Last week’s episode of Shark Tank included some big lessons for entrepreneurs and job seekers. Did you catch them?

We can learn a lot of lessons from the hit show Shark Tank, both as entrepreneurs and as job seekers.

Haven’t seen the show? Think a panel interview with five no-nonsense CEOs, except that you’re seeking investments for your company instead of a job. If you don’t know your stuff, they’ll tear you apart. If you do, the world—or at least some of their money—could be yours.

During this past Friday’s episode, we saw an emotional appeal lead to an investment, an ineffective (but humorous) endorsement by the creator of Family Guy and an inconceivable loss of two monstrous offers by a hubristic entrepreneur. While the first two segments taught valuable lessons, it was the last one that relates most to job seekers.

Michael Tseng, a medical doctor with an engineering degree from Princeton (yep), presented the wow-worthy PlateTopper, highlighted his track record of success and captivated the sharks with potential opportunity. One of them even went as far as calling him “the real deal” for his polished presentation. Michael asked for $90,000 for 5 percent of his company. Next thing you know, he was offered $900,000 for a bigger piece of the pie, then $1,000,000.

It was as if he could do no wrong—but from that point forward, that was all he did.

His segment showcased one of the biggest free-falls from grace in Shark Tank history. He ended up with a deal of $90,000 for 8 percent of his company, but that eventually fell through, according to a tweet from shark Lori Greiner.

Let’s take a look at four lessons we can learn from Michael’s Shark Tank mistakes:

When you state your expected salary range, stick with it

Once Michael saw he had mega offers on the table, he reneged on his previous asking price and upped it more than 800 percent! Damon John, the shark that had tossed him a potential $1,000,000 deal, rescinded his offer and stepped out of negotiations. By the end of the segment, every shark except one had done the same. Michael was right back where he started.

The lesson here? Once you state your desired salary range, work with it. This means you need to spend more time up front determining your worth. Trying to play offers off one another and asking for a helluva lot more money because competitors have shown interest can (and usually will) backfire.

Once you’ve set your expectations, expect potential employers to work with them. Anything less would be uncivilized and unprofessional.

Don’t tell the other side they’re trying to take advantage of you

While babbling on and trying to pick up the pieces, Michael remarked (in nicer words) that the sharks were trying to screw him over, so he needed to be methodical. This is the equivalent of telling a potential employer, “I know you’re trying to get me for the lowest price possible rather than what you think I’m worth, so I need to be smart about this.”

If you want to halt negotiations, accuse the company of trying to take advantage of you. I mean, would you want to hire someone who accused you of duplicitous dealings?

Sometimes you just need to shut up

The more Michael talked, the more irritated the sharks got with him. They repeatedly asked him to get to the point, and he just kept talking. He didn’t notice (or care about) their change in body language and tone.

Self-awareness is important, but so is awareness of your audience. Don’t lose an offer before or after you get it because you’re not attentive to the temperament of the other side.

Your reputation is always on the line

Do you want to be known as humble, or cocky? Cool under pressure, or erratic when faced with tough decisions? With Michael’s showing on Shark Tank, how do you think he came across? How quickly do you think word spread of his antics once this episode aired?

Regardless of what success may come from his appearance, he’ll be remembered for how he handled himself on the show.

Making the mistakes above could cost you your reputation; not just with that potential employer, but with others in the industry. Even if you don’t get the job, you want to be remembered for your confidence, likeability and communication skills. Because hey, people talk.

As you’re interviewing and negotiating, keep these lessons in mind. You could have everything an employer wants. But if you’re lacking in character at the finish line, you could lose the best race of your life. Fast.

Rich Jones is a Pathfinder for Professionals and lover of everything career development. For more from Rich, check out his career site of the same name at I Am Rich Jones and follow him on Twitter at @IAmRichJones.


  1. Careerleaf

    Thanks for the great tips, Rich. I’d also like to add that it’s incredibly important to have a strong sense of awareness for what the interviewers are doing and saying. This goes further than listening. Just like knowing when to shut up, it’s important to know when to speak and what they’re looking to hear. All of this can be accomplished through paying close attention to body language and cues.

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  3. Peter J Ingersoll

    It’s always about what they want, need, and respond to. Always. PS. Many reality TV shows (esp. Hotel…, Restaurant…,…Nightmares, etc.) offer fascinating bite-sized views into business. Watch how many times arrogance and indifference to the customer are the bottom-line factors. “People love my food.” “Really? Your restaurant is empty and you’re losing money by the truckload.”

    • Rich Jones

      Restaurant Impossible is one of my favorite shows. Just saw someone pull that “People love my food” line last night!

  4. John Moore

    Real Talk…….

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