How to deal with getting fired (from Yahoo)

I just got fired from Yahoo Finance.

The long road to my quick termination started in the spring, when I grew friendly with one of the higher-ups in engineering at Yahoo. When he became my boss’s boss’s boss at Yahoo, he suggested that we meet if we were ever both in New York at the same time.

It turned out that we would both be there in December, so I asked him if he wanted to get together, and he said yes. His secretary said she’d email me the venue when the date was closer.

The week before, the venue turned out to be the Yahoo offices in New York. I thought that was weird for a casual meeting with a guy who did not even have his own office at that building. That is when I should have called to find out if we had a specific topic for the meeting.

When I got to the meeting my boss’s boss was there as well, so I knew there was a big topic. I told myself to never ever walk into another meeting in my life without knowing who is coming and why I am there. I told myself to stay calm and start looking for clues about our topic so I could mentally prepare.

They went on and on about some sort of technical problem that was happening that day. Of the three of us, two were nontechnical, so I realized this topic was selected due to nervous energy: A clue that this meeting would be really bad.

To his credit, the guy I thought I was friendly with got right down to the point: “We are not renewing your contract.”

The first thought I had was: When is my contract up?

And then I realized: Oh. Now.

The next thought I had was: Be poised. Do not break down right now.

I have been fired a lot. Sometimes it has not mattered, like when my grandma fired me from her bookstore because I kept reading on the job. Sometimes it has been a bad scene with me shaking because I was so scared – like when I was fired at Ingram Micro for using the computer for non-work-related stuff (Yes, people got fired for that in 1995.)

But I checked in with myself at Yahoo and realized that I was fine. I was not going to cry. I was actually in problem-solving mode.

So I asked why I was being fired.

Maybe you are thinking it’s because every week, 400 people leave comments on Yahoo saying how stupid I am. (And surely today’s final column at Yahoo Finance will break records for she-is-so-stupid comments.) But that’s not the reason my column was cancelled; Yahoo is about traffic, and according to Wikipedia, my column has some of the highest traffic on all of Yahoo.

It turns out that financial content gets a higher CPM (advertising rate) than career content. So while my column has a lot of traffic, Yahoo sells my career column to advertisers as part of the Yahoo Finance package, and I bring down the CPM of the whole package.

That’s a fair reason to cancel the column. And actually, if it were not resulting in a huge financial hit for me, it would be an interesting reason.

Here’s what a career advisor does when she is being fired: She tries to remember the advice she gives to everyone else when they are getting fired.

I asked if there’s another place I can write at Yahoo. This tactic is straight out of the book: Use your last moments to network, even if you are getting fired.

Here’s what my boss’s boss’s boss said: “You should write for Lifestyles. That is more women oriented.”

Immediately I was reminded of when my column was cancelled at Business 2.0 magazine. After I had recently announced that I was pregnant and said I did not plan to take any time off from writing the column.

My editor told me, as he was firing me, “Now that you’re going to be a mom you should try writing someplace like Working Mother.”

This advice from ex-bosses makes me question my own advice about getting help from people who are firing you. But still, discussions progressed at Yahoo to HotJobs, which is a Yahoo channel, and I could end up writing for them.

Also, a big trade publication called me last week to see if I want to write a column for them. The editor said that she sees me as such a huge risk taker, and she expects that the column will be a lot about that – how to take risks.

The thing is, I don’t think I’m a huge risk taker. I just choose the lifestyle I want first, before I choose my work. Lifestyle first means that I turned down entry-level bullshit jobs in favor of playing professional beach volleyball. Not because I was dying to have all my friends think I was a lunatic, but because I couldn’t believe people expect you to do mindless work after earning a college degree.

And the same is true now. I am a freelance writer because if I worked nine-to-five I wouldn’t see my kids. That’s my bottom line. There have been so many times when I’ve told myself that I can’t stand the instability of a freelancer’s life. But more than that, I can’t stand the idea that I would only see my kids on the weekends.

People ask me all the time how can they get this life that I have where I do something I love, get to make my own hours, and support a family. Seems great, right? But that life also comes with this: having no idea how I’ll get paid next. And it happens all the time.

Soon, I hope, I’ll be able to draw a salary from my startup. And my speaking career is going well enough that getting fired from Yahoo won’t kill me. But I am worried, and I think about not telling people that I feel worried because everyone who is negotiating with me now knows that money is super important to me, and I’m probably not going to walk away from an offer.

But more important than preserving an edge negotiating money is somehow documenting how hard it is to be true to yourself, how hard it is to be at risk all the time. It’s a tradeoff. Sometimes my life looks glamorous. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s all the same life though.

Posted in Journalism, Money, No image, Office politics
235 comments on “How to deal with getting fired (from Yahoo)
  1. Ask a Manager says:

    Penelope, so sorry to hear this! Their reason isn’t a reflection on you, which is a sort of nice rarity when one is getting fired, not that that helps the bottom line any. You’re such an excellent writer, able to make pretty much any topic you take on interesting and compelling and provocative, and I have to think this is just going to lead you somewhere better…

    • seobag says:

      I think you are right, Penelope – excellent writer.
      But I’m sure that yahoo is wrong.
      >> Sometimes my life looks glamorous. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s all the same life though.
      That’s all.

  2. edw says:

    You see! This is what happens when you badmouth Christmas!

  3. Ramirez says:

    Sorry to hear this. Make sure you capitalize on all the readers who followed you at Yahoo. In some ways, Yahoo really gave you the audience. Now make sure we don’t lose interest.

