April 15, 2009

It's Important to Look Busy

Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success by Penelope Trunk (Warner Business Books, 2007, ISBN 97-0-446-57864-6)

This book was written by: Penelope Trunk, author of a long-running career advice column. Ms. Trunk writes that "the column, Brazen Careerist, which still runs today, had ironic timing: I was unemployed, single, strapped for cash, and, for the most part, lost"(p.xvii). Although Ms. Trunk's work as a professional volleyball player, personal assistant to Esther Williams, and CEO of several startup companies shows that important lessons can come from anyone, author Jennifer Wiener has accused Ms. Trunk of dismissing advice from people who are

What is in this book: Instructions for looking like a success, since “the issue here is not if you are productive as a worker. The issue is whether you are productive as an image manager, because if you are not managing your image at work, you are not managing your career”(p.164). Taking an active role in managing your image and your interpersonal relationships will pay off because “being likeable matters more than being competent”(p.90). In fact, “the next time you consider areas for self-improvement, choose interpersonal coaching over office skills and you’ll likely get more bang for your buck”(p.91). Ms. Trunk will be the first one to tell you how effective that strategy was for
Elliot Spitzer’s whore.
The book also has a keen grasp on the motivations and drives of the modern worker. For example, “here are some grand thoughts I bet you wish you’d had: viral marketing, routers, E=mc2”(p.154). Hell, everyone wishies that they thought of routers, but I specifically lie awake at night wishing that I was responsible for the theory that led to some of the greatest atrocities ever visited upon humankind. Coming up with the idea that led to the development of the atomic bomb would have been pretty sweet, too.

What is not in this book: The previous generation's outdated thinking about needing to pay your dues to get ahead. “A lot of experience doesn’t mean that someone is clever, likeable, or talented”(p.149). In fact, “don’t be the hardest worker. You shouldn’t look lazy, but if you work the most hours, you typically look the most desperate.” (p.151) You won't need to focus on your experience, anyway. Because “resume writing is a creative exercise that combines the skills of direct mail with the skills of a storyteller”(p.21), feel free to get as creative as necessary with respect to your employment history.

Would you recommend this book to Willy Brandt? Oh HELL yes. Ms. Trunk could teach him a metric ton about dissolving boundaries. Ms. Trunk broke work/life barriers by taking strategies from her household to the office after her couples therapist "observed that the problems I have in talking to my husband are probably the same types of problems I have in talking to people at work. This made sense to me immediately because I always say that I love my husband but would never want to work with someone like him.”(p.95) Ms. Trunk later brought the workplace back home by attacking her (now ex-)husband's unwillingness to communicate with her from her blog's professional platform in a column that was later

Would you recommend this book to Larry Storch? Pfft. What possible use could he have for something brazen? The man's work is already a collection of solid gold.

What was interesting about this book? Ms. Trunk notes that “each piece of paper you get should either go in the garbage or into a file. Don’t let it sit on your desk for more than three hours”(p.163). That quote was supposed to illustrate a point I wanted to make, but I accidentally threw my notes away after they sat on my desk for too long.

Digg this Stumble Upon Toolbar


M. said...

I love the lone comment to Trunk's column (copy & pasted in case she decides to delete it):

"This is the most pathetic, passive aggressive catty attack I've ever read, and it strikes me that if you spent as much time trying to communicate with your husband as you have trying to eviscerate him in your column, perhaps he'd not be considering divorce."

Bitterly Books said...

Ha, don't be fooled!

That link is to a newspaper that reprinted Trunk's column, not the actual Trunk blog. She'd have to contact them to have it deleted, and it looks like they've let it sit there for a long time.

Other people have made the same assumption, and I'd be very surprised if she so much as glimpsed at any of the comments.

M. said...

Ha ha, whoops!

Oh well, it isn't like it would really matters if she did read that comment, since she seems to think that being fired dozens of times and having everyone hate you is some sort of retard badge of honor.

Read more reviews...