UPDATE TO THIS POST: With her new blog, Brazencareerist.com, The Divine Ms. P now states: Penelope is the founder of 3 startups — most recently, Brazen Careerist, a web service to help companies find candidates.
Hmmm… Wait a minutes. Previously (see below) she was oscillating between two or three startups, depending where you looked. But both of these claims were made before Brazen Careerist. Now, however, PT is trying to look like she really meant BC was one of those startups.
Nice try, honey, but that’s the nifty thing about this Internet you like so much: it doesn’t lie. And it leaves a helluva trail.
Now, on with the article I originally wrote several months ago…But stick around to take the new polls at the end.
Perhaps you can best learn from this train-wreck of a human being by looking at everything she’s done and everything she advocates and doing and advocating the opposite.
The Internet has spawned a plethora of experts on every subject imaginable. Almost all aren’t worth the time of day. After all, if they had any clue, they wouldn’t blog for a living.
But I don’t think anyone comes close to the person known professionally as Penelope Trunk (and whose real name was originally Adrienne Roston, which was then changed to Adrienne Greenheart, then Adrienne GreenHeart with new capitalization, then again to Adrienne Eisen while she wrote online porn, and then finally allowed herself to be christened Penelope Trunk by Time/Warner executives for reasons that make no sense to me no matter how much vodka I drink) and who thinks that with no credentials, no successes, no career nothing really but a laptop and an Internet connection (or the free one she gets at the corner coffee shop, where she admits she does most of her work) she’s fit to advise people on their careers.
She writes under the banner “The Brazen Careerist,” brazen being Penelope’s favorite word for unethical. She used to do a column for Yahoo!, until even that wretched organization fired her. When you’ve been sacked by Yahoo!, you know you blow.
She had some print gigs at one time too, but they seem to have all dried up. Last time I looked she listed the Boston Globe as one of her current gigs, but they don’t seem to agree.
Her online bio for Hatchette Books reads: Trunk spent ten years as a marketing executive in the software industry and then she founded three companies of her own. (Note: remember that number. It’s important for later.) She has endured an IPO, a merger and a bankruptcy. Prior to that she was a professional beach volleyball player.
I can’t seem to find the company she spent ten years working for as a marketing executive. (Of course, this is tough, being she has more aliases than a double-agent during the Cold War.) Nor does she ever say exactly what she did. (“Marketing executive”? What the hell’s that? Everybody these days is some sort of “executive” or, even more commonly, “consultant.”) She doesn’t list the three companies she founded—they should be all over the Internet, but they’re not. Why doesn’t she tout them the way she constantly does her book?
However, the last sentence, “Prior to that she was a professional beach volleyball player,” is truth. That is easy to look up online, including her rather unspectacular ranking. The rest of her career is as murky as the bottom of Loch Ness after Nessie takes a shit. She keeps claiming to be a “serial entrepreneur,” someone who’s always starting businesses, and she’s forever dropping references in her blog to venture capitalists she’s meeting with, and all sorts of people who are salivating to buy her business. As far as I can tell, her “business” consists and has always consisted of one thing—blogging. For free. Oh, and while she had some print columns going she finangled someone into publishing her book, which has never even seen a paperback reprint. Interestingly, on Amazon she admits to test-driving her advise before spewing it. On her blog she admits she has been “fired a lot.” Are those really good points to mention together?
Oh, and here’s the other killer factoid: in her Amazon interview she says she founded two startups. Elsewhere she claims three. Has she forgotten a startup, or just confused her fibs?
Back to the Hachette (hatchet?) bio, it continues: Trunk started writing business advice when Fortune magazine published an open call for a woman to write about her own life as an executive. Trunk auditioned with a piece about her brother’s stupid Internet ideas, and a piece about her boss’s sex appeal, and she won the job.
Well, that’s reason enough never to bother reading Fortune again. Seriously, what’s next, putting oiled babes in bikinis on the cover? (Note to Fortune execs: if you do this next month, I want my cut for the idea.) Furthermore, her bio states, “Her syndicated column runs in more than 200 publications worldwide.”
This is an oft-repeated claim that doesn’t seem to be provable by the facts. Were it so, Googling her should provide links galore to all sorts of outlets. Even if they’re just online outlets, I’ll accept that. But everything you Google about her takes you to one blog, her own. Hmmm…
Then comes the killer line: “That said, as a career adviser, Trunk realizes that a bio is not so much factual as aspirational…” Yeah, it says that. It really does.
Well, at least she’s honest about being, err, dishonest.
It continues: “…she feels compelled to put an aspirational paragraph in her own bio. Otherwise, how can she advise other people on setting goals for themselves that are a bit of a reach?”
Ah! So that’s the justification. Okay, in that case, I am an astronaut, three-time Indy Champion, and I’ve dated Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks. At the same time. In fact, they fought over me. Oiled and in bikinis. Hey, talk about aspirational.
In another post, she says she is gifted when it comes to composing personal profiles. (This is followed by another howler: “My profile-writing abilities are the same as my resume-writing abilities.”)
I guess a less charitable way to put this would be to say she carries a big shovel and isn’t afraid to use it. Sadly, in our presently sick and warped society, where selling one’s daughter into prostitution isn’t seen as an ethical quandry anymore, this kind of behavior has proven to be a career-builder, not a career-ender.
