Friday, April 20, 2007

Brazen Careerist by Penelope Trunk (Book Review)

Penelope Trunk very kindly sent me an advance copy of her forthcoming book, Brazen Careerist. My immediate reaction after my first read-through is that it is a must-have, must-read, must-follow book for anyone who is serious about managing their career in these insecure times.

It’s a fast, logical, read (200 pages, 45 short chapters) directed at her core, Generation X, audience; but the ideas and tactics she espouses are relevant and useable by anyone in the modern workforce, and in particular, by anyone who manages X-ers.

What makes the book so valuable is that Trunk is not some lightweight journalist or ponderous academic spouting irrelevant clichés or wildly impractical suggestions. She spent a decade marketing in the software industry, has run companies of her own, done the IPO thing, done the merger thing, flirted briefly with bankruptcy and well and truly earned her T-shirt. In short, Penelope is someone you need to listen to. She now writes for Yahoo Finance, The Boston Globe and has a syndicated column that is published across the English-speaking world.

As a result of her blogging and extensive relationship-building, Trunk's writing is also enriched by having been thoroughly road-tested and also for having survived the slings and arrows of outrageous commenting and correspondence. Examples:
  • Ugly fact: The majority of people who fail in their job fail within the first 90 days. Solution: Banish all preconceptions and everything they told you at interview from your mind; observe the culture and your boss very closely and flex your style around those realities once you are in the job.
  • Ugly fact: The generation finishing formal education in the US right now will experience such instability in the jobs market that they will have held more than 8 jobs by the time they reach the age of 34. Solution: Moaning about this is wasted energy; accept the reality and start thinking about job-hunting as a lifestyle rather than an unpleasant task. (This echoes the 'permanent campaigning' mode that so many people in political life now find themselves in.)
  • Ugly fact: Promotions are hard to come by and raises have become insultingly low. Solution: Training is the new currency. If you can get your employer to spend some dollars on improving your key skills and ensuring that your knowledge is up to scratch, it's worth far more that another half-percent on your raise. Plus, training courses present tremendous opportunities for networking and getting yourself noticed.
Brazen Careerist covers the ground that other careers books shy away from. It is pertinent (sometimes impertinent!), immediately applicable and a joy to read. If you are looking for ideas to synchronise your working and personal lives into a "harmonious adventure" that you pursue on your own terms, then get yourself a copy. Penelope never disappoints.

2 comments:

JibberJobber Guy said...

This is a great summary, I just posted a review also and found that you and I had the same impressions of the book!

Jason Alba
CEO - JibberJobber.com

Rowan Manahan said...

Jason - thanks for your comment, and for your great take on Penelope's book. I shook my head (in wonder) a number of times while reading it, but despite its lack of sugar-coating, you're right - her points are irrefutable and there's something for us all to learn in Brazen Careerist.