When one of the contestants on this year’s The Apprentice favourited one of our tweets about the series, we were flattered (we are human) and intrigued. As we’ve often wondered how the experience feels on the other side of the screen, we plucked up the courage to ask. And as – to our pleasant surprise – the contestant in question, Katie Wright, did not rebuff our request, we’re delighted to present below her answers to our questions about the series and her experience of taking part in it.

(You can also read Katie’s Personal Learning Profile in the Guests section of this blog.)

Our thanks to Katie for agreeing to take part in this Question and Answer session, and for her thoughtful and honest answers – and our best wishes to her in her future career. And if any other candidates from this year’s series are reading and would like to comment – or even volunteer for a Q&A Session of their own – we’d be delighted if they would Contact Us.

An obvious – and impertinent – question to start would be “What were you thinking?” Putting that more kindly, how did the experience of being on The Apprentice compare with your expectations? And how true a picture do you think the viewing public get of the candidates’ experience, given that it’s edited down to an hour? Did you feel like your contributions were represented fairly in what was broadcast?

The quick answer is ‘a momentary lapse of common sense’. The longer answer is that I wanted the opportunity to test myself. For years I had watched the show and ‘armchair audited’ the candidates. I knew it was always going to be tougher than it looked but rationalised that the pros must outweigh the cons.


I’m not sure about this additional episode. In one way, it’s the Personal Statement section of the application form, where we get to understand their individual drivers and see their pitch in terms of strengths. It also provides Karren and Nick – who, we should attempt to remember, are the two people who have actually witnessed and observed the participants over the long string of tasks they’ve completed. (Lord Sugar’s acquaintance with them is limited to task-setting cameos, a quick game of whiff-whaff one afternoon and the Boardroom session, which focus mostly on the losers.)

In televisual terms – and for televisual reasons – it’s also the sob story/background bit. Is this supplementary information that you’d normally welcome in a recruitment process, or sentimental special pleading masquerading as light entertainment? This is the kind of material that’s usually filler in X Factor, surely? If this was Big Brother, a cartoon Geordie would announce at this point that “You decide”.

But we don’t. Lord Alan, Nick and Karren decide, and we don’t know if they even care that so and so loves his Mum or comes from good stock. After all, so do – in their different ways – Edward VIII and bowls of dripping. I’m not sure I’d want to invest in either. What really drives them? It’s too easy and tempting to say “A cab, with luck”, but here is a summary of the runners and riders for the semi-final.


Last week’s episode engineered a cliff hanger, which saw Stephen escape Lord Sugar’s laser-guided firing finger by millimetres. This week, he’s parlayed his way into being PM whatever the task, and winning. Assessed on past performance, he’s left himself no option but to polish his petard until it’s as blindingly shiny as his suits and pray that he’s not hoisted aloft on it like a white flag. If there’s any justice, he’ll address a few other points too: dealing with his five o’clock shadow (fine at 5pm, but all day?), curb his patronising approach to the others (and especially the female others – let’s hope Karren is taking notes), and start taking responsibility rather than directing to others the moment anything as much as threatens to turn nipples-skyward. Last week, he had what we can assume was his first real close shave, and was only spared a free cab home by the thickness of his faux mohair waistcoat.

This week, regardless of the task, it’s his own brand that sorely needs a 24-hour makeover and a drastic repositioning. So it’s very tense on my sofa this week. Not only I am missing Lewis for this, I now realise I’m also missing the final series of A Town Called Eureka. Dramatic tension, complex problems to unravel, radical innovation, rendering of justice – and all of it on other channels.


5pm and the candidates are chillaxing for the cameras, as you do, when the phone rings. The cars will be arriving in 20 minutes to whisk them to what must surely be the spiritual home of The Apprentice: a wholesale warehouse in Essex. Lordalan recites his I Started My First Business In A Van psalm for the congregation. Before handing them their £150 for stock, he points out the warehouse has ‘everything a business needs to turn a profit’. Oddly no-one storms the aisles looking for the strategic plans or the common sense.

