The old new rules to succeed
By Steven Martinovich
It wasn't long ago that Generation X thought it revolutionized the workplace. Taking their lead from the apparently relaxed atmosphere that pervaded Silicon Valley, the leaders of the dot com movement mandated that every day was Casual Friday and that the old rules didn't apply. A few years, a Pets.com or two, and a stock market crash later and it seems the old ways have yet to give way.
Except they already have, some say, and it's thanks to the youngest of Gen X and the vanguard of Y, not the soldiers of the aborted internet revolution. The workplace rule set crafted by the Baby Boomers is being challenged by 20 somethings and getting ahead – assuming that's what you really want these days – calls for a new battle plan. Enter Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success.
Previous generations were motivated fairly simply, writes Trunk. Regular raises and promotions were adequate paybacks for Boomers who believed that to work was to live. That isn't enough, however, for today's Gen Xs and Ys. They're more interested in quality of life issues. They want their work to mean something to them, to help them to grow and feel fulfilled. Climbing the corporate ladder isn't as important as rock climbing on the weekends.
To that end Trunk presents Brazen Careerist as a handbook to help today's youth in pursuit of those goals, covering a wide range of situations from moving back in with your parents after school, whether you should start your own business, why it's a bad idea to file a lawsuit if you've been sexually harassed, and everything in between. Trunk presents a grand total of 45 new rules she believes are necessary for success in today's business world.
For the new entrant in the job market, Brazen Careerist does offer some worthy advice. Few people appear to prepare for job interviews by learning some basic facts about the company they are applying to. Many employees don't know how to manage their bosses while others don't even know how to communicate with them. Good guidance is offered when Trunk urges women to avoid support staff positions in favour of becoming line managers – where the money is made and one reason why there is a wage gap between men and women – and everyone should be constantly networking.
That said, given some of its prescriptions it's sometimes difficult to take Brazen Careerist very seriously but what's worse is that there isn't very much new within its covers. No one below the age of 30 needs a book to tell them that they'll be switching careers frequently, nor is her contention that people are more interested in time off than money a new one. And does her argument that it's better to be liked than overly competent at your job really a surprise to anyone with even a few minutes experience with office politics? Would you be shocked to know that face time is more important than communicating by email?
The problem with the workplace is that the more things appear to change, the more they really stay the same. Hierarchies may have been flattened somewhat, technology has made the average worker more productive and new attitudes have changed our relationships with employers but at the end of the day, as Brazen Careerists readers will learn, the view from the cubicle is still as dreary as it has ever been. And given statistics chronicling longer work hours than ever, it appears we'll be spending more time in them than our parents ever did.
Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario.
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