Some people—lots of Gen Y bloggers, predictably—don’t seem to care about Penelope’s fibs. I found this blog in which the writer, someone named Jory, takes offense at a certain John Grabowski for apparently posting something nasty about the Trunk. Then Jory says the most revealing thing, which I think drives Penelope and most media whores these days: she says her biggest fear isn’t being wrong, isn’t disapproval, isn’t, basically, competence or incompetence. Her biggest fear is irrelevance. Being ignored.
Or as the saying goes, any publicity is good publicity as long as they spell your name right.
The same thing seems to drive Penelope. Seems she’ll talk about anything to keep readers coming back to her blog. Most disgusting among these is her divorce and her husband’s alleged inadequacies—I say alleged because he doesn’t feel it necessary to broadcast his personal life, and her personal failings, and I’m sure she has them aplenty, so I have no idea if what she lays on him is true. Whether it is or not, however, it has nothing to do with career advice and therefore is not an appropriate subject for a career blogger, or any blogger for that matter. It is, however, appropriate for a Jerry Springer-type media whore, which is exactly what this creature is, in my opinion.
It’s interesting that people comment on her blog about how much they learn from her and how intelligent she is. If this is what people are learning, then tomorrow’s American workforce is going to be even sorrier than today’s unable-to-compete-with-Europe-and-Asia employees. Truly, God help us.
Trunk disses about her husband—often and brutally. Were a man to do this about his spouse, he’d be vilified by the same feminist career bloggers who stand up and cheer her on. (“You go, grrrl!“) She writes all about his inadequacies—sexual and otherwise—as though their shared private life were hers to post all over the Internet. Doing this doesn’t seem to give either her or her adoring readers, most of whom seem to be female, the slightest pause.
You know who Penelope Trunk Barnum makes me think of? Janet Cooke. For those of you too young to remember, Ms. Cooke was a high-flying reporter for the Washington Post back in the early 80s. She won the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism for a story about an eight-year-old heroine addict, Jimmy. Only problem was, the kid didn’t exist. She made him and the whole story up to further her career. You might call it aspirational reporting. But famed Watergate reporter Bob Woodward, her boss, didn’t think so. (She got caught, by the way, because of inconsistencies on her resume, such as the number of startups she founded—err, I mean the number of papers she’d worked for.)
Janet’s career ended then, and hasn’t resurfaced, despite several attempts at a revival on her part. The world apparently wouldn’t forgive Ms. Cooke.
Now, if it had happened today, she could have started her own blog, told readers she had aspirational goals and was simply stretching her resume a little bit, and you should too. In fact, that’s what she was there to do, teach you to stretch and aspire to greater things, such as winning a faux-Pulitzer. It’s not dishonesty, it’s heightened achievement. Yeah…
And I’ll bet she’d have a new career. Because today, people can twist and rationalize anything. We had at least some standards back in 1980. Not much—we liked ABBA—but we had some.
Janet was born 20 years too early.
Penelope also reminds me of Ed Wood. Seriously. Because no matter how much his films sucked, Ed Wood’s delusion was utterly bottomless. He always thought he had done great and an even better work was just around the corner.
Back to Penelope, the New York Times, another publication that is sinking like the Lusitania when it comes to standards, recently did an article that mentioned Penelope. As it pointed out, the blogs trashing hubby are among her most popular. So Jory would be relieved, irrelevant PT isn’t.
But hey, in the process, Trunk drags her kid into the fray. Her young son has Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s a subject of her blogs, too, and I doubt she asked permission. (Even if she did and even if he said yes, that’s still crossing the line.) Now, when he grows older, he can enjoy the fact that his friends and classmates will know all about the intimate failings of his mom and dad’s sex life and marriage, and his mom’s sordid love affairs and massive insecurities, because mom blogged about it online to get readers and speaking engagements. Nice.
Walt Disney’s brother Roy once said branding is what you do when there is nothing original about your product.
Well, whoring is what you do when you don’t even have a product.
Sorry, Time/Warner guys, I’d say Penelope Cunt would have been a better name for her. Hubby, you got the better part of the deal. Penelope is now banging a farmer somewhere in the midwest—and blogging about it all. Poor guy. I hope he realizes his private life could end up all over the web. All that stuff about cows…
The Times rather softballs their disapproval of her, in my opinion:
More painfully, she has written about the problems of a son who has Asperger’s syndrome and said that both she and her husband believed the challenges of raising him helped cause their divorce.
But this kind of brutal honesty is not a good idea for children, especially since most harbor feelings of guilt about their parents’ divorce anyway, said Irene Goldenberg, a professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“It is not good for children to get personal information in that way,” Goldenberg says. “The way they feel now will not be how they feel in two years, and there is no way it can be retrieved.”
Not surprisingly, Penelope Trunk disagrees.
“It is a generational issue.” (Note: everything to her is a generational issue.) “We think it will be a big deal, but it won’t be to them. By the time they are old enough to read it, they will have spent their entire life online. It will be like, ‘Oh yeah, I expected that.’ ”
So she’s now an authority in children’s developmental psychology and psychiatry, as well as a career expert who’s in 200 publications, eh? Has any other beach volleyball player ever achieved so much?
She may be right about one thing, though. Her son will probably say “Oh yeah, I expected that.” Because that’s just the sort of thing you’d expect from Penelope Trunk.
By the way, if you visit her blog, note that spyware will be deposited onto your computer in the form of tracking cookies. Lavasoft will remove them (the lame Spybot Search and Destroy won’t), but still, it’s pretty damned rude if you ask me. I guess this is just another example of her brazenness.