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  • Personal Branding Interview #2: Penelope Trunk

    Today, I spoke to Penelope Trunk, who I interviewed back in 2009, and she’s also guest blogged here. When you’re looking for unorthodox advice, transparency, and an authentic voice in the career management, only one personal brand comes to mind: Penelope Trunk. Penelope is a student and teacher of how the new economy is shaping our careers. Recently, she released her latest book about how to be more successful in your work. There is no book title because she’s performing an experiment to see if her followers purchase the book based on her reputation and relationship with her. Her experiment has already succeeded and she is on her second print run. You can purchase the book here.

    This interview was featured on my Forbes blog today.

    What’s the best way to find out if you’ve chosen the right career?

    There’s not a single career that’s perfect for us for the rest of our lives. There’s a career that feels good for what we want to learn now, what we want our days to look like now. If we’re growing all the time, we’re outgrowing careers all the time. The best career paths are flexible and winding and that’s what makes them fulfilling.

    Does it make sense to go to graduate school?

    Graduate school worked when career paths were singular and stable. It no longer makes sense to invest five years getting a PHD to get a job that you are likely to leave after ten years. Careers are too dynamic today to invest so much time training for a career. Training should be on the job, which is exactly what graduate school is not. We know people who go to graduate school for entrepreneurship or business to not do better in business. So why do people keep going? Graduate school is too expensive in terms of both time and money.

    How do you become a better networker? What’s your secret?

    The best careers are built on kindness. Kindness in every job, and kindness to people who don’t work wit you but need you, at one point or another. You never know who will help you next, so assume all the goodness you give out will somehow come back. For example, i have received so much help from interns who I trained. I never expected to be able to rely on that person later in life, but i could.

    What’s the biggest mistake people make when they’re looking for a promotion?

    Work harder. Promotions don’t come from getting more done or doing a wider range of work. Promotions come from being likable. Promotions are a popularity contest, which seems completely reasonable when you realize that we have to be at work with each other eight hours a day, so we may as well like being together. You get a promotion by figuring out which work matters to people around you and doing the work that is important. you don’t need to do every little thing perfectly. People don’t care. Your main job is being nice. The next part of your job is doing work your boss cares about. Don’t get derailed by your supposed to do list at the office.

    Is there a career safety net?

    Your own skills are your safety net. Your ability to adapt and your resilience to bad turns will take you very far. When things feel bad in your career, recognize it as a time when you are building your safety net — you’re practicing bouncing back. The more you can rely on yourself to bounce back, the more risks you can take because you have confidence you can deal with failure. The career safety net of today’s workplace is a combination of passion and resilience.

    Penelope Trunk
    is the CEO of BrazenCareerist.com, both the largest online community of Generation Y professionals and a consulting firm that helps companies reach young professionals. Her clients rely on her to help them understand Generation Y’s priorities and passions so they can better build and manage their young workforce.  Penelope’s breadth of experience encompasses ten years as an executive in the software industry and three companies of her own, and she has navigated an IPO, a merger, and a bankruptcy. And before all that, she played professional beach volleyball. She is also the author of Brazen Careerist, the New Rules for Success, published by Warner Books in 2007.


    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

    Posted in Career Development, Interview, People, Personal Branding, Success Strategies
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    2 comments on “Personal Branding Interview #2: Penelope Trunk
    1. avatar
      Brian says:

      Good post Dan. I appreciate the insight from Penelope especially looking at the self rebranding I am doing right now. Good points to think about plus some I already knew but good to have your validation.

    2. avatar

      I think that Penelope has some good insights as to choosing a career, but I completely disagree with her assessment of graduate school. As a full-time grad student, If feel that getting my MBA is more about the journey involved.

      It is not easy or cheap (as Penelope said) to get an advanced degree. I have made great sacrifices in my social life and at work in order to further my education. I realize that having an MBA may not guarantee me a better job but it puts me in a separate category when job hunting. Miriam

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