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Getting Advice From The Brazen Careerist

Journalists come from motley backgrounds. But I don't think we've ever had anyone writing for us before who played professional beach volleyball. Penelope Trunk has. She's also been a software executive, founded two companies, has been through an IPO, an acquisition, and bankruptcy, wrote a book, and been a professional columnist. Having had so many careers on her own, it makes sense that she specializes in giving career advice.

Journalists come from motley backgrounds. But I don't think we've ever had anyone writing for us before who played professional beach volleyball. Penelope Trunk has. She's also been a software executive, founded two companies, has been through an IPO, an acquisition, and bankruptcy, wrote a book, and been a professional columnist. Having had so many careers on her own, it makes sense that she specializes in giving career advice.

I got hooked on her blog, Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist, after meeting her at a conference in the spring. She gives out clear, common-sense advice. Her constant theme: You are not at the mercy of your employers. You are the captain of your own career. Even if you're a woman. Even if you have kids. Talented people are in demand nowadays, and if you approach your work with creativity and salesmanship, you can have the kind of career and life you want, even the face of economic uncertainty, outsourcing, and corporate downsizing.

Penelope lays out her career philosophy in two paragraphs of this blog post, "My financial history, and stop whining about your job:"


I tell people all the time to change their job if they don't like it, and people tell me this is totally impractical advice. A lot of people write to me to say that my advice only applies to rich people. Or they tell me that single parents, families living paycheck to paycheck, people in debt, cannot use my advice.

I think these people are in denial. Of course, there are exceptions, but usually these people are really saying that the things they have in their current standard of living are more important than being happy in their job. That's fine. But don't complain that the advice doesn't apply to you. It does. You choose to have an expensive lifestyle instead.

In her current column -- what we hope will be the first of many for InformationWeek -- Penelope lays out five ways you can make yourself a career superstar.. Like the best of Penelope's advice, all her tips are surprising, thought-provoking, and even a bit counter-intuitive. Like the one where she advises you to turn down promotions. Or the one where she advises cutting corners at work. All her tips make you stop and say, "Hmmmm.... "

If you find, like I did, that a little of Penelope's writing leaves you wanting more, head over to her blog and read some of her most popular columns:

"Steps to Taming Materialism, From an Accidental Expert,"

"How much money do you need to be happy? Hint: Your sex life matters more,"

"My name is not really Penelope,"

You'll want to read this moving post she put up a few weeks ago, describing her experiences on 9/11/2001, when she was standing just outside the World Trade Center in New York. And she writes movingly of her first day in marriage counseling.

Penelope's a bit different from our usual fare. She's not writing about technical matters, or the business of IT. Her subject matter is general-purpose career advice, suited to IT managers, advertising account executives, accountants, or anyone.

But we're giving her space in InformationWeek for a few reasons. One is that IT managers have careers, and need career advice, just like anyone else. Another is that she has a background in the technology industry, and lives an Internet lifestyle, which saturates her writing -- for example, in a column about how her marriage suffered when her husband became a stay-at-home Dad, she describes how a turning point came when she read her husband's LinkedIn profile.

But, mainly, we're giving her space in InformationWeek because she's good. I generally find myself nodding agreement when reading Penelope, and wishing I'd read her columns before I slammed my hand in various career car doors. I hope you enjoy Penelope's work as much as I do.

InformationWeek readers tend to be a bit older and more seasoned than the general Web 2.0 crowd. What do you know about careers now that you wish you knew when you were 25?