Careers Advice

Lessons Learned from The Apprentice

Are you watching the Apprentice? The show offers some valuable lessons which can help you succeed in the workplace.

Published: 08/11/2016

*Spoiler Alert*

It’s safe to say our calendars are blocked out on Thursday evenings watching the latest series of The Apprentice! If you’re not familiar with the format, 18 candidates compete for the chance to become Lord Alan Sugar’s business partner and receive £250,000 investment. As well as being glued to our TV screens every week in anticipation of which ill-fated candidate will ‘be fired’, the show offers some valuable lessons which can help you succeed in the workplace. Here are our top five career lessons learned from watching The Apprentice:

Strategic thinking 

Series 2016 began with its take on the hit TV programme “Storage Hunters” whereby candidates were tasked with separating hidden gems from the rubbish in a lock up garage. Sounds simple enough… From the outset, Lord Sugar emphasised the importance of a pricing strategy. Team Nebula disregarded this advice as well as the expert’s opinion on pricing and proceeded to sell items “so cheap the buyers could be arrested for looting”, as quoted by Lord Sugar. Needless to say, Team Nebula paid the price and lost the task.

Lessons learned

Know your numbers and work collaboratively! Be patient – don’t be tempted to sell until you have a strategy and pricing structure in place. Know your market so you have the confidence to negotiate and up-sell.

Time constraints

Whether it’s the infamous wakeup call stating, “20 minutes to get ready” or the tight task deadlines, time management features prominently in the show. 2016 Candidate Mukai’s team missed the deadline for the interactive bus shelter advert. This did not bode well with Lord Sugar or the panel of industry experts that they delivered their pitch to.

Bus shelter quote The Apprentice image not ScotGrad's

Lessons learned

Missed deadlines can contribute to project failure, indicate a lack of professionalism on the part of the individual and tarnish the reputation of the company.

Deadlines can be managed by breaking a project down into smaller tasks, estimating the length of time taken to action each task and prioritising in accordance of order of importance. However, if you are still struggling, offer to work longer and don’t be afraid to ask a colleague(s) for assistance!

The ability to work under pressure

Jessica’s epic meltdown springs to mind! Instead of leading by example in her role as Project Manager, Jessica broke down during the advertising task when she realised she had misplaced the jeans to feature in the jeans billboard advertisement and assessor Karren Brady was forced to intervene! 

 Jeans quote The Apprentice image not ScotGrad's 

Lessons learned

Preparation is key! The more effort and planning you put into a task, the more equipped you will be to deal with unforeseen circumstances. Mistakes happen so don’t dwell on what’s gone wrong. Be resilient! Remain calm, take back control of the situation and focus on the end goal.

Listen, don’t ignore

Sofiane’s aggressive sales technique when attempting to sell sweets to Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club could be classed as an own goal! He persistently ignored the customer’s budget of £300 and continued to badger the customer for a sale of £400: “We don’t want to spend £400”. “Not a problem. I’ll put you down for £400.” This made for cringe worthy viewing but we applaud the customer for remaining polite and ultimately agreeing to an order of £300.

Lessons learned

An aggressive sales technique could destroy the opportunity for relationship building with a new client and ultimately the loss of a sale and repeat business. By listening, it conveys to the customer that he is more than just a number on your sales sheet and that you’re providing a tailored service.

Don’t take a back seat!

We’ve already seen a number of candidates playing it safe by contributing as little as possible in the hope that they won’t be blamed in the boardroom for the failure of a task. JD, “chief tea maker” in the department store task was extremely fortunate that he was in the winning team as he would have had a hard time justifying his input.

Lessons learned

In the workplace, it’s normal to prefer working on some tasks more than others but it’s important to get involved regardless. By contributing and taking on responsibility, your efforts will get noticed for the right reasons. Nobody wants to wants to work with someone who shirks responsibility but takes credit for others’ success.


Whilst The Apprentice is a world away from our exciting placements, we hope these general business lessons have helped you.


Written by Nicola Meikle, ScotGrad