I am embarrassed to admit: I am a big fan of reality TV.
I don't watch much TV but when it comes time for a new season of Survivor, So You Think You Can Dance, or dare I say The Bachelor (I can't believe I just admitted that) I can't stop myself.
I justify this to my loving family by claiming I like social psychology. This just adds fuel to the fire of dissident, especially when my wife catches me pressing record on American Ninja Warrior.
Regardless, my many years of reality TV have taught me a lot about life.
I will go as far as to say that all those episodes of MTV's Road Rules and The Real World may have been the reason I was accepted into PA School
How could this possibly be you might ask? Because they taught me this:
It is not always the most talented and most experienced person that wins the show, but nine times out of ten it is the one that is the most like him or herself.
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. - Oscar Wilde
The Status Quo
I was rereading the section "Part 2 The Interview" of getting into the PA school of your choice by Andrew Rodican. Here was his summary of interviewing tips and rules:
- Arrive at the interview on time.
- Dress appropriately.
- Men: suit and tie
- Women: business suit
- Shined shoes
- Bring a compact mirror to check for "crumbs."
- Smile genuinely.
- Always offer your (firm) handshake first.
- Look everyone in the eyes.
- Speak clearly and loud enough to be heard.
- Use proper English.
- Say "please" and "thank you."
- Don't sit until asked to do so
- Bring a copy of your entire application; review it when you have time.
- Have a short number of good questions to ask.
- Bring a picture of yourself.
- When interviewing, try not to make nervous hand movements.
- Don't become defensive.
- Don't ever raise your voice.
- Don't say too much.
- Speak to everyone with genuine interest.
- Be consistent
- Answer the question briefly.
- Don't ramble.
The Missing Rule: Be Yourself!
In order to be oneself, one has to take risks, to accept that one is not perfect and to be courageous enough to say what one really thinks.
Nowadays, it’s a tremendous act of bravery to be original instead of a half-baked replication of someone else.
Role models are just that, and they are not necessarily someone to imitate to the letter, an image to clone or a mind to reproduce.
Most people are other people; their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. –Oscar Wilde.
Lacking spontaneity, originality or individuality is the worst flaw one can have, for a mediocre copy of someone else is taking one’s place.
It is also one of the worst flaws one can have when approaching an interview.
You can read the above list of interviewing tips over and over again till your eyes bleed. You can polish your shoes, brush those crumbs off your shoulders, and try not to ramble but when we do these things we are often evoking an image of somebody else.
Finding Your Voice: How applying for PA School is Like American Idol
Whatever feelings the name "Clay Akin" evokes, one thing is for certain if you have heard him sing he has an unmistakable sound. This sound is grounded in an “originality” that carried him to the finals of American Idol.
The problem with books like “how to get into the PA school of your choice” is that they tend toward the status quo. And that may be fine if you want to get into a PA school, but probably not the PA school of your choice.
To do this you must strive for originality. You must separate yourself from the pack.
And it is simple. The best way to separate yourself from the pack is to be yourself.
The day of my PA School interview I had gotten about 3 hours of sleep the night before. I walked into a room of 30 or so very well qualified and motivated PA School applicants.
Making small talk I learned how Brittney from Duke was on her 5’th PA school interview taking a break from her summer internship at Harvard Med, Duane had 15 years of direct patient experience and had just returned from China where he was teaching English, Mark, a paramedic, who on his way to the interview pulled off the side of the road to resuscitate a small child.
Wow, I thought, I suck!
As they called my name to begin the interview process I was starting to doubt my qualifications.
Life is Like Reality TV
If you spend your time comparing yourself to others you will lose the most valuable part of what you bring to the PA school Interview or essay for that matter... Yourself.
The reason American Idol has struggled since losing Simon Cowell is because he gave the only opinion on the panel that mattered. It wasn't filled with kind platitudes, it was the truth.
When you sit down for your interview, or you sit down to write your application essay, put the essay books away, put the interview books down, do put on a nice suit or dress and stop searching outside yourself for the correct answers to the interview questions.
The only correct answer is the one that is a proper reflection of your life.
The reason Clay Aiken never looked nervous is because his only measure was against himself, if you do this you can't lose, you won't fear making a mistake, you will be unique in a world of people trying to be like everyone else.
Clay was a camp counselor before he became an internationally known vocalist. He had big ears, funky hair, and a boyfriend.
Many winners of Survivor never won an immunity challenge.
One of the more popular competitors on the Amazing Race was a deaf man traveling with his 50-year-old mom.
The point is this, to win does not require that you simply "be the best", but it requires that you be the best of yourself!