O’Connor: Why Homer Simpson is your new career wing-man

Brian J. O'Connor
Detroit News Finance Editor

There are many gurus to follow when it comes to building a successful career, whether it’s tech billionaire Mark Cuban, marketing master Daymond John, fire-walking motivator Tony Robbins or leaner-in extraordinaire Sheryl Sandberg. But at long last, I’ve found the ultimate career coach:

Homer Simpson.

You might expect that the ne’er-do-well nuclear technician who counsels, “If at first you don’t succeed, give up” and warns that, “Trying is the first step towards failure,” wouldn’t be the best role model for C-suite success.

Au contraire! Homer offers the kind of first-rate workplace solutions we all should take to heart, including, “I’m gonna drink lots of beer and stay out all night,” as well as, “Beer. Now there’s a temporary solution.”

Should I drink to that?

This is the conclusion to be drawn from a new survey conducted for Budweiser, where the King of Beers finds that the Prince of D’oh! is the kind of guy most likely to connect at a business networking event.

Based on survey of 2,000 Americans age 21 or older, Bud asked about common drinks and the perceived personality traits of the people quaffing them. Asked who they’d consider most approachable, 70 percent of the women surveyed and 59 percent of men said they’d step up to someone drinking domestic beer and ask, “Do you and your business cards come here often?”

Bellying up to the bar for a margarita wasn’t viewed nearly as positively, with just 38 percent of women and 28 percent of men approving. That was close to the low opinion respondents also held of anyone hoisting those hoity-toity import beers, who were considered approachable by 36 percent of women and 29 percent of men, probably because of those pretentious green bottles.

But even imbibers of foreign ales did better than those hunks of deadwood who sip wine. They’d get chatted up by just 23 percent of women and a mere 18 percent of men. So, clearly, your path to career greatness floats in a frosty mug of domestic brew.

Is this where I should mention that Bud happens to be a domestic beer?

A beechwood-aged fluke?

Overall, the survey found that 61 percent of Americans believe that “What a person drinks at a bar gives significant clues about their personality.”

While 20 percent of people weigh how their drink order will be perceived when they’re out with friends, the poll found, 39 percent think nearly twice as much about their drink choices at a work event and 34 percent worry about it on a date.

Of course, as Homer himself would point out, “Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything — 14 percent of people know that.”

And he’d find agreement from Chris Cook, beer department manage and purchaser at Merchant’s Fine Wine in Dearborn, which stocks nearly any kind of beer you can name, from Bud to small-batches brewed by Outer Mongolian sheepherders using wild hops plucked from the hooves of virgin ewes which, if that doesn’t actually exist probably will by next week.

While fans of craft beers can be a tad judgmental, Cook says that most of them drink what they drink for the simple reason that they like it, and not because of any impression they’re trying to make on a future boss, customer or spouse.

“There’s the term ‘beer snob,’ and a lot of people judge others by the beer they drink,” Cook says. “But if everybody at the bar is drinking fizzy yellow Bud and there’s one guy drinking something different, he probably doesn’t care.”

And does Cook, as a beer expert, define people by whether by their preference is for a bottle of Bud versus a hand-crafted Belgian wheat ale served in style-appropriate glassware?

“I could care less,” Cook says. “I care more about the person than what they’d be drinking.”

Unless it’s turpentine

And there you have it: Does anyone make a significant decision about business or life based on the fleeting impression of what drink someone orders?

(One exception, of course, is anyone drinking a Budweiser Chelada, which combines all the qualities of Bud Light with all the tasty goodness of Clamato juice. While marketing theory teaches that every product is created in answer to a question, in the case of Bud Chelada that question is, “Why is my beer bleeding?”)

Aside from that, it’s hard to imagine a corporate recruiter saying, “I found the perfect candidate for senior vice president of mobile technology at last night’s networking event, but let’s reject him because he ordered his martini stirred, not shaken.”

Nobody does that. So be who are and drink what you drink, whether that’s club soda with lime or a Pink Squirrel. As for the Budweiser folks behind this survey, I can only wonder: “What were they drinking?”

Oh, right.


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Twitter: @BrianOCTweet