What ‘Apprentice 5’ Applicants Should Have Learnedby David Bloomberg -- 02/27/2006
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 is fond of saying, a long job interview. As with any interview, there are some things applicants should know going in.
Regular readers of RealityNewsOnline are familiar with my weekly columns on why people from various shows lost. As we have done for the past seasons, this article will serve as the blueprint for evaluating Apprentice 5 candidates as they are fired – and when one is eventually hired.
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 generally picks the others to take into the Boardroom, and people can point the finger at each other, but only Trump picks who doesn’t return to the suite. That means the rules for succeeding on The Apprentice are quite different from those for succeeding on shows driven by strategy and alliances – which is something that several contestants have learned the hard way.
With four seasons under our belts, plus one involving Martha Stewart, this article has been modified to better reflect what we know about how and why Trump fires (and hires) people. We will also be taking into account some of the lessons learned in Stewart’s version of the show. While she won’t be returning, applicants can still learn from the mistakes made by those who appeared on her series. So what should Apprentice 5 contestants have learned? Let’s take a look.
1) Show Leadership
Trump is looking for an apprentice – but this is not your normal apprenticeship. 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 have been 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, in the first season Trump told Nick flat-out that he wanted Nick to be the next project manager (which Nick did, and won, thus impressing Trump). In the second series, it seemed almost everybody (save perhaps finalist Jen) understood this and competition for leadership positions was so great that they were forced to pick names at random. In the third series, there was more thought given to it, but in the end, avoidance of the project manager spot was one way of trying to detract from opponents.
Several people on Martha Stewart’s series provide us with further examples of this rule. Leslie was given a pass even though her skills were not up to par, because she had volunteered to lead the perpetually-losing Matchstick team. But Chuck admitted he could not lead, which led to his downfall.
Players need to avoid random draws and push themselves as the best choice for project manager. Doing so will be rewarded – presuming, of course, that they are good leaders.
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. Look at the Final Two from the second season – Kelly was praised for taking on leadership roles, while one of the strikes against Jen was that she seemed to be shirking that role.
Besides, we know that Trump doesn’t usually fire people based on one bad performance (other than early on when he has nothing else on which to base it) – 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.
This could even be the case as early as the very first challenge. In the second series, Pamela volunteered to leave the women and lead the men – and nobody else fought with her for it. Even though her team lost and an argument could have been made that Pamela should have been fired on the spot, Trump gave her another chance, in large part probably because she had stepped up sight unseen into a leadership position. Kristi did something similar in the fourth season. She stepped up to lead, but she blew it big-time. However, she got a pass in part because she volunteered. It also helped that Melissa acted in a way that made her an easy target, but the point still stands.
When you are the project manager, by all means be the manager. Don’t let other strong personalities overwhelm you. Several project managers have been criticized or fired for failing to control those on their team, including Jennifer on Stewart’s version of the show, who couldn’t deal with Jim.
Show your strengths. And if you’re going to be blamed for a loss, make sure it’s a loss that you created and that you took a stand! In Season 1, 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. Jeff on Stewart’s version of the show also showed that this can be taken too far, though. Making decisions that will inevitably end up in a loss is not the same thing as taking a risk.
I should note that when you take a risk, it needs to be an intelligent one. Tara in Season 3 failed to understand the point of the PS2/graffiti challenge and led her team to defeat. She was the manager, she took a risk, but she blew it for other reasons.
On the flip side of Tara’s problems we have Elizabeth from the second series, who was a perfect example of how to be a horrible leader for another reason. Her inability to control her team or push her own idea, not to mention constantly changing her mind, almost brought about the first Apprentice mutiny. When she got to the Boardroom, Trump didn’t even bother to ask her who she would bring with her – he fired her without a final session.
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. Yes, this portion of the rule was here before Elizabeth appeared on Apprentice 2, she simply had not learned it. Nor had Jennifer from Stewart’s show.
