By Rich Jones
We can learn a lot of lessons from the hit show "Shark Tank," both as entrepreneurs and as job seekers.
Haven't seen the show? Think: a panel interview with five no-nonsense CEOs, except that you're seeking investments for your company instead of a job. If you don't know your stuff, they'll tear you apart. If you do, the world -- or at least some of their money -- could be yours.
During a recent episode, we saw an emotional appeal lead to an investment, an ineffective (but humorous) endorsement by the creator of "Family Guy" and an inconceivable loss by a hubristic entrepreneur of two enormous offers. While the first two segments taught valuable lessons, it was the last one that relates most to job seekers.
Michael Tseng, a medical doctor with an engineering degree from Princeton (yep), presented the wow-worthy PlateTopper, highlighted his track record of success, and captivated the sharks with the potential opportunity. One of them even went as far as calling him "the real deal" for his polished presentation. Tseng asked for $90,000 for 5 percent of his company. Next thing you know, he was offered $900,000 for a bigger piece of the pie, then $1,000,000.
It was as if he could do no wrong -- but from that point forward, that was all he did.
His segment showcased one of the biggest free-falls from grace in "Shark Tank" history. He ended up with a deal of $90,000 for 8 percent of his company, but that eventually fell through, according to a tweet from shark Lori Greiner.
Let's take a look at four lessons we can learn from Tseng's "Shark Tank" mistakes:
1. When you state your expected salary range, stick with it.
Once Tseng saw he had mega offers on the table, he reneged on his previous asking price and upped it by more than 800 percent! Damon John, the shark who had tossed him a potential $1,000,000 deal, rescinded his offer and stepped out of negotiations. By the end of the segment, every shark except one had done the same. Tseng was right back where he started.
The lesson here? Once you state your desired salary range, work with it. This means you need to spend more time up front determining your worth. Trying to play offers off one another and asking for a helluva lot more money because competitors have shown interest can (and usually will) backfire.
Once you've set your expectations, expect potential employers to work with them. Anything less would be uncivilized and unprofessional.
2. Don't tell the other side they're trying to take advantage of you.
While babbling on and trying to pick up the pieces, Tseng remarked (in nicer words) that the sharks were trying to screw him over, so he needed to be methodical. This is the equivalent of telling a potential employer, "I know you're trying to get me for the lowest price possible rather than what you think I'm worth, so I need to be smart about this."
If you want to halt negotiations, accuse the company of trying to take advantage of you. I mean, would you want to hire someone who accused you of duplicitous dealings?
3. Sometimes you just need to shut up.
The more Tseng talked, the more irritated the sharks got with him. They repeatedly asked him to get to the point, and he just kept talking. He didn't notice (or care about) their change in body language and tone.
Self-awareness is important, but so is awareness of your audience. Don't lose an offer before or after you get it because you're not attentive to the temperament of the other side.
4. Your reputation is always on the line.
Do you want to be known as humble, or cocky? Cool under pressure, or erratic when faced with tough decisions? With Tseng's showing on "Shark Tank," how do you think he came across? How quickly do you think word spread of his antics once this episode aired?
Regardless of what success may come from his appearance, he'll be remembered for how he handled himself on the show.
Making the mistakes above could cost you your reputation; not just with that potential employer, but with others in the industry. Even if you don't get the job, you want to be remembered for your confidence, likability and communication skills. Because hey, people talk.
As you're interviewing and negotiating, keep these lessons in mind. You could have everything an employer wants. But if you're lacking in character at the finish line, you could lose the best race of your life. Fast.
Rich Jones is a Pathfinder for Professionals and lover of everything career development. For more from Rich, check out his career site of the same name at I Am Rich Jones and follow him on Twitter at @IAmRichJones.
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