Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Blue Rates Bunko: Manga, Millennials, and Daniel Pink's Six Career Lessons

Today I read The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need. I sincerely hoped it was the only career guide I would ever need, because being able to rely on a tiny manga that takes only 15 minutes to read would be a huge timesaver.

Johnny Bunko is the latest offering by Daniel Pink, previous author of A Whole New Mind, which posited that creativity would soon be the new workplace currency and that MFAs would soon be more valuable than MBAs. (Hey, I have a MFA!)

Johnny Bunko is the story of a young man who once dreamed of being a graphic artist (well, either that or a video game designer), but who got bullied into an accounting major by his father. When the book begins, Johnny is stuck in some kind of entry-level accounting job, but he's so bad at what he does that all mistakes made throughout the office have been nicknamed "Bunkos."

Johnny's also miserable. He doesn't want his life to be like this. Then he opens a magical pair of chopsticks and Belldandy pops out! No, wait. Diana. Sorry about that.

Diana gives Johnny and his friends six magical pieces of career advice which helps Johnny (but not his friends) advance in 30 days from his entry-level grunt job to a mid-level creative position in the marketing department (with promise of exciting travel around the world!). However, the real reason Johnny lands this plum position isn't because of the career advice (he is a bit of an idiot, and screws up every piece of advice until Diana patiently corrects him), but because Diana hacks the corporation's computer system and inserts Johnny's name into the marketing position.

Which only goes to prove that the true career lesson from this book is It's not how good you are; it's who you know.

What are the six pieces of career advice? (They're already all over the internet, so I don't feel guilty about sharing.)

1. There is no plan.

That's pretty obvious, or should be, although Diana's take on it is a little more interesting: she tells Johnny that since all careers are equally likely to leave you burnt out and/or laid off, might as well stack the deck by following your passions!

2. Think strengths, not weaknesses.

This one was the most interesting and is probably the biggest takeaway from the book. The idea is that you should focus all your energy on developing your strengths, since that's what will become your brand and get you promoted. It's an interesting perspective.

Johnny, on the other hand, spends way too much time trying to understand spreadsheets (which seems to be his biggest weakness) and Diana has to smack him. What's his biggest talent? Drawing. So that's what he has to focus on!

3. It's not about you.

And then Johnny goes and presents a typical young-male drawing of a half-naked babe with a flaming sword to his brand-new marketing manager. Why? 'Cause that's what he draws the best.

This lesson seems to have been written directly for Millennials. I learned that it wasn't about me at my first summer job (which involved a lot of lugging around giant sacks of birdseed, and pouring said birdseed into individually-priced jugs). But "kids these days" don't get jobs like that, or at least not the ones with Johnny's issues.

4. Persistence trumps talent.

Pink throws a nod to the "MFAs are better than MBAs" theory by having Diana state that musicians and athletes are nearly always successful at whatever career they choose because they have learned the value of practice and persistence.

I'll buy that. ^__^

5. Make excellent mistakes.

It's impossible for me to think of this lesson without invoking Bill and/or Ted, so I'll leave it at that.

Oh, and Johnny learns an important lesson about screwing over your supervisor: don't.

6. Leave an imprint.

This one's interesting. Johnny has the opportunity to relocate overseas with his supervisor Lakshmi, and his instinct is to stay where he is because he likes it here and it's where all his friends are. Then Diana shows up and lays the smacketh down: go, Johnny, go, Johnny, go go go to the place where you can do the most good!

I suppose the implication is that "it's not about you" extends into your personal life, or that Johnny is an idiot for passing up the chance to travel and share his talents globally.

We don't find out what Johnny chooses. I'm sure we're meant to think that he packs up and follows Lakshmi to places unknown. (I'd probably make that choice too.) But part of me really wants him to say "You know what, Diana? Part of what helps me be successful at work is the fact that I like where I live. So bug off!"

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