Season after season, I fall in love with dance all over again.
As a then-ballerina of eight years, I naturally find myself gravitating towards the TV whenever a new season of So You Think You Can Dance airs as the program allows me to experience shards of the art form vicariously through the television screen. As a recent graduate having both observed and experienced the early stages of the multifaceted job search, I have drawn some connections between the auditioning process and job-hunting process. I’ve discovered that the two surprisingly have a lot of elements in common!
If you’re currently looking for a job (and happen to also be a fan of the show), think of it this way: So You Think You Can Dance auditions are sort of like your resume/cover letter/interview, while the panel of judges act as recruiters/interviewers/potential employers. The keys to a good audition/application/interview?
1. Come prepared. Fully prepared.
Familiarity with your solo routine isn’t the only thing you need to have when gracing the SYTYCD stage for the first time. You need to be both physically, and mentally, ready – right down to the details. You’ll notice one of the first questions judges ask candidates is: “Tell me about yourself.” Sounds simple, yet it happens to be one of the most dreaded interview questions of all time. When stepping up to the mic to introduce themselves, some dancers bust out their bragging rights from their illustrious professional lives, while others share more personal anecdotes. There’s a time and a place for both, and it’s important to strike a balance when letting your prospective employer take a glimpse into the kind of person and self-proclaimed professional that you are (or aspiring to become).
What matches well with your best dance moves? Your best outfit, of course! Depending on their preferred style of dance, contestants don their favourite costumes and dance slippers. In a similar vein, according to an infographic from Classes and Careers, “65 % of bosses said clothes could be the deciding factor between two similar candidates“. Be sure to dress to impress, but don’t over (or under-)do it!
2. Know what you are getting yourself into.
Being part of a show of this gravity involves you making important adjustments to various aspects of your regular regimen. Whether it be leaving your hometown, leaving behind loved ones, encountering cultural changes, or pushing yourself as far south as your comfort zone is, the same rings true when taking on a new job or embarking on a new career. Brace yourself to have to make some minor, or major, lifestyle changes.
3. Be ready to make some sacrifices.
Nothing worth having comes easy. In the playbacks, we are sometimes given the chance to peer into the personal lives and told stories of how the dancer hopefuls have come a long way to be in the position they are in now. Some dancers even go great lengths to audition – let alone compete. Riffing off of the above tip, it is crucial to be mindful of exactly what you will need to give up should you advance to the next ‘level’ of the career development process. There is no success without sacrifice.
4. Don’t psych yourself out.
The cameramen often pan to several worried, nervous, anxious faces just moments before dancer hopefuls take to the stage to deliver their audition piece. Pressure gets to the best of us. It’s up to us to let it faze and consume us, or to brush it off our shoulders and keep moving forward. Just as the judges on the show are able to sense nerves through noticeable mistakes from a presumably well-rehearsed routine, recruiters are just as able to sense a lack of confidence. One of my favourite quotes by an unknown author is “attitude determines altitude”. Take a few deep breaths, keep your cool, stay in the zone, think happy thoughts, and don’t let self-doubt overpower you.
5. Make yourself stand out.
Just as every dancer about to take to the stage is well aware of the millions of other dancers who are in their exact same position, you must also remember that you aren’t the only person vying for the position you’ve had your eyes on. You are among tens, of hundreds, of millions of people who are equally, if not more qualified than you and better suited for the job. It’s up to you to let your unique qualities shine through to make yourself stand out among the crowd.
6. Exercise your transferable skills and be ready to adapt.
Much like a versatile, seasoned dancer who has a background in many different styles is able to let their vast technical experience shine through their movement, so too should you be able to apply your transferable skills to your forthcoming positions. It’s all about enduring knowledge and finding ways to keep applying yourself.
In her audition this year, Jennifer Jones showed us how her strong foundation in ballet had gone on to help her excel in jazz:
7. Actions speak louder than words.
No matter how well-articulated and well-presented your resume, cover letter, portfolio, or LinkedIn profile may be, these only serve as a preview greatly distanced from what you are truly capable of. If you “talk the talk”, be sure you can indeed “walk the walk” and are able to back yourself up while substantiating your mad skills.
Perhaps a slight departure from the point being made, but noteworthy nevertheless, one of my favourite auditions from this season, was Shane Garcia’s routine. His performance, which I found to be very inspiring, demonstrated the far-ranging effect that actions can have over words…
8. Showcase your best assets.
Just as every dancer on the show should seize the ephemeral opportunity to ‘wow’ the judges by giving it their all in a short period of time, you too should strategically showcase your best assets. This could be in the form of a portfolio featuring samples of your best work, or even through your online presence as it is. Some dancers focus too much on all the flashy tricks they are able to execute, while others play it too safe and miss the opportunity to leave their best impression. Don’t hold back. Be strategic in what you decide to showcase to allow yourself to shine as bright as you deserve to.
