I often cite Bloomberg as a great resource to understand the economy and job market. Today, it offers a report on tech jobs and MBA grads. Common wisdom is that Stanford is the MBA that produces the most grads who get jobs in tech (19%). That said, Arizona State, UC Berkeley, and other MBA programs in the Southwest and West are catching steam, producing 16% of new tech jobs. If you’re considering a career in tech, an MBA is one path. However, if 35% of tech jobs are obtained via an MBA (that number feels high to me), most tech jobs (65%) are landed by other means. I respect and value education. At the same time, I recommend that anyone seeking a job in an industry follow a strategy Richard Nelson Bolles talks about in What Color Is Your Parachute:Research how people without the "ideal" degree broke into the field. Bolles asks this question: “How did people without a degree in that field get into it?” Is the degree or certification necessary? For certain positions at certain companies, an MBA from a highly regarded school is a good way to get through the door. For other jobs, it is not needed. Think about where you want to work and what you want to do before investing in any kind of education or certification.
[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 Parachute. Both 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.
What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Nelson Bolles remains one of – if not the best – guides to the job search. Bolles uses illustrations to underscore his advice. My favorite graphic is a three line description of the job search. It lists two ten word rows of “no.” The next row has “no” nine more times followed by one word: “YES.”
This illustration, like most of Bolles’ advice, is brutally realistic. Almost every job search is filled with rejection. To be successful, you have to be tough and persistent. You have to give yourself every opportunity. That’s where many people sabotage their job search: They disqualify themselves before prospective employers have a chance to evaluate them.
How does this happen? Too many people look at the list of requirements in a job posting and fail to send in an application unless they fill almost every requirement. Employers generally list more requirements than they expect any one candidate to have. This behavior has increased in a time of high unemployment when candidates with multiple skills are available.
Be realistic. Look at the job posting and compare it to your qualifications. Don’t expect to fill every requirement. If you can perform the key job functions, apply for the job. Give yourself the opportunity to land an interview. In the end, you don’t know what the employer is looking for.
Don’t disqualify yourself. If you think you are qualified for a job, apply for it. Let someone else tell you “no” – or, better still, let them say, “YES.”