'It's not worth losing your job over': Bachelor, Amazing Race, and Survivor alums explain how reality stardom affected their careers
On this season's finale of "The Bachelor," Nick Viall met Santa, played with dogs, and, finally, gave out his last rose (and a flashy ring).
The episode marked the end of a season that's spotlighted some rather unusual occupations, from aspiring dolphin trainers to adult nannies. But what does becoming a contestant on reality television really do to your career? Can having a national platform help you snag bigger and better opportunities? Or does taking time off (or even quitting your job) just derail your professional progress?
Business Insider spoke with six people who have appeared on "The Bachelor," "The Bachelorette," "Amazing Race," and "Survivor." We specifically sought out people who've participated in competition-type shows, as opposed to reality shows that focus on a group of specific people, like the "Real Housewives" franchise, because competition-type shows usually require participants to take a bigger professional risk (there's almost always one competitor who takes weeks off of work, only to get eliminated in the first episode).
Here's what they had to say about what reality TV did to their real-life careers:
'It fueled a fire for me'Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images
Chris Soules, "The Bachelorette," "The Bachelor"
Former "Bachelor" star Chris Soules said he had to get away from his Iowa farm to appreciate how much he loved his job — and how little non-farmers know about the industry.
Before appearing on reality television, Soules worked on his family's third generation farming operation, Soules Farms. The farm focuses on soybean and corn production, and also raises hogs. Soules also worked in land investment with the Peoples Company Land Investment Team.
Soules' first brush with reality television came when he appeared as a contestant on season 10 of "The Bachelorette," ultimately finishing in third place.
Almost as soon as he returned home, he got an offer to star in season 19 of "The Bachelor." The opportunity would mean that he'd have to miss harvest for the first time ever, which Soules said made the decision to leave tough for both him and his parents.
"The biggest concern going into 'The Bachelor' was being away from work again," he said. "Luckily I've got a great team back at home on the farm who were able to manage a lot of jobs and keep that going."
He said that he wouldn't have left if it was just "for fun."
"It seemed like a great opportunity," he said. "I felt like I would be able to do more for the state of Iowa, by putting it in the spotlight even more. And it was a very good opportunity to meet somebody."
Soules said he first recognized the widespread misunderstanding about farming during his stint on television. He told Business Insider that agriculture is one of the most important industries in the US, but that there's a serious "lack of knowledge about what farmers do."
This prompted Soules to consider a new career path: agricultural advocacy.
"Many people don't see farmers as looking like me — they think, perhaps, more of somebody in denim overalls," Soules said. "It fueled that fire for me to be able to really want to speak on behalf of it and help educate through social media and public speaking and utilize those platforms to educate."
In his new capacity as an advocate for farmers, Soules appeared at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions during the last presidential election (although he didn't endorse either candidate). Today, Soules juggles land investment and his new advocacy platform, but continues to focus on the family farm as well.
"Right now, my focus has been to continue to manage the farm and make it better," Soules said.
'We jumped right back into our normal life'Kelsey Gerckens and Joey Buttitta
Kelsey Gerckens and Joey Buttitta, "The Amazing Race"
"Amazing Race" winners Joey Buttitta and Kelsey Gerckens describe themselves as "career-oriented people."
The now-engaged couple works at California-based ABC affiliate station KEYT TV. Buttitta is the morning news anchor, while Gerckens is the station's reporter covering Ventura County.
Still, they said they were prepared to quit the jobs they loved in order to participate in season 27 of "The Amazing Race." Fortunately, things didn't come to that. The couple ended up getting about four weeks off of work.
"We were pretty lucky," Buttitta said. "Our boss was really into it. He's a big 'Amazing Race' fan."
Gerckens and Buttitta agreed that their jobs may have given them an edge in the fast-paced competition.
"Having a camera in our faces wasn't a new experience for us," Gerckens said. "For other people who are getting used to having a camera and having people ask them questions, I think that was an added element that they had to get used to."
Once they returned home, the couple couldn't tell anyone that they had won the competition. They both took three days to recover, and then headed right back to work. Their coworkers had to watch the whole season to find out.
"We jumped right back into our normal life," Gerckens said. "Some other contestants take time off. But as soon as we could back to work, we went back to work. Literally that Monday, we were back at work like nothing had ever happened."
Buttitta said that traveling around the world has changed the way he reports on global news.
"It's certainly changed my outlook on my job, because you have a more personal connection with the people who you've met and interacted with, who have helped you in some way, through a reality show," he said. "For me, it's changed the way I read a story on the news that has to do with another country."
All in all, Gerckens and Buttitta agreed that their stint on reality television hasn't flipped their careers upside down by any means, other than the fact that they both get recognized a bit more — and not just for being on the news.
"We love working on TV and we love being reporters and anchors and doing what we do," Gerckens said. "We honestly just kind of jumped back into what we were doing and that's what we're currently doing now."
Gerckens and Buttitta said that reality show contestants should not expect lasting, life-changing fame to come from appearances on such programs.
