up suddenly changing her tune about Omarosa, which only made the way she had kissed up earlier look worse. Of course, if Omarosa had warned them that she was taking them, she might have gotten hit right from the start.
One final thought: If you let people know who you will be taking, it also gives those who won’t be going the freedom to say whatever they want. When Ereka told Bill and Nick they would be going, what if Katrina had said something that made Ereka want to change her mind? It would not have looked good and Katrina could have accused her of stabbing her in the back.
7) Play Well With Others, But Stay Professional
Playing well with others has two sides to it – positive and negative. First, let’s go over the negative.
Yes, this is a competition. Yes, there can only be one winner. But don’t come in with the “I’m not here to make friends” attitude. We’ve seen it before – it’s the standard line of the reality show villain. And even if you aren’t quite that bad, you cannot allow yourself to be controlled by anger. This is not to say you cannot ever show anger. Certainly, if you are accused of something you didn’t do, you need to show some anger and be appalled that anybody would ever say such a thing about you. But you need to do it in a calculating manner. You need to control your anger; you can’t allow your anger to control you. If you take either the villain attitude or you can’t control your anger, your fellow contestants might not be the ones who will vote you off, but they can certainly make life miserable for you.
Take Omarosa (no, really, take her – please!). She was so obnoxious that people didn’t want to be teamed up with her. She let her opinion of the other players get in the way, when she'd have been better served by keeping her mouth shut a little more often. She let her emotions control her and she had the bad “villain” attitude as well – it was a double-whammy. In response, blame was cast on her whenever possible (that’s not to say she didn’t deserve it, because she certainly did). Eventually, it was the end for her. Trump doesn’t need somebody who will cause tension and problems in the ranks. You have to remember that this is not just a competition for a prize, but a job application. “Winning” means being able to do the job, and if you can’t get along with people, that’s a big strike against you.
If, however, you at least appear to be nice to people, they are less likely to blame you for things, less likely to single you out for bad tasks, and less likely to call you into the Boardroom. However, you can’t be so nice that you appear to be a kindergarten teacher. Jessie was too nice, and people didn’t respect her. There is a fine line.
The other side of playing well with others deals with the most positive emotions, like friendship. Yes, you will likely make friends (unless, as we’ve discussed, you’re Omarosa). But you need to understand that only one person can win. Troy and Kwame knew this, and they agreed that if one of them needed to bring the other into the Boardroom, so be it – may the best man win! Katrina and Ereka didn’t know it – Ereka let Katrina escape the Boardroom because of their friendship, and Trump knew it. Remember his “Your girlfriend Ereka just gave you a break” comment. Ereka ended up going home.
8) Focus on the Long-Term
Short-term thinking may win you individual challenges. But winning the challenges may not mean you win the show – just ask Amy. The challenges are short-term, the job is long-term. Always keep that in mind.
So, what does that mean? Well, for one thing, sex sells, but it also could mean you’ve sold out. Trump is not looking for the Shooters Girls. Do you see Carolyn walking around in a too-tight t-shirt and a mini-skirt?
Many of the challenges are one-shot deals, where you try to make the most money and then move on. But we saw that some challenges later in the show actually built upon the earlier ones, such as the rickshaw challenge in which Versacorp got previous companies they’d worked with to buy ads. And Nick was thinking along the right lines when he refunded the money of a company whose ads had fallen off. If his team had lost because of that, would they have held him responsible? Maybe. But I’d like to think that Trump would have seen that he did the right thing for the long haul, even if it was the wrong thing for the immediate situation.
The challenges can show Trump some things about contestants. For example: Sam was nuts. But failure at a given challenge does not mean you will lose; success at a number of challenges does not mean you will win. Many viewers expected Amy and Troy to be the Final 2. Troy showed himself to be an excellent salesman and thus helped his team do well in challenges. Amy won every challenge she was in for weeks on end. But neither of them were what Trump was looking for, long-term.
9) Think Outside the Box, But Not Too Far
There is a fine line that applicants need to walk for this rule. Trump is not looking for an applicant who is too conservative, too stuck in the usual way of doing business. Applicants need to look at what they are asked to do and see how they can do it in ways nobody has thought of before.
Think of Protégé’s advertising campaign for the jet company. The men went conservative and lost. The women went bold – maybe even over the top – and won. An even better example is Troy in the Trump Ice challenge. He had the idea to write long-term purchase orders and court distributors rather than just trying to sell a case or two at a time. It was a big idea, and it won. Similarly, in the rickshaw competition, Versacorp didn’t limit their thinking to how they could get more riders – they focused on how they could make money in other ways, in this case by getting ads. It was a brilliant idea and easily beat Protégé.
Sometimes, you can go too far, though. Sam’s idea of selling lemonade for $1000 was crazy. But he didn’t get fired that week. Trump thought Sam could have some potential – he liked the outside-the-box thinking. Eventually, Sam showed he wasn’t just outside the box but outside Earth’s orbit, and was fired. But he was an extreme case. If you try something big and it doesn’t work, Trump will likely still appreciate the effort. Just don’t overdo it.
10) Use Common Sense
Do I really need to say this? Well, yes. In the first season, Jason made a huge (or “yuge” in Trump-speak) mistake when he was Project Manager. He had the opportunity to talk to the client and find out what kind of advertising campaign they wanted. But he blew them off. About 99% of people watching were yelling at their TV sets for Jason to talk to them – it was common sense. He didn’t have it. He was fired.
Similarly, in the Trump Ice challenge, Ereka blathered about "creating a buzz," while Bill cut to the chase and talked cost to clients, getting got much better results. It's common sense that bottled water is bottled water, and people are really just looking for a good price.
Now, bring yourself back further in the first series. Remember David? No, you don’t. My point exactly. To remind you, David was the first person fired. Why was he fired? In large part because when Trump asked him if he would have been a better leader than Troy, he said no, because sales are not his forte. Never admit that you would have been worse than the other guy when you’re in a competition!
Finally, you should use common sense when you are the Project Manager deciding who to bring with you into the Boardroom. You don’t want to go up against two strong people, so you should always do your best to bring at least one weaker person in. When Ereka didn’t take Katrina in, as discussed earlier, she made more than one mistake. Yes, she let her friendship get in the way of her decision-making, but she also brought two very strong competitors in against her. She was the weakest link – goodbye.
These are the most important lessons that should have been learned ahead of time by the Apprentice 2 contestants. Bill played by these rules and came home (literally, since he got a job in Chicago) with the big prize. He didn’t win every challenge, but he showed that he knew how to handle himself in a variety of situations.
This second time will definitely have added difficulty just as the second Survivor did. People have a better idea what they’re up against. They know more of what to do and what not to do. Indeed, I’m sure we will see situations that fall outside the boundaries of what we discussed here. But these ten rules provide the best chance to hear the words, “You’re hired!”
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at RNO@pobox.com. Thanks to Betsy Wasser and Mike DeGeorge for their contributions to this article.
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