The SYTYCD Job Market

I barely watch TV, let alone reality / contest shows, but I must admit to being a rabid fan of “So You Think You Can Dance” (which is NOT the same show as “Dancing With the Stars.”)  It’s really high-quality dance (for example, this year, Alex Wong, principal dancer in the Miami Ballet would have had a spot if they’d let him out of his contract); it’s well-produced; it showcases dance styles from around the world; and thanks to TiVO I can get through the 2-3 hours of weekly programming in about 45 minutes.  Plus there is something magical about being wowed by a hip-hop dancer knocking the cover off the ball doing a Russian Trepak (video below).

Watching contestants killing themselves to get on this show, I couldn’t help but be reminded of today’s job market.  Where the funnel is wide – getting from thousands of dancers to hundreds – it’s obvious who’s serious and who’s not; and even getting from 150 to 50 dancers, the differences in skill are obvious enough that even an untrained viewer could make a reasonably well-informed selection.

But getting on the show is about making the very last cut, and what becomes obvious is that there’s no such thing as “the best” dancer just like there’s no such thing as “the best” job candidate.  The show’s judges and producers are looking for fit, for the right mix of people on the show, for who will play well on television.

(This couldn’t have been more clear this season: two brothers, Evan and Ryan Kasprzak, made it to the very final cut, and in the end were brought out together.  The judges told them that they were both great, but since they both dance similar styles only one of them could make it onto the show.)

This is worth remembering because as you go through your job search, it’s hard to keep picking yourself up after repeated rejections – and there are a lot of rejections in a market where 80% of college grads don’t yet have jobs.  What’s toughest is getting really close to your dream job and coming up short: you run the risk of thinking the reason you didn’t get the job is because you weren’t the best candidate.

There’s no such thing as the best candidate, just like there’s no such thing as the best dancer.  There’s just the candidate they were looking for; the candidate they happened to pick.  So go a little easier on yourself, and keep at it.

(Here’s the amazing Russian Trepak from last year, by Joshua and Twitch, two hip-hop dancers)

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