Book Review: Brazen Careerist – The New Rules For Success

Penelope Trunk's new book: Brazen Careerist - The New Rules For SuccessI’ve been following Penelope Trunk’s blog for quite a while – she does a lot of stuff right as a blogger and I’ve learned a lot from her. I was excited to get her book in the mail a few weeks ago and dig into it. The very first page of the book assured me that I wouldn’t miss out on her no-holds-barred attitude and perspective:

I would be lying if I told you that writing a book was easy. My editor, Diana Baroni, transformed me from a columnist to an author. No small feat. Sometimes I imagine that while she was going through edits with me on the phone , she was throwing darts at a wall to keep her voice so even.

This is the Penelope Trunk that we all know and love, and her writing style is a perfect example of transparency at it’s best. Shortly after I met Penelope she announced that she had just signed to write for Yahoo! Finance, and became something of a celebrity in the space (this is after years of writing a career column for the Boston Globe). While she had a significant impact on JibberJobber (she wrote about it a couple of times, and it ended up on Yahoo! Finance (which then was on the front page of Yahoo! for three hours)), she has never played favorites and we’ve had some really good talks on how to either make JibberJobber better, or improve my message of what it is (stuff I have yet to implement).

So Penelope knows about writing. She likes to write with lists, use lots of examples, and give you her raw advice and perspective. Don’t expect sugar-coating in her stuff. And if you disagree with her it doesn’t matter – most of her columns on Yahoo get hundreds of (sophomoric) comments questioning her logic but she keeps coming back with stuff that is right on target.

There is a lot to her book and I don’t want to paint it into a certain corner. But as I read through it there is one resounding theme that jumps out in every chapter: the difference between Gen Y and every other generation (somewhere Gen X seems to have gotten lost between the Baby Boomers and the YouTube/MySpace masters).

Here’s the cool thing – no matter what generation you are in this book is a must read. I found myself shaking my head a number of times saying “no way, it’s not like that” only to give in and agree with her. I’m not sure how I feel about the modern workplace as compared to the workplace of my parents, whether it’s better or worse, but the truth is it is different. And Penelope packs every single page with a broad range of information on how to compete and excel in this new environment. Here are some examples, from miscellanous chapters:

  • Introduction – “Young people have no interest in climbing ladders when they know they probably won’t be working at one place long enough to hit every rung.”
  • Chapter 3: Hunting for a Job Is Not a Task, It’s a Lifestyle – “But the hunt is not for the money. It’s for more interesting work and a better personal life. So what can you do to make sure you get a job that will encourage new experiences both at work and at home?”
  • Chapter 4: An Interview is a Test You Can Study For – (regarding stupid questions that you shouldn’t ask) “What needs to be accomplished in this position in the next six months?” This is a useless question at the end of the interview, but an essential one for the beginning. (!!)

And here are some chapter titles:

  • Chapter 6: First-Time Managers Do Not Need to Suck
  • Chapter 9: Sex Discrimination Is Everywhere, So Don’t Try To Run
  • Chapter 13: Getting a Promotion Is So Last Century

Penelope Trunk - The Brazen CareeristHere’s my advice: this book is a must read for everyone. If you are a Gen Y, read it and figure out your strategy for a successful career. Read it slow, mark it up and keep it as a reference. If you are a Baby Boomer, read it to understand a lot more about what drives and motivates Gen Y (and even some Gen X folks). If you are Gen X this is a must read to understand all of the oldest child syndrome (Baby Boomers) and youngest child syndrome (Gen Y) issues that you see every day at work (I couldn’t resist that analogy!)!

Like me, you’ll probably shake your head as much as you nod your head as you read this, but you can’t really argue with much of the stuff that’s in here. I had high expectations from Penelope and she certainly didn’t let me down with Brazen Careerist – The New Rules For Success.

Here are some more reviews of the book:

Joanna Babarger at Punditmom

Rowan Manahan at Fortify Your Oasis

Cody McKibben at Pursuing Excellence

Diane Danielson at Downtown Women’s Club

Marshall Sponder at Web Metrics Guru

Frank Roche at KnowHR Blog

Ramit Sethi at I Will Teach You To Be Rich

Maureen Rogers at Pink Slip

Note it was also reviewed by Guy Kawasaki, Keith Ferrazzi and Bob Sutton (more info here)

Excellent job Penelope!

8 thoughts on “Book Review: Brazen Careerist – The New Rules For Success”

  1. Hi Jason –

    I agree that I cringed too at some of the advice. As a Generation X’er/borderline boomer, it was almost funny to read advice that was the exact opposite of everything I’d been told. But, then again, I’ve always done better when I ignored the traditionalists and done the wild and crazy things. It will be interesting to see how this advice plays out in the long run.

  2. What do you mean “somewhere Gen X seems to have gotten lost between the Baby Boomers and the YouTube/MySpace masters”?

    I’m Gen X. Does this book just ignore Gen X?

  3. GenXandProud – I’m GenX too. Penelope doesn’t make a big deal out of classifying generations, rather she says “this is the new workplace” and describes what I categorize as a lot of GenY stuff. I’m the one drawing these lines (in this post)… perhaps she does it but doesn’t make a big deal of it.

    As a GenX’er I loved reading about how these x-box folks are coming into the workplace, seeing what their expectations and interests are and stuff like that. One part of me screams “you whiners! You’re not entitled to all this froo-froo stuff!” and the other part says “man, BabyBoomers are going to have a hard time with this, but it is becoming the new system, and they can’t really buck it!”

    So I feel like I’m sitting inbetween two well-talked-about generations – Penelope doesn’t ignore us (GenX) but it’s interesting that some stuff I’m agreeing with the Y’ers and other stuff I’m agreeing with the Boomers.

    Ah, it’s nice to not have the oldest child syndrome, nor the youngest child syndrome :p

  4. Jason – a 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.

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