Can Reality TV Further Your Career?

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Shows like “Shark Tank” and “The Apprentice” prove that reality TV can be used for a lot more than fighting with one’s roommates. Some people have used reality as a launching pad for their own businesses, parlaying TV fame into successful careers. Is the reality route a good idea for you, too?

Where Opportunity Abounds

Reality TV provides lots of opportunities for many different types of professionals. Fashion designers can turn to shows like "Project Runway" to gain fame, showcase their styles and possibly even land a sweet gig. Models use shows like "America’s Next Top Model" to get that cushy contract. Singers have no shortage of shows to choose from to have their voices heard -- there’s a singing competition on practically every network. And chefs can go almost anywhere to have the biggest culinary names taste their creations.

For people who are looking for big jobs, reality TV looks more attractive all the time. Professionals who have already picked their niche could find a great home on a career-centric reality TV show like "Top Chef" or "So You Think You Can Dance." But it’s not quite as easy as being great at what you do and knowing how to work a webcam. Actually getting on a reality TV show is much harder than it looks from the couch in the living room.

The Reality of Reality TV

Though it might not always be so obvious from the contestants who are featured, auditioning for a reality TV show can be a very arduous process. All shows have their own strict requirements and usually-lengthy screening process.

Prospective reality TV stars should expect to pass a full background check. They may also be expected to submit an audition video, or several. There are various forms to fill out and perhaps multiple interviews conducted with producers and assistants involved with the show. Prospective cast members will be asked to audition many different times for several different people. Early and initial auditions are not aired on TV. On shows like "American Idol," for example, all singers audition at least once behind-the-scenes before they ever sing for the judges.

Only people who do well in all the auditions and interviews, and those who pass the various background checks, will be asked to participate on the show. And remember this: even great auditions and interviews still do not guarantee that you will be offered a spot on the reality show in question. Reality TV shows revolve around people with big personalities, people who can and will come alive on camera. It takes a certain personality type, and usually a certain level of physical attractiveness, in order to be a viable choice for any reality TV series.

Fame for Career’s Sake

However, there are good reasons for going through all this trouble. Being on reality TV means getting a lot of exposure, and even TV stars who aren’t involved in a specific career field can turn this into lucrative opportunities. The exposure makes it more likely that other business endeavors will be successful. Popular reality TV stars launch product lines and write their own books and blogs, leveraging their fame as entertainers to create their own careers. By turning themselves into a brand, reality TV stars can turn themselves into successful entrepreneurs.

For some stars who have become household names, all the exposure can be worth it -- but there is still a price to pay. Some stars say that fame is difficult to bear, and the loss of privacy can be damaging to anyone’s personal and family life.

Becoming a reality TV star, or otherwise using reality TV to find career success, isn’t as easy as it may look on the screen. Branding oneself and marketing oneself is time-consuming and takes a lot of work. Like any other career, to be successful at reality TV, professionals have to work very hard and maintain strong focus on their goal. Because of the nature of the entertainment industry, this career path can be very difficult to walk and it’s often fickle. There are potentially big monetary rewards in reality TV, but the expression “fame is fleeting” exists for a reason.