With the unemployment rate hovering near 8 percent overall — it’s much higher for certain age and ethnic groups, and higher overall if you count in the underemployed and those who have stopped seeking work — jobs are tops on the minds of many Americans.
Even those who are employed may find themselves with shrinking hours, paychecks and benefits or facing shaky prospects for the future.
At least for a few people, a new competitive reality-TV series could be the answer to their prayers, and for others, it may offer insights to improve their professional outlook.
On Friday, Feb. 8, CBS premieres “The Job,” from executive producers Mark Burnett (“Survivor,” “The Apprentice”), Michael Davies (“The Glee Project,” “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”) and Jay Bienstock.
After “The Glee Project,” a competition to find a new cast member for the hit FOX series, Davies wondered if there were other areas of life to which he could apply this format.
“Around the same time,” he tells Zap2it, “my daughter, who was a freshman in college, finished her freshman year and said, ‘Dad, I don’t think I’m going back for my sophomore year,’ and a million reasons [for that] went through my head.
“When I actually said, ‘Why, what’s wrong? Why aren’t you having a great time?’ She said, ‘The problem is, the graduating seniors at my college, none of them has real jobs. They’re interning, or they’re doing part-time work or working in family businesses. None of them is in a real training program in the real companies and real businesses where they want to work.’
“At that point, a light bulb went off in my head, which is that I would create an authentic competition for employment. I started thinking how refreshing it would be to have a competition on television that actually wasn’t about people who could sing or dance or tell jokes or balance on top of a pole.
“As great as those shows are, and as much as I enjoy them, but for a show for the vast majority of the population — our livelihood, our happiness, our ability to take care of ourselves or our family comes from our ability to be gainfully employed.
“I just felt that it was very positive for the economy, and people would learn a lot from it, so I embarked on this endeavor.”
In each episode, candidates pulled from applications from across the company compete for a job at one of a list of major companies – Gilt, Cosmopolitan magazine, Major League Soccer, the Palm Restaurant Group, Sony Epic Records, Live Nation and the Viceroy Hotel Group. There are also other companies that have the option of offering jobs.
Recent college grads, raised on aspirational reality and scripted TV shows, may be suffering from unrealistic expectations about what that first job will be. For veterans of the working world, there may be the realization that their career ladders are going nowhere they want to be.
Unlike “The Apprentice,” which offered a high-level position, “The Job” aims for something a little more mundane but no less valuable.
“These are really great jobs,” Davies says. “Yes, some of them are starter jobs, they’re entry-level jobs, but they’re jobs that lead to something much better in the event that people are successful in these first jobs.
“For example, the job at Cosmopolitan is editorial assistant. It doesn’t sound like the biggest job, but there isn’t a single editor out there at any of these magazines who hasn’t started off as an editorial assistant. In fact, all three people on our panel from Cosmo started off as editorial assistants.”
As to what tips he hopes job seekers take away from “The Job,” Davies says, “First, nobody is ever perfect in an interview. … Not a single person who ended up winning one of these jobs was perfect from start to finish. They had a few little stumbles along the way.’
“The second thing is you have to be yourself. … The biggest thing that the people that got the jobs had in common over the people that didn’t get the jobs was that they remained very true to themselves. They seemed to win the jobs on the basis of their character as opposed to on the basis of their experience and who you are as a person.
“And the third thing is you really have to find a way to communicate why you want that job and what it is in your background that has prepared you to go and do that. Those come across, with so many other good pieces of advice that come along the way.
“My favorite piece of advice is the Winston Churchill quote that sits on a magnet on my fridge, which is ‘Never, ever, ever give up,’ which really comes through in this show again and again and again.”