My company just launched, all-new, at BrazenCareerist.com. For those of you who have been asking for the past year: “What’s your business model?” You can read about it on TechCrunch. If you want the full pitch, you can read the press release, (and you should know that all last week, when I wasn’t blogging, I was writing six thousand versions of our press release.)

Here’s some advice for everyone who is starting a company: Write your big press release first, before you do anything at all. And then work backwards. Map out the milestones you need to make the press release come true, and that tells you how to run the first stage of your startup.

To be clear: we did not do that. I mean, if we did, our press release would have had to say, “Ryan Paugh announces that he has just made it through two years of Ryan Healy and Penelope Trunk fighting tooth and nail over totally irrelevant details of building a social network that is a career management tool for the next generation workforce.”

Then Ryan Healy and I would rewrite that press release ten times because Tech Crunch announced that they are sick of people using the term “next generation” and Ryan doesn’t want to use it but I think it’s fine because it’s in a different context. (LinkedIn is for gen x. Brazen Careerist is the job site for the next generation, demographically speaking. )

Then there would be a quote from Ryan Healy that says, “If I had known that we were going to expand from being a blog network to a full-blown social network then I would have never put up with the insane amount of rewriting that Penelope made me do to have a guest post on her blog.”

I tried to write a normal launch blog post where I take a victory lap, but I think you know that I’m not the type. I do feel really, really proud of what we’ve done. Brazen Careerist is a site that lets you build your network the way it’s supposed to happen: through genuine conversation. Most of you have watched me go through total hell to get this company off the ground. A lot of you wonder why I do it. The reason is that I truly believe that becoming an active participant in a professional community really will change your life.

I was really, really lonely. I was a new mom, and I had a failing marriage, and I moved to a city where I knew no one. I started blogging, and it was a lifeline to me. Not only did it provide fun, stimulating conversation, but it reminded me that I’m great at business, and I should be doing a business. Talking within the context of a community helped me find myself again, and the process of posting ideas helped me announce to the world what I am really good at, and sometimes—actually, most of the time—those things go hand in hand. (So it’s no coincidence that the new launch of Brazen Careerist provides tools so that anyone can have this experience of defining yourself by posting your ideas.)

I convinced Ryan and Ryan to move to Madison to do a company with me. They knew from the beginning that the main goal for me with a startup was to have fun. And when they arrived in Madison, the thing that was most jarring to them was how weird and isolated I was. It’s not how I seem on my blog. I know that. I mean, most people think I am weird on my blog but not that weird in person. The thing is that I’m actually more weird in person. So a lot of what our startup has been is all of us learning to adapt to each other (the company is basically a Penn State fraternity and me. Not kidding.)

I didn’t realize I had Asperger syndrome until Ryan and Ryan kept pointing out the weirdness I have. I realized they are the same things my son goes to therapy for. People ask me a lot to write about Asperger syndrome. I am hesitant because I am still working out how to deal with it. One thing I know, though, is that friends are very very hard. People like me because I’m smart and interesting, but I am hard to be friends with. I don’t quite understand the process. A lot of times people will say, “You think your blog readers are your friends, but they’re not.”

This is probably true, but I don’t get it. The blog has gotten me through one of the toughest times in my life. Today I have a great company, solid funding, a great household arrangement, and a good-for-me boyfriend. I didn’t have this a year ago. I had a mess on my hands. And I was so so grateful to have a community on the blog to talk to. The community talks about work when I want to talk about work, and the community talks about personal stuff when that’s what I’m thinking about.

So. Okay. I am scared to do something now. I am telling you thank you because this community feels like my friend, even though I know it is evidence of mental oddness that I think this. I know I am so lucky to have a community that is so smart and insightful that the comments section is exciting to read. I know that’s rare on the Internet. So every day I feel lucky, and what I’m scared to do is ask you for more. But I’m doing that now.

I’m doing it because I think you know that the last eight years of my career has been dedicated to building the Brazen Careerist brand and the company around it. And now with this launch, we need a lot of people to try out the idea that you can control your career by building strong networks through conversation and talking about your ideas.

If everyone who subscribed to my blog signed up at brazencareerist.com, the launch would be deemed a huge success. So, I’m asking you to do that now. Go sign up. And then let me know what you think. And thank you so much for sticking with me through hard times so that on this really exciting day you are here to share it with me.

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  1. Tom
    Tom says:

    I had exactly the same thought. It’s not an age based social club – it’s clearly oriented towards employment, a federally regulated activity. The law is very clear on prohibiting ‘classification’ of potential employees by age.

