Interview: Penelope Trunk

penelopeI recently came across Penelope Trunk’s blog and promptly lost a couple hours of my life reading through the archives. While she is known for her career advice and authoring Brazen Careerist, I found her personal openness on topics such as divorce and postpartum depression to be extremely refreshing.

From her site:

Penelope is the founder of 3 startups — most recently, Brazen Careerist, a web service to help companies find candidates. Her career advice appears in more than 200 newspapers and magazines including Time magazine, San Francisco Chronicle and Boston Globe. In a review of this blog, Business Week called Penelope’s writing “poetic.”

After reading through much of her archives, I had some questions I wanted to ask her and she was nice enough to answer them.

Me: What makes you happy?

Penelope: I don’t know. I keep trying to figure that out. I think the answer sort of comes to us in pieces. I try to put them together so they make enough sense that I can take action. Change things.

Me: I was taught there are three things you don’t discuss at work. Sex, politics and religion. This isn’t necessarily the case anymore and you seem to think this is a good trend. What initial steps would you suggest someone take to inject more of themselves in to their work?

Penelope: Make a friend. Take the normal steps toward making a friend, which do not typically involve any of the above topics. At least at first. And then add those topics once the person is your friend. Tim Rath, a researcher from Gallup, found that if you have two friends at work, it’s nearly impossible to hate your job. That’s a good endorsement for making friends. You don’t need to be close to everyone. Just two people.

penelope2Me: I see a trend of people deeply intertwining their personal goals with their career goals. Is this a healthy practice? Will this cause people to be more or less successful in the business world?

Penelope: We each define success differently. There are tradeoffs to everything. We need to acknowledge that when we decide our priorities for our goals.

Me: You’ve written about the importance of practicing vulnerability in the workplace and how this is connected with choosing silence over talking. Why is vulnerability so important? In what ways is silence connected to this?

Penelope: If we are not vulnerable then we’re not open to new experiences, and life will get boring and lonely. You can’t let new things in if you never shut up. Talking all the time is a way to put an artificial wall between you and a the world. The unexpected parts of life happen in the silences.

Me: What personal activities do you regularly do to keep yourself in check both personally and professionally?

Penelope: I go to the gym and I read a lot. I blog three or four days a week. That’s a lot of alone time in my head. If I don’t do that, I start to fall apart in my head. So probably writing is something that I need to do to keep myself steady. I’m lucky that it’s part of my job

Thanks again to Penelope for agreeing to this interview. Be sure to:

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