Career Calling

December 5, 2011

Sabbath, December 4, 2011

[On Sundays, this blog looks at intersections of work and life in “Sabbath.”]

Mis-judging a Book by Its Cover

A few years ago I was in a bookstore browsing titles in the career section when I first saw The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need.  I found the title over the top, too cheeky.  To make matters worse, the book was designed as a graphic novel, a sure marketing gimmick.  I put the book back on the shelf and forgot about it. 

Later I read a great book about motivation, Drive by Daniel Pink.  Pink contrasts traditional theories of motivation which focused on extrinsic factors such as rewards with intrinsic motivation or what is more commonly called self-motivation.  Pink argued that great work could only come from a person who was willing to put in the time and sacrifice to do it.  I was so impressed by Drive that I looked up other titles by the author.  To my surprise, Daniel Pink wrote Johnny Bunko, which made me give the book a second chance.

Pink gives his readers great career advice.  He lays out six principles that everyone should follow (I won’t repeat them because you really should buy this book – or borrow it from a library.).  What made the book come alive for me was the narrative and the drawings, the very things I initially dismissed about it.  Pink creates real characters who make the same mistakes I have made in my career, the same mistakes many of my clients have made in their careers. 

Johnny like many people today, especially young professionals just out of college, is not happy in his career.  Through the help of a spirit named Diana, he discovers the secrets of career management.  His path is not easy.  Pink shows Johnny and his co-workers making mistakes and learning the wrong lessons.  Diana mentors them while dishing out funny bits of sarcasm.

Johnny Bunko is a great complement to the classic What Color is Your ParachuteBoth books are built around the premise that we can be happy at work if we make the effort to find the right kind of job, one that fits our strengths and gifts.  Parachute is more of a classic, how-to career guide.  It offers exercises and detailed explanations of its strategies.  Johnny Bunko takes a different approach.  It teaches by example and by making the reader laugh (though there is some humor in Parachute as well).  It holds up a mirror and lets us see ourselves in the characters. 

I made a mistake the first time I rejected this book.  Anyone who is looking for a new job or questioning his or her career path should read it. Don’t be put off by the title.  That was my mistake, judging a book by its cover.

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