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The Wisdom of Penelope Trunk Comes to PRSA in Detroit

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A colleague of mine, Andrea Canabal, introduced me to the wisdom of Penelope Trunk during one of our mentoring sessions (author of “Brazen Careerist: The New Rules of Success”). Because I oversee GM’s communications intern recruiting team, this astute young professional suggested I read Penelope’s book for insight into how Generation X and Y employees view their careers, which as we know, is very different. Consider the startling Department of Labor statistic Penelope cites in her book: By the time professionals reach age 32, they’ve had, on average, 8.6 jobs!

Andrea had read Penelope’s Yahoo! career column over the years and appreciated her no-nonsense career guidance. For every bit of sage advice I thought I was giving Andrea, she related it to a chapter in Penelope’s book. The short, meaningful chapter titles read like pithy maxims. Two of my favorites follow: “There are no bad bosses, only whiny employees,” and “Being likeable matters more than being competent.”  

Interestingly, Penelope has a lot to say about our Conference theme, connection. In one chapter, she talks about the importance of interpersonal communication. “In person, you get nonverbal information about someone that you can’t get through e-mail. And that person gets information about you, too. The connection is more informative just because it’s in person.” Duh!  We all know that, but how many hundreds of e-mails do we send in a week without calling someone or even walking over to meet in person?

More senior professionals will benefit from Penelope’s insight into how today’s newest practitioners approach their careers. While some leaders may complain about Gen X and Y employees who have work ethics that may differ from ours, it may be because we’re viewing them through our Boomer bifocals!  

My experience recruiting and mentoring students and new professionals reveals an enthusiastic pool of communications professionals, most of whom work hard and want to make a difference, at work and in the world. While some may feel entitled to quick advancement or perks, I could say the same about many older professionals.  

Diversity in age and perspective is as important as gender, racial and cultural diversity in our teams. If we’re open, there’s a lot we can learn from our younger colleagues who have grown up in the digital world — not to mention they may give us a tip on an interesting book they’ve read. By the way, it was Andrea’s suggestion that we invite Penelope to the Conference so we all have her to thank.

On behalf of Andrea Canabal, PRSA, and the GM Communications team, we hope you’ll come to Detroit in October to learn and to connect.

By Mary Henige, APR, is the PRSA 2008 International Conference co-chair, and director of executive and strategic communications at General Motors. She has held various communications assignments during her 22 years with GM General Motors. Henige is a member of the PRSA-Detroit Chapter Board and served as the 2003 president. She also is the professional adviser to Wayne State University’s student Chapter, a position she has held for 14 years.

Join Trunk and Henige in Detroit at PRSA’s 2008 International Conference: The Point of Connection, in Detroit, Saturday, October 25-Tuesday, October 28, 2008!

About the author

Mary Henige, APR

Mary Henige, APR, has 30 years of automotive communications leadership experience at General Motors. A past PRSA Detroit Chapter president, she co-chaired the 2008 PRSA International Conference, in Detroit. She has served as the professional advisor to Wayne State University’s PRSSA Chapter since 1993. She also is an advisory board member for the Museum of Public Relations History. In 2011 she was inducted into the PR News Hall of Fame for her contributions to the industry. She is available to coach senior business and communications leaders, through Magnetica Communications LLC, which she recently founded. You can connect with her on Twitter: @maryhenige

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