Admit it, we all have our guilty pleasures. I try to limit mine as much as possible, but binge watching TV shows is definitely a vice. I mean with Netflix and On Demand, it's so easy!
This summer I was shown (and immediately hooked on) one of the oldest reality shows: Big Brother on CBS. This is Season 16, so the show has a ton of staying power and I'm way behind. The concept is quite simple: 16 people live in a house together and compete for a $500,000 Grand Prize. Contestants vote off one houseguest each week, and the final person standing wins. There are competitions during the week including "Head of Household" (winner picks 2 people to be voted out, 1 of which leaves at the end of the week) and "Power of Veto" (winner has the ability to block one of the eviction nominees).
Other than that, it's a bunch of 20-somethings hanging out in a house. If you've ever seen a reality show parody, they're most like mocking this show. The contestants aren't exactly the most polished, and some just take advantage of the chance to party on TV on a major network's dime. I get it, it's trash television.
If you look closely, however, you'll learn some valuable lessons. These people might not be rocket scientists, but to win Big Brother you have to be an expert strategist. Contestants are building alliances based off of trust and intuition, and that's an incredibly risky game. You have to work with other people, but it's incredibly difficult to trust strangers to protect your best interests.
In our careers we're faced with the same dilemma. We all have things that we want to do with our lives, and most of the time we have to trust others to help us get there. The best Big Brother players understand this concept very well, and they exhibit these traits that can help us advance our careers:
1) Have a Strategy
Every Big Brother player has a personal strategy that compares their strengths to their opponents, all while looking toward the $500,000 end goal. In our career development we have to be equally as savvy. We must understand what our strengths are, who can potentially help us, and who is a threat. The quicker we can recognize these the more efficiently we'll be able to execute our strategy.
Furthermore, knowing the goal is equally as important. Each Big Brother player knows they're competing for the final prize, so they use that context to evaluate their strategy. We need to know where we want to go with our careers. If you want to rise in your existing organization, then focus on who to work with and what timetable you need to get there. If you're looking for a new career, focus on acquiring the skills and contacts to get that new job. Either way, knowing the end point is equally as important as having an effective strategy.
2) Make It Happen
Big Brother is unique because you have a group of people pretending to be friends to form alliances, yet constantly competing against each other. Even If you're in an alliance you're never safe because you know the person across from you is playing the game for themselves. If there's someone in the game who you view as a threat it's important for you to remove them so you can execute your strategy.What you view as a threat, however, might not be in the best interests of others. To get what you want, you have to go out and make it happen. You have to campaign for your cause. You have to network. Sometimes you have to get uncomfortable.
Our careers are the same way. Though we have friends and co-workers who we go to work with, no one is looking out for your interests besides you. If you know your goal and have a strategy, then it's up to you to go out and execute. No one is going to come to you with a job offer or promotion on a platter. You need to go out and start asking questions and building relationships. You'll be surprised at what others are willing to do for you when you make the ask.
3) Seize the Moment
In Big Brother, timing is everything. If you have an opponent you want to vote out of the house you often have to wait for them to do something wild or offensive so you can campaign for their eviction. What you want doesn't always happen on your schedule, which can be incredibly frustrating. What's even worse is if you pass on voting out a potential risky player, it can come back and bite you later on.
The same is true when building a career. Maybe you want a new job, but there aren't any available. Maybe it's a promotion, but there aren't any openings above you. If you know your goal and strategy, you need to be ready to seize an opportunity when it comes up. Growth isn't always linear, and if you understand how the pieces of your strategy build up then you'll be able to take advantage of more opportunities. Just don't let your chances pass by you, because you'll be kicking yourself in the long run.
Who says you can't learn lessons from reality TV? Big Brother has a lot of action, and if you look close enough you can grab some great tips on going after what you want. So go out there and make it happen!