"In my opinion, I don't ever think it's disruptive," Gerckens said. You have one life to live and you only get this opportunity once. I haven't heard of anyone who's had it destroy their life. But it definitely is different for every person."
'It was hurting me mentally and physically'Jesse Grant/Getty Images
Chris Bukowski, The Bachelorette," "Bachelor Pad," "Bachelor in Paradise"
In terms of his career, Chris Bukowski said he was doing "better than 99% of the people my age" before reality television almost derailed his whole life.
When he was selected as a contestant for the eighth season of "The Bachelorette," Bukowski said his bosses at his sales job even gave him the time off to pursue the show. Bukowski ended up making it to week eight out of ten and was one of the final four contestants when he was eliminated.
As soon as he returned home, he received another opportunity, this time to appear on the third season of the spinoff series "Bachelor Pad." The season would start shooting in four weeks, and he decided to quit his job. Unlike "The Bachelorette," contestants on "Bachelor Pad" were paid — and given the chance to compete for $250,000.
"Going on 'Bachelor Pad,' I felt like a pro," he said. "I was just on camera for 30 to 40 days and I was confident in myself because I made it all the way to the hometown dates. Going on 'Bachelor Pad,' I kind of went in there confident and more of looking to just have fun, enjoy myself, and maybe win some money."
However, that's not how things played out. Bukowski ended up getting labeled one of the season's villains. This is when Bukowski said his career really began to suffer.
Bukowski's dream since college had been to open his own restaurant. After "Bachelor Pad"' he pursued that goal with his business partner and in 2013 opened up the Bracket Room in Arlington, Virginia.
But despite the time commitment it took to run his own restaurant, Bukowski said he still couldn't get the siren song of reality TV out of his head, and he made the "awful decision" to go back on "Bachelor in Paradise" twice and to "party crash" the tenth season of "The Bachelorette," in an appearance that he said was staged.
His TV appearances could help drive revenue and attract customers to the restaurant, he reasoned. But ultimately, he said, he wanted to redeem his villainous image from "Bachelor Pad." The TV appearances took their toll on Bukowski. While the restaurant itself didn't suffer, Bukowski said his ability to run the eatery began to fray.
"It was hurting me mentally and physically," he said. "When you're not at full strength mentally and physically, then your career will be affected no matter what you do."
After a drunken appearance on "Bachelor in Paradise," Bukowski decided to call the reality TV portion of his career quits. He got the chance to retire on air and read his letter of resignation to the cameras.
"It was a good therapy session for me, where I could just kind of write how I really felt about everything," he said. "That's the best medicine for anything."
He is still involved with his restaurant, but he's no longer runs day-to-day operations. Today, Bukowski works on his digital web development agency KCM Create, which he cofounded. He is also the head of investor relations at fitness startup Forte and an adviser for the dating app The Catch.
Bukowski said that he does not regret going on the show in the first place.
"I'm definitely happy where I'm at right now," he said. "I wouldn't change anything because everything has somehow benefitted me or made me learn from my mistakes."
'I would have never in a million years thought a reality show would take me to where at I am at this point in my career'Holly Hoffman
Holly Hoffman, "Survivor"
Holly Hoffman was a South Dakota-based swim coach for 17 years before she decided to head off to the wilds of Nicaragua.
She had founded the Eureka Area Swim Team herself. Her son and both of her daughters were swimmers, with the latter two receiving full rides to college on swimming scholarships. On the side, she also helped her husband manage his political career. But once all her children had gone off to school, Hoffman said she was faced with a dilemma.
"I remember dropping our youngest off at college and thinking 'What am I going to do with my life?'" she told Business Insider. "It just kind of flashed in front of me."
Hoffman said that inspiration struck her one day, while she was watching the season finale of "Survivor: Samoa" in the kitchen.
"Out of the blue, I looked at my husband and said, 'You know, I'd really like to try that,'" she said.
The next day, her husband recorded her casting tape on the family camcorder. As both the owner, manager, and coach of the swim team, Hoffman was able to leave her job no problem when the "Survivor" casting department expressed interest in her tape. She gave two month of workouts to an assistant coach, told her team she was going on a mission trip, and headed out to LA, flying by herself for the first time.
"I had a job position where I could leave and come back and still have my job," Hoffman said. "Not all 'Survivors' are in that situation."
However, once filming started up, things didn't get off to such a smooth start. Hoffman said she had a "complete meltdown" five days into the experience, throwing another contestant's shoes into the ocean after an argument and seriously considering quitting.
"I remember standing in the middle of the jungle after I talked to Jimmy Johnson, who was on our season, and he definitely inspired me to stay. I remember thinking how if you don't believe in yourself nobody's going to believe in you. You don't have a cell phone, you don't have a computer, you don't have a tooth brush, you don't have toilet paper. It's the real deal."
Hoffman said her subsequent attitude change helped her out. She ended up coming in fourth, and was the last woman standing in the season.
Returning home, Hoffman could not tell her team about her experience. She had lost 22 pounds and was sick for a week.