    You could claim it is not an employment agency, but if you are allowing employers to browse resumes then that would be a difficult case to make.

    A better approach would have been to create a new moniker e.g. Generation Internet rather than one which is age related.

  2. Maggie
    Maggie says:

    I forgot to mention that if you already haven’t you need to read Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robison (Augusten Burroughs’ brother). He has Aspergers and the book is incredible.

  3. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I signed up because I find you engaging and highly entertaining, even when I disagree with you. Signing up did make me feel a bit old though–and I’m not used to that!

    If it makes you feel better, I’ll repeat some random fact I see on your blog with a “Penelope says…” and then find myself having to explain you aren’t a IRL friend.

  4. Jason Monastra
    Jason Monastra says:

    Outstanding. I do not get to read your work as often as I desire, but when I do I find the writing speaks from someone’s experience and soul. Very few people ever get to understand what that is about, they write to discuss something they think people will want to read. But you write what you have, what you know, and what has happened in your life. Just so happens, it happens to all of us and we all want to read it.

    Congrats on your start up and good luck!

  5. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    Penelope,
    I always look forward to your blog posts and wish I could write as well as you. I love your honesty and often wondered if that’s what drew me to you. Now that you’ve revealed that you have Asperger’s, I’m just blown away. My husband also has Asperger’s….and this has made me realize that the appeal might be bigger than your honesty; perhaps there’s an “invisible” Asperger’s trait. I seem to be drawn to people who have it. Very interesting.

    Separately, I wonder why your site is geared for Gen Y. I’m a boomer and feel foolish for wanting to connect. Is there some reason the generational split seems so strict?

  6. Amanda Hite
    Amanda Hite says:

    Penelope,

    Thank YOU for adding value to our lives every week. You are a very special person and I personally want to thank you for always being kind to me.

    I signed up for the network and will have my team spread the word in our online communities. Next week we’ll do a few Video Blogs giving it some love.

    Feedback:

    It seems to be running slow. I’m on a mac air and have a good signal so I assume it’s on your end.

    I love, repeat love how you included the “chatter” 140 character feature within the groups. I think this twitter like feature will make the groups on this network much more interactive than let’s say the groups within facebook.

    I haven’t interacted yet on the site (page is still loading in another window) but what seems to be missing is a home page that aggregates activity of your friends, groups etc. Perhaps I just haven’t discovered that yet.

    We do lots of recruiting I’m anxious to dive in to this community and discover emerging talent. Thanks for providing a platform for us to do this!

    Amanda Hite
    Founder, CEO Talent Revolution Inc

  7. Beth C
    Beth C says:

    Congrats Penelope! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog along the journey. I’ve signed up to the site and wish you wild success!

  8. Professional Resume Writer
    Professional Resume Writer says:

    Penelope,

    I am SO EXCITED for you and The Ryan’s! I just checked out and signed up to the Brazen Careerist site. Nice job you guys! I will be SURE to send my ‘next generation’ clients there (or anyone looking to build up a new social profile).

    Great job!

    Erin Kennedy
    Professional Resume Services

  9. Kathleen
    Kathleen says:

    Penelope and BC gang, I think the new model is brilliant! Congratulations on years of bright thinking and hard work finally paying off. As I travel around the country talking to high-level HR and Talent Acquisition executives, I’m hearing them talk about the “2-5 yr experienced hire” as their next big priority as the employment marketplace shifts. I think you are wonderfully well positioned to serve them by offering access to this population of young professionals by exposing them to ideas as well as experiences. Let me know how I can help. Cheerios, Kathleen

  10. JC
    JC says:

    Cool site, but while I subscribed to your blog, it has nothing to do with me.

    Unless there’s a portion on their for networking academia/medical professionals. Then that might be useful. But I imagine that is not the focus of the site.

  11. Lea
    Lea says:

    From a marketing standpoint, I think it’s brilliant that people can’t surf the site without signing up for it. You get the lead, they get to see what the site does — everyone wins.

    I also love how http://www.penelopetrunk.com now mimics the look and feel of Brazen Careerist. What a great way to link your pre-existing online profile to your new venture.

    I signed up for Brazen Careerist because I’m curious to see if it will work for me, a career-changing Gen Xer who has definite opinions on work/life balance, communication methods, blogging, the media, and trying to find a career that works for me. I’m hoping that even though I’m not “the next generation” (good call on that, Healy!), this might be a great way for me to find the professional niche I’ve been seeking since I started reading your blog in 2007.

