Jay Leno took his leave from The Tonight Show last week after 22 years. The chances he will need to do any of the following to secure positions in the future seem slim. Many normal people will ~ and remember, his leaving was not really his choice although he did get to choose the date. I get stories like this weekly (but many don’t get to choose their departure date months in the future.)

Five actionable steps for your next career step:

1.  Update your Resume, both in format and content

No, I don’t mean just add your last title, company and dates of employment and start sending it out. That’s just a laundry list. Think hard about your achievements, results, outcomes and processes that you (or you as a Team Member) contributed. Highlight those as bullet points. Lose the Objective statement, add a Skills Profile. Add some WOW.

2.  Freshen your LinkedIn Profile 

There are 18 Jay Leno LinkedIn Profiles, none of them with the title, “Expensive Car Enthusiast” and/or “Late Night Talk Show Host.” Recruiters are looking for you, and if you are not somewhere on the public domain (other than in a career-killer way such as some social profiles may be), how can a company or professional recruiter find you? If you don’t have one to freshen up, get one. They are free.

3.  Give an Exit Interview

Jay Leno really extended his Exit Interview over the last few months. He was able bring on long-time friends, lampoon his network and promote his replacement. You may not get this opportunity. If you do, don’t burn bridges. The average number of careers in a worker’s lifetime is now about 22. You just may see the person you are speaking ill of at your next gig ~ tread wisely.

4.  Lose the Attitude

This is a tough one. When your career, family’s prosperity and emotional balance and confidence are in question, the death and dying DABDA (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance) premise applies. Change is like that, too – you may have been surprised at the termination, now you are angry, you may try to negotiate, then it hits you really hard, and you finally realize that you have to look to the future because this is your new reality. Try to navigate through the stages as quickly as possible so that you can move forward. If you can’t do it on your own, contact a professional in the area in which you need think you need assistance.

Even if your exit was not expected, remember you agreed to the corporate culture, job responsibilities and compensation package every time your paycheck was automatically deposited or your signed your name. Bad-mouthing your last position / manager / organization only looks bad on you. The person may be thinking, “If it was that bad, why did you stay so long?” You need to look to your experience, education and skill sets to provide value to your next employer.

5.  Focus your Search

I work with the best Clients in the country. Just because you were downsized, reorganized, terminated, discharged, pink-slipped, etc. does not mean that you cannot add value in another position somewhere else. If there was cause for your leaving, debrief the situation with someone who will give you honest feedback to not only correct the flaw, but also role play with you regarding your answer to that question in an interview.

The “Spray and Pray” method of applying not only does not work, it tends to aggravate potential employers: you look as if you are desperate and will apply for anything even remotely in your area of expertise, and the employer will now know what you will contribute to them. File 13 for you.

In fact, we know you will not accept a position if it is not in line with a reasonable salary range, appropriate responsibilities, working environment, etc. If you are not 80% qualified for the requirements listed (and sometimes don’t really want the position anyway), don’t apply. Use your energy, focus on your strengths / experience / education and take the time to research potential companies to which you would like to apply. They need to know why you want to work there, not just get a job. And you should be interviewing them for a good fit for your skills and work ethic, also.

And before you say, “But I can do many things and will take anything!” (many people were thinking that along with you …), remember the potential employer needs to visualize you in that position, making a meaningful contribution, with a very short learning curve. Will you really scrub the floor of a major sports venue with a toothbrush? Well, then you really won’t take any position, will you? Focus, research and apply selectively. Measure your results and consult a professional if you keep getting the same non-result.

BONUS ITEM SINCE YOU READ THE WHOLE POST:

6.  Take the time to let go, revive yourself and look forward with a fresh eye toward your future.

Productive time spent updating “you”, your education and skill sets, and the presentation of “you” (online, in your Resume and your physical presence) will add to your ability to measure your successful results when applying, getting interviews and that next position. Changing variables every time does not allow you to measure your results to see if your efforts are working, focused and effective.

PS If you need help with items 1-6, call me if you are not Jay Leno. (He already has an agent in his corner.)

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