This article is based on the e-book edition of Henry Bushkin’s biography, Johnny Carson, published in 2014 by First Mariner Books. Johnny Carson was the undisputed king of late night television, reigning over the airwaves for some 29 years. Mr. Bushkin was his attorney, financial adviser, and “fixer.”
Ed McMahon was Carson’s “sidekick” for the entire time he was hosting The Tonight Show. It was a rather an odd pairing: Carson had served in the Navy as a Lieutenant Junior Grade while McMahon was a Colonel in the Marines. So for the first lesson for job seekers, and everyone else for that matter, comes from McMahon: leave your ego at the door! A colonel can work for a lieutenant, and very successfully at that!
But Bushkin, and now I am getting to the book, has a great quote from Carson on this very issue. When he was asked to which movie star he would compare himself, Carson answered, “Lassie. We’re both lovable, and we both come when we’re called.” (Page 14)
The second lesson comes from a quote from McMahon about Carson: He “was comfortable in front of [a television audience of] twenty million but just as uncomfortable in a gathering of twenty.” (Page 13) I remember watching Carson and how, when interviewing actors, he would bring about the issue of shyness. Carson was a shy man. Yet he had to overcome his shyness to become a success. So the lesson is, no matter how much you hate networking, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you, you have to overcome your discomfort. Networking is the major way to get a job and public speaking is the only way to reach the pinnacle of your industry. So, literally, take a deep breath (oxygen is a proven cure for tension), and start introducing yourself to strangers. If Carson could do it, so can you!
The third lesson is this: Carson “knew audiences and was pleased when they liked his work. He knew ratings and took pride in what they proved about his appeal. He treasured the respect of his peers in the industry. Awards were all but irrelevant.” (Page 146)
I remember reading not too long ago that if you post something on social media a third of people will buy from you but half (of everyone seeing your post, not half of the third) will buy less. The fourth lesson from Carson: When talking about why he never shared his political views with his audience he said, “Why lose fifty percent of my audience?” (Page 154) Keep politics out of the workplace and especially out for a job interview!
It can be very frustrating looking for a job, having the phone never ring and never getting an offers when it does. The fifth lesson for job seekers is a remark Carson made: “If life were fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead.” (Page 183)
Finally, the sixth lesson is going to sound misogynistic and sexist. It is also going to explain the source of a popular commercial that has not aired in a while. But it is excellent advice. Always keep your personal and work life separate. This includes, with rare exception, during job interviews. As Bushkin explains, “Maybe the protocol was influenced by the old mobster tradition that is part of the DNA of Vegas, the one that dictates that family and work be strictly segregated, but it was made clear early, often, and explicitly that this was the custom on Las Vegas Boulevard: whatever you had to do, leave the wife out.” (Page. 185) For the record, he was talking about the rampant marital infidelity that went on among the star performers and, while they were given rooms in the hotels where they performed, wives never stayed the night!
Remember these six and you may just get that job offer!
Bruce Hurwitz, the Amazon international best selling author of The 21st Century Job Search and Immigrating to Israel, is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that! A five-star rated speech writer on Fiverr, he is the host and producer of the live-interview podcast, Bruce Hurwitz Presents: MEET THE EXPERTS.