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Career lessons from reality stars

Rachel Farrell, Special to

Believe it or not, reality TV stars can be more for us than a guilty pleasure. In fact, they can even teach us a thing or two, and not just about being a drama queen.

Now that more reality stars have begun to stretch their 15 minutes of fame into entertainment empires, many of them can actually teach us valuable lessons about business, personal branding and careers.

Don’t believe us? Read ’em and weep.

1.  Chelsea Handler

Career lesson: Challenge yourself

Chelsea Handler got her start in the Oxygen reality series “Girls Behaving Badly” in 2008. Since then, she has managed to build a multimedia empire, going from successful late-night TV show host to comedian to author. Not only was she the host of the 2010 MTV Music Awards — the first female to host since 1994 — that same year, she also became a three-time bestselling author. And finally, Handler was able to secure a comedy tour based on her books, as icing on the cake.

Handler reminds everyone that there’s no limit to what you can do. Always challenge yourself to take the next step or try something new in your career — you’ll never know until you try.

2. Simon Cowell

Career lesson: Be authentic

Simon Cowell is the man everyone loves to hate. While the music executive, television producer and entrepreneur was often criticized for being too harsh on contestants as a judge on “American Idol,” no one can fault him for being honest. Although it makes us mad on one hand, on the other hand, we might secretly agree with him.

Like the co-worker everyone looks to as the group voice, Cowell can teach job seekers and employees alike to stay true to who they are. Be true to your passions and talents, and be honest. (Except maybe do it with a little more tact.)

3. Lauren Conrad

Career lesson: Leverage your platform

Lauren Conrad got her career start back in the day on MTV’sLaguna Beach” and then “The Hills.” Although she’s no longer on TV, Conrad piggybacked off her newfound fame and became an author fashion designer.

Conrad’s career success teaches everyone to take a chance when you’re given one. She was picked at random out of hundreds of high school kids to be on her first television show, and things only got better from there. So take the extra project, take the position when you’re offered it. You never know what will happen.


4. Ryan Seacrest

Career lesson: Hard work pays off

Although he catches flack for being somewhat of a “pretty boy,” Ryan Seacrest is one of the hardest working guys in the entertainment biz. Seacrest has built his brand — and then some. You can find him hosting “E! News” or “American Idol” — and if he’s not doing that, he’s interviewing the hottest celebrities for his syndicated radio show, or producing hit shows like “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.


Ever heard the saying “You get what you give?” Successful careers don’t blossom overnight, and Seacrest’s success reminds us of that. No matter what you do in your career, ambition and hard work can sometimes get you further than anything else.


5. Bethenny Frankel

Career lesson: Grow your brand

After getting her start on reality TV as a finalist on “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart,” Bethenny Frankel is another example of star who leveraged her platform for success. She’s admitted to joining her next reality gig, “The Real Housewives of New York” purely for business and to plug her products. From there, the former natural-foods chef has now built up her empire to comprise the popular Skinnygirl cocktail line, a successful publishing franchise, a workout DVD, other Skinnygirl-brand products. She recently sold her cocktail line to the tune of $120 million dollars.

Frankel has always been transparent about her intentions and her success. She was  “just like us” before her self-made success. Her business model is very simple: solve a problem. From there, anything is possible.


Rachel Farrell researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder. Follow @Careerbuilder on Twitter.

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