by John Sumser
Ask yourself “what’s the opposite of HR?”. One answer is Penelope Trunk. Where HR is all about being button-down and resolving conflict, Trunk is an agitator. The Brazen Careerist is busily shattering preconceived notions about propriety, privacy and transparency.
She’s this generation’s Helen Gurley Brown. The Brazen Careerist is an update of Sex and The Single Girl with serious career overtones. Punctuated with sexual episodes, the career content is savvy and useful. Trunk counsels Gen Y workers to be themselves, do what they do, maintain their integrity and expose their vulnerabilities. She leads by example.
The Boston Globe career columnist “writes career advice for a new generation of workers. She explains why old advice – like pay your dues, climb the ladder, and don’t have gaps in your resume – is outdated and irrelevant in today’s workplace. She has a reputation for giving advice that is counterintuitive but effective, like take long lunches, ignore people who steal your ideas, and stop vying for a promotion.”
In a recent blog post, Penelope tells all about her adolescent relationship with /component/page,shop.cart/option,com_virtuemart/Itemid,5/vmcchk,1/”>cialis 5mg side effects a cofounder, the importance of self confidence in sexual posturing, the relationship of happiness to good sibling relationships, investors and self confidence. All the while, there’s a song (with lyrics unfit for most workplaces) running through her head. She wishes she had the self confidence of the singer when she was wearing a bikini for Budweiser.
“Once you climb the ladder, you want other people to climb the ladder.” Except, Generation Y isn’t going to play along. “Just be real. Don’t tell them that your crappy job is not a crappy job. They don’t want to be there from 9 to 5. If you make them be there all day, they’ll just listen to their iPod, IM and piss you off. Instead mentor them and manage for results. Don’t focus on how they work, focus on what they accomplish.”
It’s pure American work ethic with a liberal dose of spice. Trunk covers self-knowledge, goal setting, self promotion, achievement, networking and other topics straight out of Emerson. She is a die hard proponent of authentic /component/page,shop.cart/option,com_virtuemart/Itemid,5/vmcchk,1/”>cialis 5mg side effects living. You can easily imagine her saying “Why in the world would you take a job that you had to lie to get.” She argues routinely for transparency, self-direction, autonomy and personal fulfillment.
All the while, she maintains a posture on her personal life that might as well be from a men’s locker room in the 70s. It’s really infectious. It taps the streams of British Tabloidism, Ayn Rand, Tony Robbins and What Color Is Your Parachute.It will make a great HBO series.
These days, Trunk is busily converting her audience into a social network, The Brazen Careerist is also a career development community. It’s an interesting opportunity to test out some of her ideas. We talked just as the site was launching. She was enthusiastic about the opportunity to substitute online activity for resume data (she calls it an ‘idea resume’). The site has the potential to shift the online job hunting discussion.
Penelope is influential for a couple of reasons. With 200 print outlets publishing her work, her audience is listening and absorbing. Then, they apply for jobs. She’s setting expectations and ideals for job hunters and career minded people. Second, she is shifting the landscape. Penelope is (at the crest of a social wave) changing the boundaries of what’s appropriate in a work conversation. When she calls a crappy job a crappy job, she’s opening the door for a lot of conversation.
In the new workplace, influence is much more important than personal power. Trunk shows her readers how to cut through the egotistical crap that cloaks lots of business dialog. She’s leaving a legacy as she works.
“Besides,” as Penelope says, “no one was ever penalized for believing in herself, even if her raps were not safe for work.”
John Sumser is the founder and CEO of TwoColorHat, a company specializing in market strategy for HR – Recruiting Vendors. You can keep up with his other stuff at johnsumser.com. Follow the rest of the Top 100 Influencers project.