"The first time I went to swim practice, my swimmers looked at me and just about fell over," she told Business Insider. "The other coach kind of looked at me and was like, 'You were on a mission trip?' And I said, 'Time will tell.'"
Once the show started airing, a call came in. A rotary club wanted her to come and speak at a luncheon. Hoffman had to put off the gig until January 2011, as the show was still airing in December 2010.
"I remember asking, 'Well, what do you want me to talk about?' And he said, 'Well, we want you to talk about your experience and what you got out of it and how you felt and everything.' I remember hanging up the phone and thinking 'Oh my goodness, I really don't know wht I should tell them.'"
She decided to "speak from the heart" and share her experience of overcoming adversity on "Survivor."
"For me, in the jungle, dealing with all these different types fo people with different personalities, you have nothing and you still have to get through the day," she said. "It's stressful. That's kind of how I take my 'Survivor' experience and throw it back into the real world. You don't have to be on reality television to feel this. You don't have to be on reality television to want to quit something or to not believe in yourself."
After the talk, two women approached her with more requests to come speak at other events. She said she assumed the offers would slow down, but they haven't yet. Hoffman coached the swim team for one more year, handed it off to the other coach, and began pursuing the career of public speaking full time.
Today, Hoffman's career trajectory is entirely different, thanks to her appearance on "Survivor." She has been a speaker for six years. She has done 128 speeches, visited 28 states, belongs to three speaking bureaus, and authored the book "Your Winner Within."
"I would have never in a million years thought a reality show would take me to where at I am at this point in my career," she said.
Hoffman said that her time on "Survivor" allowed her to branch out into an entirely new career.
"Did I take my experience and take it to the next level?" she said. "Yes, I did, but I worked extremely hard. I've worked extremely hard to get to where I am. I have everything that I've done. I was not looking for this career, but taking one opportunity can change your life."
'That was the first time in my life I've ever felt like a bad employee'Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Tanner Tolbert, "The Bachelorette," "Bachelor in Paradise"
A few weeks into the second season of "Bachelor in Paradise," Tanner Tolbert had a choice to make that didn't have anything to do with roses. He had to decide whether or not to stay in Mexico and risk losing his job, or leave despite his feelings for his fellow contestant Jade Roper.
Months before Tolbert's stint on reality TV, he had worked as a finance manager at Legends Honda in Kansas City, Kansas.
"I was happy with my progress up to that point," he told Business Insider. "I wasn't really looking to make any sort of change."
Then, his sister nominated him to appear on season 11 of "The Bachelorette." He kept his boss in the loop as he made it through the phone interviews, video interviews, and finalists' weekend. By that point, he said his supervisor and coworkers had warmed up to the idea.
"Obviously, you're nervous about making a fool of yourself on TV, but it's also kind of nerve-wracking to ask for that kind of time off, because not many jobs can accommodate that," Tolbert said. "Lucky for me, I've got a really great relationship with my boss. I just decided why not? It's a once in a lifetime opportunity. But, if they had said no, I probably wouldn't have gone, because it's not worth losing your job over. Especially if you only last like a week or something."
His boss said yes. Tolbert said he figured he would go for a couple of weeks, get cut, and go home. He knew his job would be still waiting for him when he came back; his partner in the finance department would cover him. As the Kansas City Star previously reported, his colleagues even shut down the dealership early Monday nights to catch him on TV.
After Tolbert got eliminated in week six, he went back to work a day after he finished with filming.
Then, the Bachelor franchise came calling once more. After a month, casting for "Bachelor in Paradise" started. Asking for more time off was a bit difficult — especially since this time, his work partner had planned a big family vacation during the show. Tolbert promised his boss that he'd get himself kicked off after two weeks.
But that was before Tolbert met Roper.
"I started actually having real feelings and saying, 'Okay, there might be something here,'" he said. "I don't have a phone or anything like that I had to make the decision just to blow them off halfway through or leave 'Paradise.' I was like, I don't want to leave, I want to see this through. And I just decided to take a chance. If they don't take me back, then that's just a decision I'll have to live with and figure something else out. That was the first time in my life I've ever felt like a bad employee, to be honest."
Tanner ended up to proposing to Roper on the finale of the show. When he arrived back in Kansas, he went back to work the very next day.
"They forgave me after a couple of weeks after I told them what happened," he said. "Obviously, 'Hey, listen, I got engaged on the show and I had to make a decision and I've fallen in love with this girl' was kind of a good reason to blow off, I guess. If I had come back and said, 'Oh, I just wanted to stay on the beach for a couple more weeks' they would have been pissed."
Tolbert and Roper were married on January 24, 2016. He's since been promoted to be a general sales manager at the dealership's Toyota outlet. He said that sometimes customers recognize him, but, all in all, his "Bachelorette" and "Bachelor in Paradise" appearances haven't changed his professional life too much.
"I'm not a big shot lawyer or a doctor where if you go on and look stupid, it's the end of the world for you," he said. "You never want to look like an idiot in the workplace but my concern was to a lesser degree than some people."
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