American Idol and Career Planning

When you watch American Idol, I bet you see a singing competition, or maybe even a judging show.  Not me, I see Career Development in action.


I am an American Idol Fan.  Sometimes I vote.  And, I read Entertainment Weekly’s Michael Slezak every week during Idol Season.  As you may know, last week Scott McIntyre was sent home, and this week Slezak’s Idolatry video featured Scott in three videos, explaining himself.  I was fascinated. 


He confirmed what I’ve always believed about the Idol cast, the kids who got the job: They Got The Job.  Now everything they do—everything—is about what they want to do after this gig.  Scott McIntyre, apparently, sees himself as a singer/songwriter with a specific brand and a very specific future; he had worked all of that out before the show began.  Since Idol doesn’t provide the top ten contestants with an opportunity to show off an original composition, Scott (who has a catalog of compositions numbering in the hundreds at least) decided to commit to his personal arrangement style for each performance, no matter the theme of the show in a given week.  He also crafted his plan for responding to criticism and comments from the judges—with help from his diplomacy training and experience as a Marshall scholar.


Scott may well have both secured and prolonged his term on the show by being extraordinarily poised, diplomatic but determined to be himself, and generally committed to his sturdy and grounded image of himself as a career singer/songwriter well beyond the Idol Finale and Tour.  You might say he had a plan and a brand.  Unlike lots of contestants who can sing a lot better.


Adam Lambert’s plan and brand are working for him, too.  I think his plan is to have the most memorable performances, wouldn’t you say?  His spectacular vocal ability and control is enhanced by his acting—and his ability to execute his fully-thought-out plan flawlessly.  Paula called him brave; I would say the word is prepared, actually, which for me only enhances the experience of watching his high wire acts.  He seems to have the best advisors of anyone on the show (you don’t think they work all this out in their heads, do you? Remember Archuleta’s dad?).  His range, flexibility, and credible (no, I didn’t mean incredible) daring—his distinctive difference—will procure his future, no matter the outcome from this point. 


But that is the point.   These are all hard-working, talented career seekers looking for opportunity—to get it, the smartest among them are armed with plans, advisors, experience, training, research, a network of go-to help, and a strong sense of who they want to be when this job ends and new opportunities present themselves.  There is no substitute for focus, commitment, and a purposeful plan.   I think Paula’s wrong about Fortune smiling on the brave (or something like that); I think Fortune smiles on the disciplined who stayed on message.  Take a career lesson here; think about and plan for exactly what you want, all the time. 


You might think Idol is a competition (as Randy often puts it, “a singing competition, Dawg!”), but I don’t.  I think it is a collaboration of like-minded career seekers (including the producers), who put on a great show every week and reap the rewards of their individual preparation, planning, and performance.   

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