The Case for American Idol

Whoever says that today’s popular television programming isn’t educational, hasn’t been watching reality TV. Job seekers can learn plenty from watching these shows and noting the striking similarity between the would-be star’s chase for fame, fortune, and success and their own job search. Case in point: American Idol.

Job seekers and Idol hunters begin the chase competing against legions of applicants, all varying in age, background, appearance, talent, discipline, goal focus, and character strength. Those who advance see themselves as winners, more motivated by competition than they are intimidated by unknown competitors.

Those who advance recognize the need for patience and forbearance as they experience starts and stops and seemingly endless periods of waiting just  to learn who steps forward and who steps to the side.

The optimists are positive, assuming doors will open. The pragmatists are reasonable, assuming that doors open and doors close. Those who advance focus on their goal, practice their craft, develop their talent, and look for windows as well as doors. The pessimists don’t advance because they don’t participate. They assume they’re lost before they begin.

Those who remain in the hunt realize that feedback is part of the process and like it or not, they’re going to get it. Some is direct, some indirect. Some is helpful, some, dispiriting. Some they want, some they could live a happy lifetime never hearing again.

Those who advance request feedback. The unsuccessful, don’t. Successful job seekers invite constructive feedback throughout their careers, when there’s time and opportunity to change the big things, tweak the little things, and learn the difference between what’s important and what just looks like way.  Those who advance seek feedback from people whose opinions are trusted by those the industry respects, who have influence, and are regarded as specialists in their field.

Those who advance are driven to succeed more than they are afraid to fail. They want to win more than they are afraid of winning.

Those who advance maintain a reserve account of energy, desire, and belief that they can make success happen, even when they have every right to be two quarts low in one and a half gallon low in the other two.

Those who advance maintain their balance when fortunes rise and fall. They realize and resist the temptation to soar on days when the news is good, and plummet on days when doors that were open, closed, without warning or reason. They temper their emotions and moderate their expectations of others.

Those who advance realize that they need support, encouragement, and a balanced perspective from a place and space outside themselves and their control. They understand the need to retreat from the din of the everyday to reflect, restore, and re-energize.

Those who advance consistently demonstrate personal optimism, professional pragmatism, and intentional focus. They demonstrate confidence without arrogance. They affirm others, find the best in bad situations, and project an internal serenity than reassures as much as it reinforces that all will be well, if not today, then tomorrow.

Above all, successful job seekers realize they can’t control what others think and how they behave. They can only be accountable for their own behavior and demonstrate that accountability daily.

Bottom line: There are no shortcuts. It takes hard work to turn raw talent into recognized strength. Know your limitations without being limited by them. Make mistakes and learn from them. Take calculated risks and succeed because of them.

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Joyce Richman ( has been specializing in executive and career coaching since she started her own practice in 1982. She works in a variety of environments including: higher education, manufacturing, sales, marketing, media, technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, banking and finance, service, IT, and non-profit sectors. A member of the adjunct faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, Joyce is certified to administer a number of feedback and psychological instruments. Joyce has appeared regularly on WFMY-TV and is the career columnist for The Greensboro News & Record. She is the author of Roads, Routes and Ruts: A Guidebook to Career Success and co-author of Getting Your Kid Out of the House and Into a Job. A popular speaker, Richman conducts seminars and workshops throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Her coaching profile can be found at