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Penelope Trunk’s Advice About Blogging

Posted by on May 28, 2011

I didn’t know who Penelope Trunk was until SXSW 2010. I was riding the SXSW shuttle en route back to my hotel after a long day and I met a nice Gen Y girl from Madison, Wisconsin. We had a fascinating discussion about the difference between her generation and mine (I’m Gen X). I had been reading a lot about it and noticed that so many negative traits had been attached to Gen Y. I admit, the title of the book by Jean Twenge was gloomy to begin with so I wasn’t surprised, but as I began reading it it seemed more than a little unfair and biased to me. The book isĀ Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled–and More Miserable Than Ever Before. (I began reading it in an effort to better understand my teenage stepdaughter and the twentysomething kids who work for my husband.) Being able to meet and chat with Gen Y’s directly was a big benefit of SXSW, I didn’t occur to me that I was going to be surrounded by them but it was a pleasant surprise.

The young woman from Madison was impressive and inspiring. Articulate and confident, she was able to show me that my hunch was correct: not all the assumptions about Gen Y were accurate. She was driven and incredibly methodical in the way she was approaching her career, and she was just 24 years old. As we broke our conversation and parted ways she handed me her personal business card. Days later I looked at her blog and began reading about her and this other person called Penelope Trunk, someone who professed to have an understanding of Gen Y and how to work with them. Fascinating.

Book cover for Generation Me

The Brazen Blogger

So I sought out information about Penelope Trunk and decided to subscribe to her blog: The Brazen Careerist. Great title, but I felt a little out of place as a not so brazen careerist working in higher ed. I assumed her blog was going to be about career paths and navigating the corporate workplace. Never assume. In the ensuing weeks my inbox was filled with what can best be described as personal drama on the farm. Apparently she had had a legitimate business oriented blog but then she moved to Madison from NYC with her husband and two young sons in tow, got divorced, and then met and decided to have a commitment ceremony with a friendly local farmer. Her blog has been more about the transition to rural life on the farm than has been about career advice. Though her titles always seem to tie in with career…usually it’s a stretch. For example, this week’s is “How to Date Your Coworker” but it’s not about work. It’s about her friend who’s staying with her at the farm and how she invites her web developer friend to come and visit and redo Penelope’s website and how they flirt and then get it on without so much as writing a line of code. Old habits die hard I suppose. Why bother creating a new blog for this stuff, the current audience is transfixed reading about the minutiae of her relationship and how she’s keeping her life together. It reads more like a Bravo reality show than a career blog. And I’m sure she realizes this and doesn’t care. That’s what I like about her. She’s brazenly off the beaten path and marching to her own drum. That’s also why I wouldn’t mind heeding some of her advice.

She has a section on her site: How to Blog: Penelope’s Guide to Blogging. One of the subsections suggests that you should “write about your life“. I’ve been doing that, along with millions of other bloggers. It’s not exactly a revelation but it’s great to get her spin on this because she is not your typical blogger. Here’s a sampling of her latest posts:

Not subjects for the faint of heart. If you haven’t read her yet, go ahead. You’ll either love her or hate her, there doesn’t seem to be a middle line. The fact that she has Asperger’s syndrome apparently works to her benefit, she suggests that it removes that filter of shame or possible remorse that the rest of us have. Makes sense to me. But I definitely have the filter and most times it’s in high gear. So we’ll see how well I can follow her guidance.

Note: in reviewing this post I just discovered that her blog is her blog, not the Brazen Careerist. They are are two separate entities. But I’m sticking to what I’ve written here because it’s real. I thought I subscribed to Brazen…but I got Penelope. For someone who care, it’s worth exploring how that happened.

Understanding Gen Y…even if it’s from Penelope

By the way, I later found this series of video clips by Bruce Tulgan, author of “Not Everyone Gets A Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y“, that expose the real thoughts behind Gen Y (scroll down the page). If you want to understand them and don’t have time to read, these clips are fantastic. I’m sure the book is too.

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