Girl Talk Career Blog

May 15, 2010

Why I’m a Penelope Trunk Fanatic

Filed under: businesswoman — lisalahey @ 6:34 am

If you’ve heard of the blog Brazen Careerist then you’ve heard of Penelope Trunk. I’m a fan, a group member and loyal reader. There are lots of sensible reasons for this safe, business-like obsession. To wit:

  1. Penelope was blogging before anyone knew what a blog was.
  2. Penelope was blogging before anyone else was.
  3. Penelope Trunk’s career advice inspired me to start my own career blog.
  4. Penelope’s career advice is so woman-centered it’s almost an exclusive club (like this one).
  5. Penelope is young, bright and self-made in her impressive success.
  6. Penelope blogs about stuff I wouldn’t dare blog in this life or the next.
  7. Penelope manages to stay employed as a writer in an increasingly anti-journalist world.
  8. And last but not least Penelope Trunk has Aspberger’s Syndrome.

Truly when she first blogged that one I was staggered. It’s easy to feel a personality through someone’s writing just as it is to feel an artist through his painting or a musician through her music. The same is true of writers. Or so I thought. Penelope fooled me there. She has a very distinctive personality that blazez through Brazen Careerist. She is highly intelligent and obviously very experienced in the business world.

This isn’t to suggest that people with Aspbergers aren’t intelligent and successful. To offer a direct quote “people with it … show significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.. physical clumsiness and atypical use of language.”  I remember Penelope blogging about her Aspberger’s and how she is indeed physically clumsy and how many social interactions are just difficult for her.

 As a teacher I’ve done a little research about this disorder. I worked with a couple of children with high-functioning autism and I made the mistake of thinking the two were the same.  Nope.  They both fall under the umbrella of PDD, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a term that refers to differences in social, communicative and cognitive development. People with PDDs have varying levels of it. Now that much I knew since it was obvious even to me that I knew autistic children who were very high-functioning and autistic children who were moderate in their abilities.

I worked briefly with a severely autistic child in the school system. She turned out to be a surprise for me. She was 8 years old, cute and very stubborn.  She had no vocal development. When I tried to get her to sit and read with me she became quite annoyed and yelled and wriggled away from me. Then I went into a regular classroom to teach music and she joined me. She was silent while I taught. She played her percussion instrument when the class did and stopped when they stopped. Clever little soul.  She played me better than her instrument. But I digress…

Aspberger’s is named after Dr. Hans Aspberger, a Viennese pediatrician who identified symptoms specific to this order but mostly in males. These people have “normal intelligence and language development but impaired social skills“.  When Penelope said she had Aspberger’s I was surprised to find she had a pervasive disorder but not surprised to discover that it was a disorder inflicting highly intelligent and successful people.

When I finally saw Penelope live on a webcast her Aspberger’s became very apparent. She belched loudly into the camera. Twice. The first time was an accident, the second time was to demonstrate her manners to her son (she said excuse me). She made sexual references which she has admitted in her blogs she often does in spite of being told by her agent not to do. She was dressed very casually with her hair pulled into a charmingly messy ponytail and no noticeable makeup and she was very attractive. She looked young. I would have guessed her to be in her mid-20’s but apparently she is into her 30’s. If that’s what Aspberger’s does, sign me up.

All in all I wasn’t impressed by how she presented herself but I loved her advice and jotted it down as she spoke. Do her presentation skills need work?  Absolutely. Did I get relevant, useful career advice? Absolutely. Would I watch another Penelope Trunk webinar? Absolutely.

Like I said, I’m a Penelope Trunk Fanatic.


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