The Brazen Careerist herself, Penelope Trunk, was nice enough to take some time out of her day to do a quick interview with us.
Through her blog and her new book – Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success, Penelope doles out tips to navigate through the beast that is corporate life for a new generation of workers.
Allen: On your blog, you mention that your book is about how the current generation has ushered in a new workplace. What do you think the biggest change has been between the old and new generations?
Penelope: The old generation assumed that you pay your dues, and you get to live a fulfilling life at the end of your career. The new generation does not see any point to putting off this fulfillment. It used to be that if you paid your dues to a big company, you would have a secure job for your whole life, and a pension for retirement. Today no job is secure, and pensions are nonexistent for young workers, so the workplace is more about the moment. Young workers today want to get something good right now in exchange for the work they do.
Older generations could be wowed with money — especially when they were young: Work long hours in exchange for a big paycheck, for example. Today young workers are not nearly as motivated as money. Personal growth and flexible hours are more important than money.
What do you think is the most important action this new generation can take to be prepared to transition into leadership roles?
This generation will remake the idea of leadership. In the past, it has been centralized and hierarchical. That won’t fly in the new workplace. Gen Y doesn’t operate like that, and Gen X doesn’t want to be tethered to the insane 100-hour weeks of the typical senior leadership roles. So the idea of leaderhsip will have to become less centralized so more people can share in it. The best way to prepare for this is to figure out what work you are best at doing, because it’s in that area that you can be a leader when the baby boomer’s start moving out of the way.
What can we do to integrate your articles and tips into our daily work life? How do we avoid just falling back into our old routines, or how do we remember to lead when the world is on fire.
Just remember to lead yourself. Be true to yourself. Be honest about your goals and your aspirations and your failings. The bottom line of everything I write is: Know yourself. It’s a process, and the great thing about a career is it’s another way to get to know yourself. Great leaders have a great sense of self.
As your site and book are named, you often say brazen things that todays corporate climate frowns on. Do you see the new generation becoming more or less PC or where do you see this trend going in the future with the generational changes that will accelerate over the next 10 years?
Politically correct is an adjective from the baby boomer’s. They realized that discrimination is much wider than what they fought for in the civil rights movement. They wanted to do more. So they started policing language because discrimination is so language based. But young people today have grown up in such a different climate — and most young people in the US will be racially mixed some time soon (I can’t remember when). So political correctness is much more natural to a generation that did not grow up with separate drinking fountains for black kids. I don’t think political correctness will be an issue once the baby boomers stop writing about it.
I have interviewed Robert Fuller about his rankism movement — the idea that everyone deserves respect, no matter what their rank in life is. And I have interviewed Bob Sutton about his book that chronicles his research about people who are jerks. Both Fuller and Sutton seem to me to be talking about what comes after political correctness. It’s respect. The idea that you should treat everyone nicely. This is something that is really ingrained in young people — everyone gets to play on soccer teams, not just the stars. All kids get to go to school, even the disabled. This is the first generation to live like that.
You often mention the use of stories to create lasting impressions, for example during interviews or networking. The internet in general, and blogging specifically lend themselves to these mini personal stories to brand together people and concepts. How can people learn this skill to help them advance their career?
This is a great question. My mom is always sending me emails about how I am revealing too much on my blog and she is worried that I’ll lose all my readers.
When it comes to blogging, you cannot tell good stories about yourself if you are concerned about never looking bad. To tell good stories about yourself you have to be authentic. Everyone has days when they are so sad that they can’t get out of bed. Everyone has days when they thought they would never succeed. The trick is to tell stories about yourself that reveal both your strengths and your weaknesses. We all have both. You can’t portray a whole person on a blog without both sides of yourself.