What could student recruitment learn from Strictly Come Dancing?

What could student recruitment learn from Strictly Come Dancing?

Strictly is back, and whilst I’m still figuring out who else I rate the selection of contestants this year apart from the dreamy Dr Ranj, something that I have been thinking about over the last week has been how successful this show has become. I mean it now eclipses the X-Factor. It’s one of the few shows left on TV that I make an effort to actively watch, live. Doing nothing else other than appreciating the courtship between the dancers, and the synchronicity between their steps (well for some anyway!) as they compete towards the glory of lifting that Glitterball.

So, what has this got to do with emerging talent?

Imagine this if you will – what if the professional dancers were employers, the celebrities our young people, and the judges their parents or teachers? And just for argument’s sake I’m Claudia Winkleman (we have a dry sense of humour even if that’s where the similarities end!). Can you see where I’m going with this now? Now, I’m no expert when it comes to dancing, unless it’s to Steps of course, but what makes a great partnership between two dancing partners is surely trust? Trust provides security. Trust creates loyalty. And trust when it comes to careers advice is pretty much what our young people rely on to inform the career choices they are being asked to make.

“Would you like to dance?”

That first moment the professional dancers extend their hands out to the celebrities extending an invitation to dance, must be terrifying. It’s terrifying enough in real life, especially if it’s a relative at a family wedding that you’ve spent the day avoiding. If the ballroom floor were instead a room packed with employers exhibiting at a school or university careers fair there is arguably an element of invitation involved. Don’t believe me? By definition, the word ‘invitation’ refers to ‘a situation or action that tempts someone to do something or makes a particular outcome likely’. Is a room full of employers not there for this very reason? To provide a light bulb moment where a young person, after what could have been years of wondering, decides to pursue a career in (insert job title) with (insert an employer of choice). The difference, as I see it, is that what follows the invitation from the dancers on Strictly is a period of intense training, working in partnership with their celebrities towards achieving a shared outcome. An investment of time and energy. An understanding that only works if they work on this together. Imagine the celebrities being asked to take to the ballroom floor every Saturday to perform solo. Left to their own devices.

But this is where many employers go wrong when they invite the young people they meet ‘to dance’. Many simply open the door and expect students to walk through unaided.

The professional dancers on Strictly have the experience, the trophies. They can dance, at the drop of a hat. Their celebrity partners are in training. What I see time and time again watching the show is how much thought the dancers put into understanding what their partner is going through as part of their Strictly experience. They take this new information, new understanding of what’s possible in a routine they know inside out, new insights and have to tailor their approach. Helping their partners to build confidence and often passion.

Employers could learn a lot from Strictly and its professionals. The pride that they take in training their celebrities is a joy to watch. You can see that they know they’ve opened doors, shined a light, leant a hand and contributed something to help other people move forwards. It’s the same pride that I felt when one of my students told me she’d be accepted to study Geography at university. The same sense of achievement experienced when a student I’ve mentored grows as a person and starts to transform into who they were destined to become.

It’s not enough to simply ‘turn up’.

We all need to think harder about how we can turnt it out, together, on the dancefloor!  

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