Let’s also talk a bit about leadership under different circumstances – when you’re not the project manager. In that situation, Trump will still want to see leadership. You should volunteer for a significant role, step up, take a stand. Don’t just hang back and wait for the project manager to screw up.
But if you’re going to step up, don’t screw up. Jennifer W. is a perfect example of the importance of this corollary. She took on a significant role as an event planner for the technology expo task in the fourth season, but then she let it fall apart. The event was laid out poorly, didn’t draw people in, had bad food, and even has a misspelling on the cake that nobody noticed until Carolyn.
If you take such a leadership role and you do screw up, be prepared to defend yourself and talk about how you stepped up when nobody else would, etc. Just as volunteering to be project manager can bring along with it some risk, so can stepping up in other roles. But the reward is worth it when it’s done right.
I know, Kendra played under the radar through the early goings of the third season, but that particular behavior by her should not be emulated. Trump, George, and Carolyn all commented that they were disappointed in that aspect of her behavior, and it could have worked against her if only her final competition had done a better job.
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 or his advisors – but rather that you can’t let it consume you. You have to deal with the situation and move on. Worrying about it or obsessing over it won’t help you one bit.
If somebody fires on you in the Boardroom, you’d better be prepared to fire back. 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 usually won’t get you fired, unless it’s a doozy. But one mistake and then losing your cool about it could.
Furthermore, when you respond, you have to figure out the best way to handle it. The original version of this rule said to reply calmly and without emotion. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that doesn’t always work with Trump, as when Andy was getting screamed at by both Jen and Sandy in the second series, and Trump claimed Andy was out-debated. However, Jen tried these tactics at other times too, such as in the finals against Kelly, and calm rationality held the day. So there is a fine line to walk. If you need to show anger, show anger. If you need to remain calm, remain calm. But don’t go overboard in either direction – always remain in control.
Chris from the third season was an example of somebody out of control. Even in the Boardroom, he yelled and swore. Not smart.
Of course, 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.
The third season had three people who dealt with stress worse than just about anybody else in any other seasons. Audrey completely fell apart and started saying everybody hated her because she was beautiful. She wanted people to accept her for her brain, but when the pressure started coming, she lost it. She became flustered, she could barely speak, she yelled, she swore, she stormed out of rooms, she said stupid things, she made bad decisions.
Danny, who seems to be a smart guy, was completely unable to function under pressure. He simply could not make decisions when they were necessary, and eventually was sent home in large part because of this.
Finally, there was Verna. Verna was so dysfunctional under pressure that she ended up quitting (and received an induction into the Reality TV Hall of Shame to boot). She simply could not handle it – and even grabbed her stuff and wandered around aimlessly for a while in the middle of a task. Not good.
3) Have a Backbone
Both Kristi and Jessie were fired on the first series 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. Similarly, we already discussed what happened to Andy when he was attacked by Sandy and didn’t do enough to fight back. So if somebody attacks you in the Boardroom, you need to stand up for yourself.
This doesn’t necessarily mean attacking them back or getting emotional. But you need to be firm and 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 Apprentice 1 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 are in the middle of a challenge and 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.
A good example of this is the NYPD ad in Apprentice 2. Raj was firmly in favor of the military theme. Elizabeth was firmly in favor of, well, nothing. She was against the military theme but couldn’t stand up to opposing viewpoints. In the end, the ad they got was the worst of all worlds. Raj told Trump in the Boardroom that he believed in the military idea. Elizabeth said she didn’t. Elizabeth was fired. There is a lesson there.
Another example can be found with Felisha in the fourth season. In the “wrapping” task, she knew it was a bad idea to spend so much of their money wrapping carriages with their ads, but she didn’t put up a fight. In the very next challenge, she needed to stand up to Alla in the Microsoft challenge, but didn’t. More importantly, she needed to push back on Alla in the Boardroom rather than allowing Alla to steamroll her.
Also, if you think you are the best at doing something, you should try to do it. In the first series, 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.