9. Superstar? Awesome! Superstar attitude? Not so awesome.
Humility becomes a bit of a tricky thing when one of your greatest objectives is to leave your heart on the stage and exert all the talent and energy that you contain. That said, the life of a dancer still requires you to have an ego-less nature and be humbled with every opportunity you have to share your talents with others, as well as share the stage with others.
Who can forget audition-veteran Anthony Bryant. I thought he did a swell job dance-wise and actually agreed with Mary Murphy’s comments about how he has grown and matured as a dancer. What I haven’t been huge a fan of is his level of maturity off the stage, with the way he has taken (or not been able to take) criticism in the past. You best leave your attitude at the door – and keep it there!
10. The show must go on!
Moments leading up to their auditions, some unfortunate dancers experience untimely catastrophes such as a last-minute injury during rehearsal. You must leave all the negative thoughts and vibes at the door – or in this case, the stage wings. For instance, if you’ve been having a miserable day leading up to your interview, the last thing you’d want is for that negativity to be unleashed when you sit down with the interviewer. Don’t risk being reflected in an inaccurate way in front of your future employer.
11. Received some feedback? Take it in stride.
Some judges provide some (blatantly honest) constructive criticism to dancers, especially if they feel that the dancers have the potential to be extra great at what they do. Getting a trusted friend or colleague, mentor, or other advisory figure to give you in-depth feedback on your application approach or materials can yield helpful insight. A fresh pair of eyes for screening your resume, or sitting through a mock interview, for example, could be really fruitful.
12. Be grateful for the opportunity.
If and when you get called for the first, second, final interview, always remember that as you may have considered this as a risk you took on them (i.e., the respective company you have applied to), they are taking a risk on you in having you come in, too. Make it worth their time, and yours. Expressing your gratitude and extending a simple “thank you” after your prospective employer has given you their time is a mighty good idea.
13. Be able to accept rejection.
There have been tons of dancers over the years who have had their hearts and dreams crushed by not getting through to the next round. When the time comes to have to accept the fact that you may not be the perfect fit for your prospective employers and their needs (or, alternatively, that they may not be the perfect fit for you and your needs), do so gracefully. Take a step back to evaluate what may have gone wrong, but don’t let that bog you down.
Every season, we’re bound to see some familiar faces turn up year after year in an attempt to prove to the judges that they are back, they have matured, and have improved heaps since the last time they tried auditioning. Try, try, and try again! And after trying for the nth time, consider reflecting on your overall strategy and approach while keeping your goals in mind. Hash out in your mind what things you should have done, could have done, and would do differently the next time around.
14. Connect with your audience.
A recurring piece of advice that judges often share with many dancers – even those who are successful to press on and keep advancing to subsequent rounds – is to make a meaningful connection with their audience. A technically strong, clean performance is just not fully enthralling or honest without a genuine connection being made between the dancer and audience. Making a personal connection either through your letter of intent, or face-to-face at an interview, is important if you want to be remembered. Go the extra mile to let an extension of yourself linger with whomever you are trying to impress.
15. Sometimes, technique alone doesn’t cut it.
We see it all the time – technically strong dancers, for some reason, don’t make it through to the next round. You rewind and rewatch the routine and make the following remarks: “They killed the ending!” “They nailed the difficult trick!” “They held that pose!” You sit there, scratching your head, wondering why in the world they did not advance? The reason, more often than not, is that their hard skills just weren’t enough. When an employer screens you and reviews your credentials (depending on the position), your hard, technical skills aren’t the only things they pay attention to. We’re seeing a shift in the growing importance of soft skills in the workplace. Do not underestimate your personal attributes as your endearing personality or winning attitude may be the deciding factor between you and the next equally adept candidate!
16. Remember you aren’t in this process alone.
A multitude of contestants often have friends or family cheering them on far before they hit the stage for their audition. Just as their support system appears to comprise people who are behind them and their efforts 110%, you should also aim to surround yourself with people who will continue to challenge, encourage, and uplift you.
Whether you’re a dancer or not, So You Think You Can Dance has lessons beneficial for any audience member. Mindset, technique, passion, backbone, personality, attitude… to me, these are the elements that make up a successful audition which can, and should, be applied to your next job searching endeavour.
Well, the judges (recruiters/interviewers) are ready for you. Are you ready for them? Are there any other show-to-life parallels you’ve drawn that you’d like to add to this list?
Featured Image courtesy of So You Think You Can Dance’s Official Facebook Page.