The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: the Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need

Book review by Karol Taylor

Book Review: The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: the Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need, Daniel Pink, Riverhead Publishers, 2008.


Daniel Pink once again breaks new ground with his new paperback, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: the Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need. In his previous books, Free Agent Nation, and A Whole New Mind, Pink displayed innovative thinking and insightful forecasting of career and workplace trends. Johnny Bunko continues in that tradition, targeting readers of graphic novels. In doing so, it makes the case for a novel approach to career counseling.

In Johnny Bunko, Pink targets individuals who enjoy reading Manga, a Japanese-style comic book. This audience includes the Anime (Japanese animation) aficionados, typically young people between the ages of 14 and 30. This is the second largest U.S. demographic, with Baby Boomers being the first. These so-called "Echo Boomers" have been raised to expect personalization and customization in their services and products, and Pink delivers.

Adapting his style to theirs, Pink uses American-style Manga to share his six principles of career management:

  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.

Similar to business pundits like Kenneth Blanchard (The One-Minute Manager) and Spencer Johnson (Who Moved My Cheese), Pink employs the power of a clearly stated and readily understood story to share his message.

The saga begins with a recent college graduate, Johnny Bunko, working overtime.Like so many quarter-lifers, Johnny obtained a degree his parents and college advisor thought would provide a good living. Unfortunately, Johnny's career does not make effective use of his strengths, and his supervisor is not happy with Johnny's work. On yet another evening alone at the office, Johnny gets hungry. He goes next door and discovers a previously unnoticed Sushi and Noodle shop. On his way out Johnny grabs six sets of wooden chopsticks.

When Johnny returns to work and pulls apart his first set of chopsticks, "poof" Johnny's personal career goddess, Diana, appears from thin air. Johnny is skeptical at first, but each time Johnny opens a set of chopsticks "voila" Diana shows up to provide another career management maxim. By end of the book Johnny has been given the above six principles for career success; has moved to a field where he can use his strengths; and is on his way to becoming a star employee.

Magical intervention not withstanding, Pink's principles are in alignment with career counseling theorists such as John Krumboltz, and David Tiedeman. Like Krumboltz, Pink emphasizes the concept of serendipity in career decision making, and makes a case for acting on one's strengths. Pink also suggests that individuals need help managing their careers. People need special advisors to support their efforts to learn about the world of work, especially in determining how they best fit into it. Like Tiedeman, Pink suggests that taking purposeful actions to create meaning out of a current state of confusion will lead to an unexpected, yet desirable, outcome.

Pink's children and their interest in Manga were the precipitating factors in creating the book. During a three-month fellowship in Japan, Pink researched the art form. He found that the Japanese read Manga like Americans watch television. Japanese Manga addresses a wide variety of subject matter, including academics. Pink found that traditional Japanese Manga format did not translate well into American business thinking so he decided to use the American Manga format. Pink collaborated with Rob Ten Pas from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, a Manga graphic artist and winner of Japan's TOKYOPOP Rising Stars of Manga award.

In this business-style Manga, Pink gives credence to Marcus Buckingham and Martin Seligman, who are renowned for their research on strengths and positivity. From Pink's perspective, the idea of building on one's strengths and positive behavior is new, even though career counselors have been espousing it for years.

Still, it is difficult to quibble with Pink who does so many things right in this book. He effectively addresses career management and values-based issues of his targeted audience. Even more importantly, from my perspective, Pink addresses the general self-absorption of the young professional found in us all.

Daniel Pink has been challenging the business and career community with his novel and state-of-the art thinking since he published his first book. Johnny Bunko is no exception to that trend. Buy it. Read it. You might be surprised by it. Ja, Mata.  

Karol Taylor is a career advisor specializing in federal resume writing, KSA writing, and federal job search. Karol can be contacted by email at karol@tayloryourcareer.com

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