With the auditions for series 11 of the BBC's The Apprentice upon us, I have been approached by loads of auditionees asking for the inside scoop on the track to success. Rather than answer all their requests via social media, I will be more efficient by blogging about it instead. People will have noticed that I do not like to talk about the show much; this is mostly because I do not want to burst the bubble for the millions of people who glean enjoyment from watching it and, secondly, because I am wary of being defined by one small section of my life.
My first observation of the eager auditionees who have approached me for my advice is that they are breaking the rules. It's public knowledge that everyone's involvement in the show must remain strictly confidential up to the big media announcement at least. However, I am not, on this occasion, scolding you. Those willing to break the rules have distinct advantages in that environment - it's a sad but plain fact.
Now, while I never wish to publically make myself look anything less than intelligent, I am about to do so by revealing that I had never watched The Apprentice before entering. I was vaguely familiar with the concept from being in other people's homes when it was on and from the media in general. Surely only an idiot auditions for something without fully researching the public's perception of the programme? Well, my only defence is that I was engaged as a full-time lawyer, starting my work on The Link App, and being my usual fitness-obsessed, social-whirlwind self; I didn't have time. I just thought 'It's the BBC, a fine British institution; Lord Sugar is a successful businessman and a programme that's been running for ten years must be held in very high regard - off I go'. Now, to me the public reaction was the best part of participating in the show, but to read how the media perceive the show - with comments like "The Apprentice knows it's the nitwits who really make for great television" (The Independent, 21st December 2014) - was something of a shock. I thought my dad's was an unusually muted response when I gleefully informed him that I had been successful in my application to be on The Apprentice. Nevertheless, off I went and here I am now. Despite the above, I am not complaining - with my usual blind determination to remain positive, I have recently been able to launch my business and gain a great deal of publicity for The Link App. To be clear, I am not crediting The Apprentice with this - the app's progress to date is down to a great deal of hard work - but it certainly didn't hurt.
I feel very lucky to have been so well received by the great British public but I can't imagine everyone's experience is the same. So my top tip has to be: be yourself! Yes, it's a cliché, I'm afraid, but it's true. If you get on the show, it's a great opportunity, for sure, but it's a fleeting moment in your lifetime that you will have to live with forever. If your business idea is genuinely good and you're the right person to take it to market, then I believe that you will succeed anyway. However, this advice is peppered with the obvious fact that I didn't win the show. I know, now, how I could have got further but I'm not even going to share that with you. The reason is simple: even knowing the inside track, I wouldn't change a thing, and a win based on anything other than merit is not a win you want. So good luck, do your research, be yourself and if you are accepted, enjoy one hell of a rollercoaster ride!
p.s. Yes, you really do only get 20 minutes in the morning to get ready. Enjoy!
Lauren Riley is a former Apprentice star and founder of the new legal app 'The Link App' www.thelinkapp.co.uk Follow her on twitter @misslaurenriley and http://laurenriley.co.uk/