Penelope Trunk is called the “Guidance counselor” of our generation. Along with Steve Pavlina, she is my inspiration for the writing on this website. She is a best-selling author, the founder of three successful start-up companies, mother of two boys, and the lover of a very lucky farmer. In essence, she has achieved successes in work and life that most women born in the late 20th Century desire. If you are open to it, she will show you where you are being naïve and delusional for your own good.
How I discovered her blog
I began my career during the “Great Recession”, and became thoroughly confused. I was in a career path I had selected ten years earlier, but it suddenly paid less than I anticipated as little as one or two years before. My actual starting salary at Deloitte was fine, but by my first raise my financial future had dimmed considerably. I had been meticulous in projecting my future salaries during graduate school (as I borrowed more money to pay for it), but the economy I assumed changed right underneath my nose. Money has always been the only thing I get from a career which I can’t get elsewhere – so when it changed, I did the same.
In addition to my financial concerns related to being an Auditor in an Accounting firm, I wasn’t satisfied professionally. I was expected to use a small part of my professional knowledge and individual competencies. A CPA can do a lot of things, and this CPA (not yet at the time) was not willing to narrow his knowledge base. I had earned my Masters of Professional Accounting on the “Generalist” track, and wanted work that relied more on my diverse educational background. In Auditing, I felt myself at a short-to-mid-term disadvantage [until near partner-level]. Interestingly, this too is also correlated with a person’s income.
As I combed through the internet for answers, I found that Penelope had been blogging about changes in the professional landscape for years before my time. I began to see that I would need to modify my career plans, and that would take me out of the well-worn career path available to guys like me. This scared me, but due to my weird understanding of risk, I read more and more of Penelope’s work. Over time I began a journey that changed my life personally & professionally, leading to where I am now – and I haven’t suffered any reduction in income!
My favorites from her work
- Her book BRAZEN CAREERIST: The New Rules for Success is a must-read. I have it in my Kindle app.
- Brazen Careerist (another one of her start-ups) is also highly relevant to us, and its own blog is required reading for anyone starting out in college or careers.
- She says living up to your potential is b.s.
- She is obsessed with “happiness” research and says (among other things) that sex will go much further in making you happy than money ever will.
- She proposes a blue print for a woman’s life — in my opinion, this is a masterpiece!
One of the most shocking things I have read from her blog is her assertion that graduate school is a waste of time and money. I had just begun paying for my student loans, most of which occurred in graduate school. In an effort to provide an alternative to graduate school, she writes:
Here’s the alternative: Admit that adult life is scary because there is no clear path to success. Grad school is not a quick fix for the fears of adulthood. Instead, be grateful for the chance to be lost – it means you’re living your own life, because no one can make choices in the exact same way you can, whether they are right or wrong.
So all there is for adult life is you, following your nose, trying to figure out what brings you joy. Each time I see someone who has done that, in some little way, I feel relief and hope for myself.
If you open your mind, and leave your ego in the next room, your career strategy will not be the same after you read Penelope’s work. I will paraphrase a review of her book and say that if you don’t bookmark Penelope Trunk’s website and read it regularly, you’ll wish you did when you’re 40!
Have you read any of Penelope’s work? Feel free to share your thoughts….