However, there comes a point when you have stood up for yourself and your ideas, and you still lose the debate. At that time, you have to let the project manager make his or her decision. For example, Clay in the fourth season was working on a song for the satellite radio task. His project manager didn’t like it and made it clear they were going to take a different direction. Clay’s response was to complain that h had already written the chorus. There comes a point on the job when the boss has said, “This is the way it will be done.” Employees need to recognize when this point has come and accept it.
4) Scheming and Plotting Usually Doesn’t Work, But Don’t Show Your Hand
When I was putting the first version of this article together, I originally planned on putting something in about plotting and scheming because I figured people could plan on who they should focus on – as the women’s team did with Stacie, for example. However, upon further deliberations and discussions at the highest levels of RealityNewsOnline, I decided it shouldn’t be in there. Further seasons have proven that decision correct. After all, as we already discussed earlier, unlike Survivor or Big Brother, The Apprentice does not have fellow contestants vote people off. The decisions are made solely by Trump, so all the plotting and scheming in the world might not help you.
The more we saw of the second season, the more this truth was hammered home. Yes, plotting and scheming did work about Stacie. But many more times we saw it backfire. We saw project managers bring people to the final Boardroom who should not have been there based on that particular challenge. Trump did not respond kindly, often specifically noting that he couldn’t figure out why that person was there this time, or why another person had been saved when they had done something wrong.
A perfect example of this is when Jen C. took Stacy and Elizabeth to the final Boardroom in Apprentice 2, even though Sandy had clearly done the worst job during that task. Jen only did it because she didn’t like the other two – Carolyn knew it, Bill (sitting in for George) knew it, and Trump knew it. So Jen went home.
Another good example of a bad way to behave was Amanda deciding to do nothing in Stewart’s version of the show in order to make Marcela look bad as the project manager. She neglected to think about how bad it would make herself look. No boss wants to hire somebody who is going to screw them over and make them look bad just to make themselves look good!
That said, 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, in the first series, Ereka told Nick and Bill that she would be taking them. Guess who was sent packing? Hint: It wasn’t a guy.
Meanwhile, Omarosa did not tell 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.
Furthermore, 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.
There can be a small role for some alliance-building, but there is an even greater danger of plotting and scheming too much. Jim from Stewart’s version of the series did manage to stick around perhaps longer than he should have because he treated the show like it was Survivor or Big Brother instead of a job interview. Early on, it helped him. He messed with some people’s minds, he deflected blame, he might even have scared a few people from going after him. As the series progressed, though, that became less important. Eventually, he became so bold – or so egotistical – that he even admitted to the president and CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia that he was playing this as a game! This came back to haunt him when that same person was one of the interviewers taking the final three down to a final two. She already knew how he was handling himself, and it was simply not acceptable. It got him through most of the show, but it also helped ensure he would never win.
However, one place where plotting will help you is in plotting out your own defense. Sometimes, you will be targeted for reasons beyond your control. For example, how many times did we hear that Andy was too young? What Andy needed to do was plot out how to rebut these charges – it isn’t scheming with somebody else, but plotting a course and knowing how you can respond ahead of time.
5) 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 battle cry of the reality show villain, no matter which show it happens to be. 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, as we’ve already discussed.
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. And if it continues, as it did with third season’s Chris, your fellow players will repeatedly point it out to Trump as a reason you should go. Eventually, the drumbeat of criticism can certainly get you fired.
Take Omarosa (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.
Similarly, Maria on the second series behaved miserably several times, with the worst being during the Levi’s challenge. She screamed at project manager Wes, then she bit off another teammate’s head. It was so bad that Trump fired both Wes and her that week.
Trump doesn’t need somebody who will cause tension and problems in the ranks. As we’ve discussed, 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 from the first season was too nice, and people didn’t respect her. There is a fine line.
