Book Review: Brazen Careerist (Penelope Trunk)

Brazen Careerist (Penelope Trunk)
Is graduate school a good investment for professionals who want to get ahead?  How much money does it take for a person to be happy?  What do twentysomething “millennials” want out of their careers that’s different from the folks of the Generation X, Generation Y, or Baby Boom age brackets?

These are just a few of the many questions (45, to be exact) that national career columnist Penelope Trunk addresses in her recent book, Brazen Careerist, one of the best and most refreshing career publications we’ve read in a while.  Unafraid to be a contrarian, and to offer advice that makes a lot of intuitive sense despite the fact that it defies conventional wisdom, Ms. Trunk’s book provides young and old job seekers alike with many interesting things to ponder relative to their own career philosophy.

Additionally, we were pleased to learn that the author’s observations tend to match up extremely well with our own beliefs about the changing nature of the job market.   For example, in one chapter that promotes the idea of “typecasting yourself” and building your career around a set of highly specialized skills, she goes so far as to say “People think that saying they are a generalist makes them look very useful and therefore very employable.  In fact, being a generalist means being good at nothing and headed for long-term unemployment.  Generalist is the label for a career that will die.”  And in another section on office politics, she says “Here is a message for people who say they can’t stomach office politics: you will die a slow, painful career death.  Office politics is inescapable because it’s about dealing with people.  When there is a group of people–anywhere, even on the playground–there is politics.”

While the morbid “death” theme in the two passages above is a mere coincidence, and obviously used for literary flourish, Ms. Trunk doesn’t flinch from giving it to her readers straight — knowing that it sometimes takes a strong dose of straight talk for people to change their ways and that the greater sin would be to spare peoples’ feelings at the expense of their livelihoods.  So if you’re looking for somebody “brazen” enough to challenge your current assumptions about what job, career, and employment success is going to look like for the foreseeable future, this is the book for you!

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