    Congrats, Penelope — here’s to the future of Brazen Careerist!

  12. Bridget
    Bridget says:

    I’ve done what you have hoped would happen-refer your site to many generation whatevers probably-z. You know what, none of them had heard of you and most didn’t seem to interested in a career blog. But hey I am in my 40’s and I enjoy your insights which I find to be true. And also the Agsperger syndrome hasn’t really been too bad for you. Afterall if you were not so egocentric you would not be able to withstand the number of times you have been fired and the ability to start your own business. Seems to me in the egocentric world, none of your terminations would have been your fault. That is a beautiful thing! Blogging for friendship when it doesn’t really require any emotional investment on your part is a great fit for a busy person trying to have everything. I will continue to do my part by referring to your blog and encouraging the young’ins to read it. But, frankly I find this generation z has zero vision or creativity, they just seem content to tow the line and think that work is comprised of doing what one is told. To me that is the greatest problem of this generation, they have watched and accepted that one has to play the corporate game of submission to survive. I guess that is a point of discord between us-you see them as not settling and I see them as always settling and lacking any vision-content to be drones as long as they can listen to their I-pod.

  13. spleeness
    spleeness says:

    Congratulations!! I’m going to go sign up now. :)

    BTW just because the intarwebs and social networks are relatively new does not mean you do not have friends in the blogosphere. The people who say that just aren’t used to the myriad ways friendship can evolve. There’s a reason we feel warm inside – it’s because we’re connecting with others. That’s not insignificant.

    -A blogging friend

  14. CrazyGirl Nation | Advice for Crazy Girls and the People Who Love Us
    CrazyGirl Nation | Advice for Crazy Girls and the People Who Love Us says:

    I completely identify with you feeling like your blog readers are your friends. I feel the exact same way! We are your friends, your fans, and sometimes your biggest critics. I would venture to say that it’s important to have healthy relationships outside of the virtual world, but it looks like you and the Farmer are doing just fine. What about girl friends though? Makes me want to write a post on the importance of female friendships for all my Crazy Girl readers. And PT – you are definitely a Crazy Girl. :)

  15. Courtney
    Courtney says:

    Congrats Penelope! I love your blog, read it often and share with as many female/Gen Y colleagues as possible.

    I’m so excited to see that you’ve launched your new business. Do you have any plans to launch in Canada?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks for the nice comment, Courtney!

      Canada is on our radar. To be honest, the first thing we need to do is put Canada in the menu of choices for country on our profile page :) But we’re getting there.

      -Penelope

  16. Doug
    Doug says:

    Congratulations, Penelope, and good luck with the new venture! Have enjoyed the candor and astute observations in your blogs, a refreshing contrast to the jargon, doublespeak and nonsensical “phrases of the day” you often hear from heads of industry these days in the corporate world.

  17. Kathleen
    Kathleen says:

    I just cannot get over how ugly and hateful some people can be in their comments.

    P- getting a diagnosis is a very personal decision. Frankly, I admire those who don’t need one, but that’s not where my head was at ten years ago when I sought one. Asperger’s wasn’t well known then among adults. There were few social histories one could read and no mutual community support. Having alexithymia (poor articulation of emotions) and lacking the social stories of others to provide parameters or some context in which to comparatively interpret my own experiences, I needed a diagnosis. There was no yardstick then against which I could measure myself. Only stories written by adults about what they *thought* their kids were going through.

    Also, I was desperately hoping -at that time- that I didn’t have it. Then, many people still thought it was mental illness so there was a lot more stigma. At that time, I was still holding out for the promise of a pill to make me “normal”, not realizing what I’d be giving up.

  18. Helen
    Helen says:

    I am proud of the work you have done re: your business and wish you much sucess. I’m 50+, but have been following your blog for awhile. There are times when I can’t believe what you write and other times when your depth, insight, and intelligence almost hurts my eyes! I vascilate between wanting to admonish you, then protect you–to applauding your strength in living your choices. I’ll sign up and take a look at your new company. Best regards.

  19. Amanda Hite
    Amanda Hite says:

    As Kathleen mentioned.. I get pretty turned off at some of the ignorant/rude comments some people make here. if you ever want to hire a bouncer for the community I’d be happy to take the job.

  20. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I think I’ve been (virtually) hanging with the Gen Y crowd long enough now over at BC that it’s starting to rub off on me … which is a good thing. So, as RP would say, Penelope, you rock!