Applicants should also remember that while everybody has their quirks, the middle of a competition like this is not the best place to show them. In the second season, Stacie’s team ganged up on her because of her odd behavior in the first challenge. Remember that people are just looking for reasons to target you, so especially in the beginning, try to appear, well, normal.
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.
Similarly, Chris in the fourth season refused to bring any of his pals into the Boardroom as a result of the failed Lamborghini challenge, even after Trump & Co. had indicated that was exactly what he should do. Instead, he brought Markus. Carolyn knew the decision was personal, Trump said it was emotional – Markus stayed, Chris was fired.
Then, of course, there is the issue of loyalty. 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.
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 from the first series. “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 in the first season, 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) Focus on the Long-Term
Short-term thinking may win you individual challenges. But winning the challenges may not mean you win the job with Trump – just ask Amy from the first series. 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, nor is he looking for a woman who would strip off her skirt in the middle of the street just to get twenty bucks. Do you see Carolyn walking around in a too-tight t-shirt and a mini-skirt? The lesson here is not to compromise yourself for short-term gain.
Of course, selling out is not the only way to fail at this rule. Jeff from Stewart’s version of the show was so focused on winning his particular task that he took all the responsibility on himself and behaved like a dictator. He needed to step back and realize that winning one challenge is not the goal – winning the apprenticeship is.
Many of the challenges are one-shot deals, where you try to make the most money and then move on. But in the first series, 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. In his book, Bill Rancic said that it was easy to sell ads to the companies since they already had relationships with them. If nothing else, they didn’t have to spend as much time explaining to them who they were, why there were cameras, why the ads would only be on the rickshaws for one day, and so forth. Having built good relationships with those companies allowed them to sell more ads in a shorter period of time than if they’d been starting from scratch.
Similarly, Nick was thinking along the right lines when he refunded the money of a company whose ads had fallen off during that same challenge. 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 the first time around. 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.
Taking a look at the Final Two from Apprentice 2 also gives some good insight about long-term thinking. Kelly did win far more challenges than Jen. But more than that, Jen had a very narrow outlook, focusing more on doing what it took to survive each round than on showing she would be a good person to hire overall. She attacked other players whenever she had the opportunity, and it got her to the finals. But it was obvious that it would not get her any further. Kelly, on the other hand, focused on his own abilities and on showing why he would be a good pick rather than on why somebody else would be bad. He won.
7) Understand the Challenge
Over the course of the series, it has seemed that sometimes people don’t really understand what they are supposed to be doing. We’ve already mentioned Tara from the third season in the PS2/graffiti challenge – she wanted to create a mural to represent the people of the area. But PS2 wanted her to create a mural that would sell their product. Thus, she lost – and was fired.
Similarly, the entire Magna team failed to comprehend the point of the Burger King challenge. They were not there to make the most money. Anything they sold other than their particular sandwich choice did them absolutely no good. The goal of the challenge was to sell that sandwich, period. But they didn’t focus on it and they lost.
The same can be said about Excel in the Dick’s Sporting Goods challenge of the fourth season. They set up a great area to promote baseball and help teach kids about it, but somewhere along the line, they forgot that they were supposed to sell stuff. They were slaughtered, causing an actual drop in sales, and four members of their team were fired in one fell swoop.
Some challenges require making the most cash; some require making the most profit; some require being the most creative. Each one must be approached differently, with the ultimate goal in mind.
8) Be Creative, But Not Insane
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 in the first season. The men went conservative and lost. The women went bold – maybe even over the top – and won.
An even better example was 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.
In the second series, Ivana’s team succeeded in the Levi’s challenge with their Fit Wheel idea; Kelly took his team to victory in the Pepsi challenge with the well-designed Edge bottle featuring a hole in the middle.
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 creative thinking. Eventually, Sam showed he wasn’t just creative but insane, and was fired. But he was an extreme case. If you try something big once and it doesn’t work, Trump will likely still appreciate the effort. Just don’t overdo it, and don’t do it too near the end of the show, when there aren’t many people left to go. On the flipside of the Pepsi challenge, Andy led his team to dismal failure in that same challenge with the geography idea. Sorry, but like it or not, geography is not cool and edgy. That was not creative, just dull.