Actually, this is a time-honoured Apprentice task. (I’m saying ‘honoured’ but …) Take a punt on the first batch of stock and pick two locations. Restock once you’ve sussed the market, and biggest total sales plus stock in hand wins. It’s all abaht smellin’ wot’s sellin’. (Thank the lord – or perhaps the Lord -we’ve moved on from street food, or someone would have to make a nasty joke about Adam’s nasty little balls.)


Our blog has crossed paths – or perhaps run in parallel with – Peter Cook of The Academy of Rock/Human Dynamics/Punk Rock HR on several occasions, and happily so. Closer attention on my part to one of his recent blog postings – Let’s pretend we’re married – Getting engaged – was sparked by what some people now seem to call ‘life events’, in that I’ve recently done the latter and am in the middle of planning what is now being referred to at home as The Big Day™.

For me, the pun of ‘engagement’ is so easy and obvious, but I’m not convinced that I believe the parallel between pro-actively participating at work and pro-actively participating at home is a realistic or fair one. I appreciate that the changes we’ve witnessed in modern life might mean we superficially look as if the opening stages – carefully crafting and positioning an online profile that shows you as the ideal candidate, while simultaneously reviewing the profiles of others to try to read between the lines and ponder the curious omissions – are fairly similar.
But even this overlooks inconvenient differences. Some have been more attractive than others, but no future employer has ever caught my eye across a crowded room and made my heart skip a beat. Nor have any suitors requested that I submit my CV to a third-party consultant for vetting and appraisal, or sit a series of psychometric tests. (Although the latter might have meant that one or two cases of terminal incompatibility came to light before the waiter brought the coffees.)


Many old sayings have tangled histories or ambiguous meanings that we often overlook. Is it “A friend in need is a friend in deed’, or should it end with ‘a friend indeed’? A subtle difference, you might say, or you might just snort and agree with Benny Hill that ‘a friend in need is a bloody nuisance’? One version of the phrase’s history suggests it came to us from the Latin ‘‘Amicu certus in re incerta cernitur‘, which translates rather less ambiguously as ‘a sure friend is known when in difficulty’ – it is not our ‘friend’ that is in need but us, and their friendship is revealed through their support.

It’s not the only phrase about friendship and relationships that has become a well-worn cliché. Another that springs to mind is “you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family”. And family can be a very loaded word: after all, family relationships are ones that we cannot distance ourselves from lightly, or abandon or move on from without emotional upset to at least one party. And views about the nature, meaning and importance of family are often tightly held and hotly contested.


There was a time when the manner and timing of your arrival was your coup de grace moment. Not just movie stars, swishing out of limos in the frock that makes their peers spit with envy, but business peoples’ signing ceremonies featuring almost as prominently as those of famous footballers getting an eye-watering sum for wearing a different coloured shirt this season. But if a couple of recent articles getting considerable attention in online circles are any kind of indicator, the golden moment is now the departure. (One online forum I read refers to these dramatically announced departures as people’s “*flounce* <delete>” moments, although that adds a certain swish that the examples I’m thinking of have managed to avoid.)

The article that seems to have triggered it all was Greg Smith’s Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs: having your resignation statement published in the New York Times was always going to create a splash, even if the splash is well-written and mostly avoids melodrama. A day earlier, James Whittaker published a slightly less composed, slightly more aggressive article: Why I left Google. And then the gloves were off. As Yahoo News! was quick to cover, the parodies started to appear. They picked up on a delightful spoof via the Daily Mash by Darth Vader, titled “Why I Am Leaving the Empire.” They missed my favourite, by Tom Malinowski at Human Rights Watch, where even the following:

Tomorrow, I will send my resume to the firms of Patton Boggs, Qorvis, and White & Case, which have lobbied for dictatorships such as Qaddafi’s Libya, Mubarak’s Egypt, Bahrain, and Equatorial Guinea.”

left the author feeling obliged to point out that the piece was actually an April Fools prank.


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