Monday, November 10, 2008

Johnny Bunko and friends

Daniel Pink, a fantastic writer and visionary, is the author of two great books; Free Agent Nation which came out in 2002 and is about the rise of the independent worker, and “A Whole New Mind” from 2005, about the future of creativity and how integrating our creative and pragmatic minds gives us, well, a whole new mind.

His latest book, “The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need” is something else entirely. It’s manga, the Japanese form of graphic storytelling, like a comic book or graphic novel. Actually, it’s a westernized version of manga, read right to left (like Hebrew) and not the other way around, as in English, but the artist, Rob Ten Pas, incorporates most of the medium’s conventions, so unless you’re a nit-picker or mega-fanboy, manga it is! (A formal review of it, along with a couple of more traditional offerings, is below.)

Anyway, there’s a video promo for the book here (and a q&a session here), plus a website with excerpts and more. In fact, before very long, the whole book will be on the site, since Pink is posting a couple of pages every few days. Or you can get a big chunk online.

The six secrets in the Bunko book are vital lessons for nearly any successful career. They are: 1. There is no plan, 2. Think strengths, not weaknesses, 3. It's not about you, 4. Persistence trumps talent, 5. Make excellent mistakes, and 6. Leave an imprint.

What do the “lessons” mean? Well, the trailer will give you a good idea, but the book is quite entertaining (really!), well illustrated, short enough (160 pages), and you can get it for about ten bucks on Amazon so check it out.

But the idea behind it, in Pink’s own words, is that "most career books just plain stink. They’re too long, too boring, and too quickly outdated. Today most people get their tactical career information online — how to write a resume, what questions to ask in an interview, who to use as a reference, etc. What they want in a book, or so people tell me, are (sic) what they can’t get from Google. They want strategic lessons — and they want it presented in an accessible, to-the-point way. Most career books take about 30 hours to plow through. You can read this book in an hour.”

Creating a career is a job
Three new books offer advice for those seeking clarity while pursuing career goals.

For most people, career paths are unclear at best. Maybe some athletes or artists have a defined course to follow, but even then, things change. For the rest of us, change happens despite our best intentions or hopes for the contrary.

Three new books offer advice and wisdom for those who seek to define their life's work.

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need. Daniel H. Pink, Rob Ten Pas. Riverhead Books. 160 pages.

Daniel Pink has blown my mind for a third time. His first book, Free Agent Nation, was a prescient and insightful survey of the tectonic shifts occurring in the topography of work and careers. The next one, A Whole New Mind showed how true integration of the right and left sides of the brain, combining the creative with the pragmatic, is the way of the future. But this new one is a real trip. It's a comic, er, graphic novel. But that's not correct, either. It's really an ersatz, westernized version of manga, the Japanese comic art form.

Here, Pink, abetted by award-winning artist Rob Ten Pas, creates an ill
ustrated career guide that blows away all the rest with its clarity, simplicity and intelligence. There's also humor, a little romance, caricatured villainy, corporate conflict and more. While the ideas herein are strong and attractively presented, the medium with which they are conveyed makes them irresistible. The flashback of the protagonist's job interview will resonate with anyone who has gone through that ridiculous exercise.

Any career consultant — or high-school guidance counselor — who doesn't immediately order copies of this book in bulk is missing the boat — big time. If you're skeptical, check out the author's cool but clean website to see for yourself. There's also a generous sample of the book online.

How'd You Score That Gig?: A Guide to the Coolest Jobs and How to Get Them. Alexandra Levit. Ballantine. 352 pages.

For those who still like to read words without pictures, Levit provides a very nice career catalog. Of particular value to those just starting out — or starting again — she presents a number of personality types (she calls them ''passion profiles'') that link to different careers and jobs. Her style is both personal and personable, and you'll learn a bit about her own life and travails while reading this book. That's not always a good or useful thing, but here it works just fine. For example, in the section on marketing, Levit discusses her own experiences in that mysterious profession.

But it's not just focused on her life. There are numerous short notes in each section from professionals in those fields. My only criticism is that the book runs a little long, due partly to its casual, conversational tone. But it needn't be read sequentially, so skipping around may alleviate this concern.

Job Hunting Online. Mark Emery Bolles and Richard Nelson Bolles. Ten Speed Press. 224 pages.

Looking for a job is a job unto itself, with requisite skills that have been transformed — just like everything else — by technology. If you're accustomed to dealing with employment agencies and newspaper classified ads, it's a different world now. Online is where it's at, with Craigslist, CareerBuilder, Monster and a host of other online resources providing the means to find and be found by prospective employers.

For those who are stymied by the changes, Richard Bolles, the guy behind the popular What Color Is Your Parachute, and his son, Mark, will set you straight.

Reviews published 4/21/08 in the Miami Herald; preface originally appeared on

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