9) You Can’t Be One-Dimensional
As we look back on the rules we’ve gone over so far, we need to remind ourselves that Trump is not looking for just a salesperson. He isn’t looking for just an idea person. He isn’t looking for just a new ad exec. He is looking for a leader who can provide creative thoughts. 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 was 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. And who won the second series? Kelly practically exuded leadership, had some great ideas over the course of the “interview,” and was able to do many different tasks – even designing a woman’s outfit in one challenge! When Kendra finally stepped up, she showed that she could do many things – design, be creative, sell, and lead. And Randal showed leadership abilities in addition to being well-rounded as a businessman. All four were multitalented and the best choices Trump could make.
Indeed, at one point George told Erin that the point of the 16-week job interview was so the candidates could show their versatility.
10) Use Common Sense
Do we 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.
The second series showed that too many people still didn’t understand common sense. Ivana taking off her skirt for twenty bucks in the M-Azing challenge wasn’t just short-term thinking, as already discussed – it was stupid! Raj knocking out a wall to make a four-bedroom house into a three-bedroom house in the remodeling challenge similarly defied logic. Tana ripping on her own crew in the final task to Caroline showed horrible management skills and helped her lose the job. And do we really need to talk about Ryan on Stewart’s version of the show, getting drunk during a challenge! We could go on, but I think the point is obvious by now. Will it be obvious to the contestants? We’ll have to wait and see.
This doesn’t just apply in the challenges, but in the Boardroom as well. 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!
And then there was Bradford? He made a Reality TV Hall of Shame-worthy mistake by getting cocky in the Boardroom and telling Trump he didn’t need the exemption he was holding. So Trump took it away and then proceeded to fire him. That went way beyond a failure of common sense to just plain stupid.
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.
It goes further than this, as we saw repeatedly in the second series. Project managers and others need to listen to Trump during the first phase of the Boardroom and pay attention to what he says about people. Several times, Trump gave big hints that he wasn’t happy with certain people, but the project managers failed to pick up on these.
For example, Pamela should have known that Trump was not a fan of Sandy’s, but she missed it completely and didn’t take Sandy with her. Pamela was fired, Sandy made it to the Final Four. Earlier we discussed Chris in the fourth season, who ignored Trump & Co.’s statements about how he should bring Mark to the final Boardroom instead of Markus; he didn’t, so he was fired. So don’t go in with preconceived notions about who you’re bringing to the extent that you don’t even consider changing your mind. Common sense dictates that you need to be flexible enough to roll with the Boardroom punches.
Ivana did get the hint about Bradford when he made his boneheaded move to give up his exemption. But then she was upset about it when Bradford was fired! She made the right decision based on what Trump said if she wanted to avoid getting fired herself, but if she didn’t want Bradford fired – if she thought he was a strong player who could help the team – she should not have brought him along. Do not bring a “decoy,” because anybody who goes to the Final Boardroom could be fired.
Similarly, non-project manager players also need to pay attention. Bren was targeting Stephanie in a third season Boardroom when Michael kept interrupting. He needed to just shut up and let the other two fight. But he didn’t – and by doing so he drew attention back to himself with the wrong outcome for him.
These are the most important lessons that should have been learned ahead of time by the Apprentice 5 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. Kelly likewise followed these guidelines – especially in showing leadership – and easily trounced all of his competition. Kendra played the game a bit differently, and in a way that was not universally-liked, but in the end she was able to turn on the power and walk away the winner. Randal showed great leadership throughout the series, earned the respect and admiration of his peers, and had a perfect record as a project manager to boot.
This fifth time around will definitely have added difficulty. In addition, with four seasons under our belts, contestants should have a better idea what they’re up against. They should know more of what to do and what not to do. No matter what, these 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 earlier versions of this article.
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