Conan O'Brien is out of a job now that his last gig on "The Tonight Show" has aired, but like many unemployed people, he'll probably find losing his job to be the best move of his career.
The $32.5 million severance he's getting from NBC is enough to take care of him for life, but that's not the issue. As far as his next career move, getting kicked off the air for Jay Leno gives O'Brien the chance to become bigger and better than he ever could have been at NBC.
"If Conan stays in character as the quirky, weird-haired guy who wants to be in comedy ... he will be a bigger success than anyone can imagine," said Doug Hirschhorn, a peak performance coach to Wall Street's elite who helps them with career advice.
"It for sure could be the best thing that happens to him if he stays in character," said Hirschhorn, author of 8 Ways to Great Peak Performance on the Job and in Your Life.
If O'Brien becomes another pissed-off comedian upset with his former employer, he'll lose a lot of interest from viewers, Hirschhorn said. O'Brien's recent zingers at NBC on how much of the company's money he spent before he left may not sit too well with people in the long run.
As I wrote about recently on WalletPop, O'Brien's new job hunt is hitting a nerve with people who are either out of a job or fearing that they'll soon be out the door. Workers can empathize with someone who has worked hard for years to get where they want to be professionally, only to lose it on a whim after being on the job for a short time.
O'Brien was screwed by The Man at work and can now represent millions of workers around the world. It's a great opportunity for his next career move and to add to his number of fans.
"He can actually build a much stronger following of people in this economy," said Hirschhorn, who suggests O'Brien get a little Oprah-like by establishing a fund to help out-of-work people start new careers.
O'Brien obviously doesn't have to work again. He could retire and be happy. Millions of dollars can do that. But if ego is driving him to continue working because he enjoys what he does and wants to prove he can still do the job of entertaining people, then he needs to focus on finding a bigger place for his work to be showcased, Hirschhorn said.
"He needs to find a platform where somebody says, 'Hey, this guy is marketable. He needs to be our franchise,'" he said. "If he does that, he will be at a much higher greatness than he was at before."
It's a move that anyone who loses a job should make. Re-evaluate your skills and find somewhere better to display them.
What O'Brien needs, Hirschhorn recommends, is a three- to five-year plan to build himself into a global franchise. That could be on Fox, Comedy Central, Oprah's new network or anyplace else that will help him expand his brand.
After losing a job, many people recommend taking a few weeks off to soak it in and regroup. For O'Brien, Hirschhorn recommends striking while the iron is hot and negotiating a deal immediately with a network for his next show. But only if he's not angry about losing his job and is willing to move on.
If he's going to play the upset ex-worker, then he should take a vacation and get over it.
That's good advice for anyone who has lost a job in this recession: Get over it and move on. There are other opportunities out there.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area who can be found at www.AaronCrowe.net
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