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What Can Reality TV Teach PR Professionals?

by The Creative Group

You may watch Jersey Shore or Dancing With the Stars for a weekly dose of humor, but you can actually pick up some good career advice, too. Following are some nuggets of wisdom garnered from some popular reality TV shows:

  • Start off on the right foot. They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and most contestants on The Bachelorette would know. After failing to secure a “first-impression rose,” many singles are sent home without a passing glance from the starlet of the show.
                                                                                 
    While you won’t receive flowers from interviewers for demonstrating poise and professionalism, it’s still critical to win over hiring managers from the start. In fact, executives surveyed by Robert Half said it takes them just 10 minutes to form an opinion of a job seeker. Help your cause by dressing professionally, having a positive attitude and showing that you’ve done your homework by researching the prospective employer before the meeting.
                                                
  • Accept criticism with class. Tension makes for great television. That’s why reality shows feature sharp-tongued judges and contestants who respond poorly to criticism, like some Hell’s Kitchen contestants who talk back to Gordon Ramsay after he samples their dishes.

But when it comes to the real world, being combative and shirking responsibility are surefire ways to damage your career prospects and professional reputation. While receiving a less-than-glowing appraisal of your work from a manager isn’t easy, try to learn from the feedback instead of becoming defensive. Keep in mind that most critiques are intended to help you grow and improve.
                                                                

  • You never know until you try. On the show Dirty Jobs, host Mike Rowe steps into the often grimy shoes of someone who has a less-than-desirable job. Amazingly, many of the people who actually do the “dirty job” appear satisfied with their chosen paths.
                                                                          
    The likely lesson viewers will take away from this series: “Maybe my job isn’t so bad after all.” But this isn’t the only pearl of career wisdom you can gain. Rowe demonstrates how important it is for workers to get outside of their comfort zones. You may not relish kelp harvesting or maggot farming or an equally undesirable PR assignment, but undertaking these tasks may help you build confidence and new skills.
                                                                                 
  • Master time management. Tough challenges with tight deadlines also are staples of reality TV, and contestants who tend to fare best on shows like Project Runway and The Amazing Race are those who steadfastly manage and keep track of time. They know the deadline, prioritize their tasks and don’t allow themselves to get sidetracked – important skills for all PR professionals.
                                                                                       
  • Avoid the gossip grapevine. The ladies on The Real Housewives series would likely attest to the fact that vicious rumors can tear apart relationships. Resist opportunities to pass along juicy rumors of a pending merger or a colleague’s weekend exploits. Talking behind anyone’s back or sharing highly sensitive or unsubstantiated information as fact will only undermine your credibility. Though it can be beneficial to be aware of what’s being said at the water cooler, it’s wise to keep that information to yourself.


Next time you sit down to enjoy your favorite reality TV show, don’t just watch what the characters are eating or wearing; take note of how they navigate tough situations. By observing their behaviors and how they interact with others on the show, you can pick up a few pointers for work situations as well as actions to avoid on the job.


The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals with a variety of firms. More information, including online job-hunting services, candidate portfolios and TCG’s award-winning career magazine, can be found at creativegroup.com.