  21. Tanya
    Tanya says:

    Penelope,

    I’m really glad I discovered your blog in a random google search about work effectiveness after a stressful 14-hour day at the office a few months ago. Since then, I got your book and have been looking forward to your blog posts. Now that the site is live, I am excited about the opportunity for better connectedness to the brazen community. Thank you for making it possible for us!

  22. Sami
    Sami says:

    I registered on the site yesterday, and based on the first impression and filling my profile here are couple thoughts.

    To me it seems from the start, that the main way to interact with others on the site is through the different groups, and I also find that for me at least that’s the part of the site where I get value for my time.

    For now there aren’t that many groups, but assuming that their number increases some kind of tag-based search for groups might be useful.

    However, the biggest headache for me is, that after I have joined some groups I have to check them individually to see what’s been happening since I visited the site last time. It would be great to have one page that would show the latest activities in each group (feed, most active discussions etc.).

    Looking forward to see how your company evolves. Good luck! :)

  23. CosetTheTable
    CosetTheTable says:

    For those interested, Tyler Cowen’s new book, Create Your Own Economy, is a really interesting look at how many characteristics that are associated with Autism or Asperger’s are beneficial to many. It also mentions that usually the people who are diagnosed aren’t terribly high achieving, but there are plenty of people who are high achieving who may or may not 100% fit current diagnostic criteria, but who certainly have many similar characteristics/patterns/values… Really interesting read.

  24. Kathleen
    Kathleen says:

    “It also mentions that usually the people who are diagnosed aren’t terribly high achieving,…”

    Oh, he doesn’t say that. I’m dx’ed and fairly successful. It’s more a case that some people don’t *need* a diagnosis (see my earlier comment) or they don’t want to say. There’s plenty of stigma (you don’t see me posting my last name but you could find it easily on the first page of his book). People who are lower achieving have more to gain from disclosing a dx as far as social services and therapies are concerned. Being typically under employed, they also often have more time to do it. But it’s not the complete picture to say people with dx’s are lower functioning.

    Btw, today is my Re-Birthday! Yeah me! It’s the tenth anniversary of my diagnosis which gave me the appropriate context to have begun a whole new life!

  25. Sami
    Sami says:

    Just a quick note; I’m having problems with the email notifications. I’ve turned those off in the settings couple times already and checked that they’ve been saved, but I still keep receiving them and after I log back in the settings have been reverted.

    Anyone else having similar problem?

  26. Zach Ware
    Zach Ware says:

    #1: You Rock. Your journey has been inspiring and humorous to follow. (I say humorous in the good way, I promise.)

    #2: Updating my Brazen profile has just made its way to my Highrise task list. It takes a lot to get on that list.

    #3: One day when you’re rich and famous, you’ll hire a consumer marketing strategist like me to take on the Ryan Healy guns.

    #4: My best to you, your son, and The Farmer,
    Zach (a web geek who grew up on a tobacco farm)

  27. Champagne Fountains
    Champagne Fountains says:

    Congrats Penelope, I have one piece of advice as someone with several businesses. Use your marketing budget very wisely and I would advise on internet marketing for obvious reasons. Good luck anyway, it’s a tough road but the rewards are worth it in the end!

  28. bang
    bang says:

    That’s neat- declare yourself disabled in a trendy, non proessionally evaluated way! Lots of other people who wish they were ill, too, can all sing along. I can’t wait until we get to read all about your traumatic brain injury.

    The overarching dx here is Mnchausen Syndrome, and delight of delights it, too, has workplace consequencs!

  29. April
    April says:

    As someone who is currently working away on a new online career, it’s very interesting to read about your experiences. I’m going to go and have a look at Brazen Careerest right now.

  30. Jackie
    Jackie says:

    I was reading your link to the article on Asperger’s and lack of empathy. I think it’s wrong for people to assume Asperger’s Syndrome or a person on the Autism Spectrum means someone is uncaring. The article you linked to seemed to make the husband appear as an immature child-like person, rather then a person who has trouble expressing their feelings because they may be overwhelming.

    What troubled me was the joke about “Oh a man died in the washroom, when can they take him out so I can go in?”, people actually people on the Autism Spectrum actually think this way. I understand if you feel you relate to the article, or it explains why you find trouble making friends. However, I see it as another article making people with Asperger’s Syndrome seem as other, or intimidating. I honestly think there should be less of this notion, that a lack of empathy is the same thing as being uncaring or even narccistic. Perhaps you should note in this post, that the majority of people with Asperger’s Syndrome do understand how to interact with others, and a lack of empathy doesn’t mean “Acts like a bratty 2 year old child” as the article seemed to suggest.

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