October 12, 2008

Comic Relief: Dan Pink Takes On The Crappy-Job Blues

These days, it’s a luxury just to have a job you can hate… “What, you’ve got a steady gig with health insurance? Hell, if you don’t like it, let me have it and I’ll hate it for you…” So maybe the timing isn’t exactly right for a book on dealing with career discontentment.

Then again, maybe now is the perfect time for The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need, because all these layoffs are giving millions of people a moment to consider, what the hell am I doing with my life? If you fall into that category (employed or unemployed), you might want to read on…

Johnny Bunko is a career advice book in the form of a manga (Japanese comic book). Here’s the trailer. (Yes, thanks to YouTube, even career advice books now have trailers.)*

Johnny Bunko is written by Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind and Free Agent Nation. And I like where Pink is coming from. Under his lesson “There Is No Plan,” he completely repudiates the conservative career path that most of us are advised to follow. I shared that sentiment in my post, “Breaking Into The Media Biz: 10 Tips For Aspiring Moguls.” Where I focused on marketing and media aspirants, Pink applies his lessons to cubicle dwellers.

The namesake character, Johnny, is a corporate drone who took up accounting because it was “safe” but longs to work in a creative field. Through the aid of a magical mentor, he learns six lessons on how to escape his dead-end job for a passion that taps his true talents. The lessons are smart, and the manga format makes them easy to visualize. The story is moderately entertaining, but I found it less than compelling after about a third of the way through. It’s no Office Space.

On another note, Johnny Bunko is not terribly realistic — and I’m not referring to the magical levitating girl with the Oxford MBA. In the real world, accountants don’t get to switch to their company’s marketing department (or bring their friends with them) at the snap of a finger (or, in this case, the cracking of wooden chopsticks). To switch from accounting to marketing in corporate America, you generally have to go back to school to get the credentials at great expense, or start your own company. So this really isn’t “the last career guide you’ll ever need” — the philosophy is good, but you’ll need a lot more practical advice to live it.

Indeed, overall the book is rather thin — as the Johnny Bunko website claims, “you can read it in an hour.” And that’s only if you take the time to appreciate Rob Ten Pas’ illustrations. There’s about as much content in Johnny Bunko as you’d find in a magazine article. Hence, I found the price tag of $15 for the paperback a bit steep. (For that much, I want a full-on anime with bonus features — hint, hint.) Couldn’t the publisher have defrayed the price with, say, an ad from Monster.com?

But if you’ve got a steady job and can afford fifteen bucks for an hour of intelligent diversion, then go for it: it’s worth it just to reassure yourself that you don’t have to endure a daily lobotomy to make a living. In addition to Johnny Bunko, pick up Career Warfare by David D’Alessandro, which offers practical advice on succeeding after you find that gig you dig. Because if you’re working in corporate America and are relying solely on a comic book for career advice, then forget the lessons — just get up from your cubicle right now, pick a direction, and run until your ass falls off. The corporate life, and this book, are not for you.

For everyone else, Johnny Bunko isn’t “the last,” but it’s a pretty good start.

Shameless plug: Want a trailer for your book? Just ask…

Tags : , , , , , , , , , , ,

Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

One Response

  1. Thanks for the shout-out. Glad you enjoyed Johnny’s adventures. I see your point about the cost. But unlike a, say, a movie, this you can read again, give to a friend, sell on eBay, etc. So pass it on to someone you think might enjoy it — and tell him or her to pass it forward, too. Meantime, check out our groovy contest:

    .

    Cheers,
    Dan Pink

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *