Professional women’s basketball is a cesspool of mediocrity full of women gatekeeping so the sport can’t change. Fortunately, incoming rookie Caitlin Clark is worth more than the entire WNBA due to her sponsorships. This means that unlike other players, Clark doesn’t work for the WNBA she works for her sponsors and her fans. Read more

This is a guest post by Cassie Boorn. She works with me at Quistic. That’s a photo of Cassie and her son. And here’s another guest post she wrote, before we started working together. 

A few years ago I targeted Penelope as someone I want to work with. Then I spent a lot of time and energy getting her to hire me. You can probably tell from reading this blog that Penelope would be a difficult boss. I work hard figuring out how to make her like working with me. This is called managing up. And these are rules for managing up that I’ve learned from working with Penelope: Read more

We finally got a dog. Sparky. His original name was Prince. But I decided you can’t have a prince on a farm. So we changed the name. Sparky is five years old, so he was probably pretty used to the name Prince, but name changing, is of course, normal in our family. (After all, I’m on my fourth name.)

We picked Sparky at the pound because my son wanted a lap dog. I am not a fan of lap dogs. They scream Paris Hilton to me. A study at the University of California at San Diego confirms our hunches that people pick dogs that resemble them, and sure enough, the rat terrier is like my son in that they are both delicate and jumpy. I think I am more labrador—strong and fun—so I thought I was being an extra good mom getting a dog I would never choose myself.

Rat Terrier

At the dog pound, Sparky sat in my son’s lap, but as soon as we got him home, he looked for larger laps. It turns out, Sparky prefers adults. At first we thought it was my son’s jumpiness. We told the kids to be calm around the dog.

But the dog got snappier as the week went on. And growly. Read more

It's the time of year when there are a bazillion articles about what gift you should give your boss. The implication is that of course you'll give a gift. But I think you're better off skipping it. Here's why:

1. Gift recommendations are not really recommendations.
When a journalist or blogger (is there a difference?) writes about gift items, they get to review the gift items. Which means each gift was already a gift to the writer. I know about this because I'm terrible at it. For example, I would like Bose noise canceling headphones. They are too extravagant for me to buy for myself, so I should ask Bose for a trial pair and then tell you to buy them for your boss.

2. Christmas at work is bad for your boss. Really.
First of all, it's bad for your company to have everyone give end-of-the-year gifts, or holiday gifts, or whatever companies are calling Christmas gifts lately. It's bad because Christmas in the office is bad for diversity. I write about this every year, and every year it is the most controversial post. So you don't need to write to me about how I am a Grinch and a cultural moron and Jews should move back to Israel, okay? Because I get those comments—about 300 of them—each year. So all I'm going to tell you now is that you are not helping your boss reach his or her performance goals for your team by undermining diversity by celebrating Christmas at work. Read more

I’m always shocked to hear that people don't like brown-nosing. If I could do it, I definitely would. But as someone who has Asperger’s, brown-nosing always looks very difficult. So I have been looking for someone to teach me how to be better at brown-nosing, and finally, I found it.

First, here is research from James Westphal and Ithai Stern at Kellogg School of Management. They found that being adept at ingratiating behavior was the number-one factor for getting positions at the top of the corporate ladder.

This is not surprising to me. What is surprising is that the research comes with a how-to provided (perhaps inadvertently) by the American Bar Association Journal.

According to the study, here are the traits that are most likely to be rewarded.

1) Frame flattery as advice-seeking. For example, you can ask, “How were you able to close that deal so successfully?”

2) Argue before accepting a manager's opinion. Read more

I am switching up the blog a bit. It’s time to take the Brazen Careerist part off of my blog. It’s time for the blog to just be Penelope Trunk, and only my company should use the name Brazen Careerist.

We have been saying this in Brazen Careerist board meetings for about five months. The conversation goes something like this:

Board member: How is the blog redesign going?

Me: Um. I’m thinking.

Board member: That’s what you said two months ago.

Me: Yeah. That’s true. I’ll get some bids.

Board member: It’s important the we differentiate the Brazen Careerist brand of the company from the brand of you.

Me: Yeah. I get it.

Then we have a pause in the meeting while everyone is silently frustrated with my inability to make changes. Read more

It might be that the only useful thing you ever learned in school (besides how to make small talk at a party) is how to ask a good question.

Most of us didn’t learn that, though. Because it’s so hard to teach. I know it’s really hard to teach because people with Asperger Syndrome don’t understand how to ask a question, and I watched speech therapists (pragmatics specialists) try to teach my son, while I took notes for myself.

Children with Asperger’s often have to learn when to use Why, What, and Where because they don’t know how to ask questions, even though they often have through-the-roof IQs. They actually seem mentally slow because they cannot learn as fast as other children due to the lack of good questions – which is a great illustration of how important asking questions is.

I will answer almost any question someone asks, which makes me better at asking questions myself, but I am also very conscious of the fact that most questions people ask me are terrible.

So here are tips on how to ask good questions. Read more

There are some things about work that are difficult for even me to write about. These are the issues that I have not quite worked out for myself. I wonder if I am normal in these areas? Maybe no one is talking about them, but they are thinking still. And if no one else is thinking about this stuff, why do I think about it?

One thing I've learned on this blog, though, is that most of my personal qualities that feel weird to me are actually pretty common traits among thinking people who desire self-knowledge. So to those people, I hope this blog gives you a sense of fitting in.

And, here are three workplace issues that I wonder if you think about as much as I do.

1. Having a huge crush on your boss.

Seriously, I have never worked for a guy for more than three months without developing a huge crush. This is, in part, because I have been fired so often that any guy I did not last three months with probably fired me and probably had no synergy with me. Read more

The debate continues about whether and when a recession is coming, and what the markers would be. Most of us are in no position to do the analysis ourselves, but you don’t need to be an economist to know that if people are talking about recession, you should do some thinking about what you would do if one occurs.

As a gen-Xer, I am a master of recessionary times: I graduated into one of the worst job markets since the depression and then lived through the dot-com bust.

But since we’re not actually in bad times right now, the question really is, what do you do in a job you have if you want to get ready for a downswing in the economy? Here are four ways to prepare for a job market that might turn sour:

1. Specialize
People think that if there are fewer jobs, a wide range of skills makes someone more employable. It’s not the case, though. In a tight job market, employers can hold out for the perfect fit. And if you are not clearly defined as a specialist, then you are not going to be a perfect fit for anything.

Researchers have found that you get the most benefits from specializing after you have three to five years of experience under your belt. So don’t specialize too early – because you won’t have learned enough about what you want. But if you have a few years of experience, and you see layoffs looming, try to get on some focused, short-term projects that will allow you to market yourself as a specialist in something when you have to get your next job.

2. Do something great – right now
Most people have been participants in the last decade of manic job hopping. Which means most people have followed a pattern of performing well at a company, writing those achievements on their resume, and then making the next hop. This works in a job market where you can control when you leave.

But if you get laid off before you accomplish something significant, you will end up with a dark spot on your resume – a place where you did not do anything particularly notable.

So do something now, fast, that you will be able to quantify as an achievement on your resume – as in completed X project in X percent less time than anticipated, or saved X dollars by working twice as fast as normal.

3. Consider graduate school
There’s a reason why so many Generation Xers went to graduate school: There were no jobs in the early ’90s. In a down job market, grad school is a way to enhance your skills when there are no available jobs that will do that.

One of the most popular choices is law school because a law firm provides a clear path (and an A in organic chemistry is not a pre-requisite). I have never been a fan of law school as a fall-back plan, because 44% of practicing lawyers recommend that you do not go into the field.

That said, law firms have become much more accepting of people’s personal lives since the last recession. Many law firms have retooled how they operate to give people more time to have a life outside work, and they have changed their policies to accommodate different stages of life.

Grad school is a treacherous route, though: Be careful about spending money for a degree with no career path to follow it. But also, be careful of investing in a career path you wouldn’t want to follow.

(Hat tip: Elise)

4. Focus on the quality of work and quality of mentoring
The hardest thing to do in a bad job market is to keep your learning curve high. If the market goes sour, instead of focusing on the perfect industry or the perfect company, focus on developing new skills. And then refocus your career into a more suitable industry or location when the job market gets better.

By cultivating a great mentor in your current job, you can make your job a spot where you can wait out an economic slump should one come. So instead of focusing on the negative predictions of economic doom, focus on the positive conversations that build a solid mentoring relationship, and you will weather the storm better because you won’t weather it alone.

This guest post is by Susan Johnston who is 24 years old and blogs at The Urban Muse.

By Susan Johnston It’s easy to get screwed when you’re fresh out of undergrad and starting a new job. Nobody tells you this, because it doesn’t make a particularly inspiring message for a graduation speech or greeting card. But it’s true. In college, you had professors to encourage intellectual exploration and advisors to make sure you stayed on track for graduation.

Unfortunately, in the workforce your boss is looking out for the bottom line and you don’t automatically get assigned to someone who will look out for your best interests (you have to find your own mentors and even then they could have their own agenda). I graduated a year early, so I was especially eager and open to managerial manipulations. So, class of 2008, here are some situations to look out for.

1. You could get screwed on a project basis.
If you don’t know what you want from your job, then how can you expect anyone else to know what kind of work to give you? It’s not your employer’s job to help you find yourself, so if you don’t have a clear picture of what you want to do, then you are an easy target for tasks that no one else wants to do. Not every manager is good at delegating or figuring out other people’s strengths, so the employees who know what they want and ask for it make their managers’ lives easier. Those who don’t, get stuck with the leftovers.

2. You could get screwed out of money.
In the past, I’ve been promised raises, and I failed to get it in writing because I trusted my bosses. The first time, I was working at a taco stand over the summer and my manager got fired a week later, meaning I missed out on that extra 25 cents an hour (tragic, I know). The second time my boss gave me a verbal raise but never told accounting. I straightened it out a few paychecks later, but I should have emailed him to confirm immediately after our meeting and avoided the confusion later. Another unfortunate salary manipulation is what I call the preemptive raise. Basically, you get a small raise when you’re not expecting it and they know that you won’t try to negotiate. But you should always negotiate so that you establish yourself as someone who knows what they’re worth.

3. You could screw up your image.
People worry about the stigma of job hopping, but sometimes it’s the only way to gain respect. Say you were interning somewhere and got offered a full time job at the company. Your parents would be elated, but I would caution you not to jump in without weighing your options. First of all, you’ll always be remembered as the Intern, so people will continue asking you to fetch coffee and locate office supplies. My first job out of college was as an admin but a new position opened within a few months and I grabbed it. Even a year after I’d moved up, people still treated me like the receptionist because that’s what I was doing when they met me. If your company thinks you’re worthy of a full time job, then trust your abilities and someone else will offer you a position with more money and more respect as well.

4. You could get screwed into working evenings and weekends.
If you don’t have 2.5 kids and a spouse waiting at home, then in many industries, you’ll be expected to put in extra hours (and no, you don’t necessarily get comp time or overtime). It’s not fair, but that’s just how it is. Take it from someone who didn’t have time to date her first year out of college, because she was running around helping at events on Friday and Saturday nights. I suggest you put in the extra time when you can so that no one can fault you when you have a family commitment or a friend’s birthday party. After all, you have outside obligations, too. Don’t let your eagerness to please prevent you from having a life.

5. You could get screwed by lack of feedback.
Lots of managers are uncomfortable giving feedback (especially negative), so they’ll avoid it if at all possible. For example, I once had a manager say to me “annual reviews are coming up in a month, but since you just started, we’ll wait until next year.” Fourteen months passed before I had a performance review, and I was blindsided by some of the comments I got, because no one brought up issues that had been going on for over a year! You can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broken, so you should take it upon yourself to check in with your boss periodically and avoid any surprises at your review. You could even ask what you need to do in the next six months to qualify for a raise. They may not give you clear directions, but at least you’ll show that you want to excel in your job.

Susan Johnston’s blog is The Urban Muse.