  4. anne jackson says:

    I fire yahoo.

  5. MN says:

    Dear Penelope,
    Thank you for writing your Yahoo column, I enjoyed reading some of your thoughts. As a career oriented person myself I know that there are up and down days. I especially enjoyed reading your columns when I;m having a career setback. Hopefully this is only a minor glitch in a successful career.

  6. Lola says:

    I have enjoyed reading your blog and am looking forward to seeing what exciting new changes lie ahead for you after this turn of events. Best wishes for the new year!

  7. Tom Hayes says:

    I have been a recent, but persistent reader and admire your worldview. Moreover, I recently finished a book (Jump Point: How Network Culture is Revolutionizing Business, McGraw-Hill, January 2008) and have been modeling my next steps after your experiences. Let’s keep in touch. I am sure many great adventures lie just ahead.

    Tom

  8. Tom S. says:

    I have to say I am an avid reader of your blog, I do consumer research for Gen-Y for a fortune 500 consumer products company and therefore know enough to know you are typically right on… I do read your columns on Yahoo! finance because the comments are funny (baby boomers) and they don’t seem to be able to grasp the world we live in now (I’m a Gen-X’er BTW). Still, I have often asked myslef if you columns are lost on the typical yahoo! audience why would they post them, while it is the best thing they could do to wake up their readers, it probably doesn’t work out that way (BTW I also like Kiyosaki on Yahoo! finance).

    If yahoo! knows their audience is boomer-heavy, why does yahoo mail insist everyone have an avatar, I don’t want an avatar! And I am sure everyone older than me feels the same way!

    I wish you the best, hope you keep blogging as I have told many people at work to read your blog, it is a great window into the new corporate world whether people like it or not.

    PS – I miss business 2.0

    * * * * * * *

    Hi, Tom. Thanks for the comment. The part about the avatars makes me laugh.

    I will definitely keep blogging — did not think of stopping for even one second.

    –Penelope

  9. Kiran Denniz says:

    I’m an avid reader of all things Penelope. It’s something akin to watching horror movies. Your views are exciting but, also, quite scary. It’s a pity Yahoo let you go, especially, during the Christmas season! Tactless…

    So thank you for the articles. I’m quite sure you’ll get a better deal from your next ‘employer’. Happy New Year!

  10. marcparella says:

    Penelope, (This is the comment I left at Yahoo!Finacial.)

    I am more ashamed of the comments coming from the peanut gallery at Yahoo!Financial than anything I read from your pen. You’ll find your audience, I’m sure of it. I gave up corporate life because of these hacks — who the hell wants to sit next to these miserable wonks eight hours a day picking everything and everyone apart. Instead I honestly believe that starting and growing a business is a far more honorable pursuit than kissing tail in the corporate sewers. I have more respect for you and your creative drive than anyone middle manager for a fortune 500 corporation. Those commenting on your articles had little regard for the need to develop interpersonal relationships and therefore didn’t get most of what you were saying. Plus most of those commenting were men — and in all my corporate IT years, women still face opprobrious prejudices and ridicule from men. Good Luck.

  11. David Lightman says:

    God if I had a dollar for every time this happened to me I would be set. Stick to your guns, I read you every day and for the first time in my life I know another person whom marches to the same drum. Everything always works out for the best, one door closes and another one opens. All the best to you; I know it is my turn in early January 2008 – and I hope that I can face it with the dignity you have.

    Always listen to your gut, it never lies.

    David.

  12. Phil says:

    I’ve only started reading your blog recently Penelope but can easily see you’ve the talent and the attitude to make this Yahoo thing an opportunity, not a setback. I had a career blip in mid-2007 but after the initial shock set about making the most of my situation. Now I’m doing what I love (;) and am finally writing for myself. Next is that book on procrastination I’ve been meaning to write for a while. Just watch… 2008 will be a great year for you.
    Phil

  13. Mary in Marrakesh says:

    Dear Penelope,

    I am sorry to hear about this. As I read your comments I tried to think if there is a reason that editor said you should write for Lifestyles, or something more women-oriented. The only reason I can come up with is that your are usually writing about RELATIONSHIPS–business relationships, boss-employee relationships, co-worker relationships, husband-wife relationships, etc. Maybe this is where his comment came from. That being said, this is what makes your columns so interesting.

    It does appear, however, that you have an equal number of men reading. But perhaps this editor’s thought is that more women are reading than men?

    Good luck to you,
    Mary in Marrakesh

  14. Dan Schawbel says:

    Penelope, not to worry, as Yahoo! did help you build your brand, gain readership and an audience. Although the audience was aggressive and sometimes quite harsh, the right one’s I’m sure pulled through.

    Let me know if you need anything and merry christmas.

    Change is a good thing!

  15. JimB says:

    Hang in there, I am sure with all your family responsibilities this must be tough.

    Thanks for being gutsy enough to write about this stuff. If there is anything I can do to help with brainstorming etc, please reach out directly. Best, JB.

  16. Nataly says:

    Hi,

    This sucks and I hope you know that I really get it because I’ve been there and I’m the breadwinner. When it did happen I hated pretty much everything anyone said to me, it all seemed pointless. But I ended up doing something very different, something I liked more. This didn’t remove the stress or the fact that we lost money. But as cheesy as it sounds, there WAS a reason why it happened and I think there IS a reason why this will be good.

    I am not an optimist — I don’t like hopeful thinking. This comes from what I think is reality – they helped you build up your audience but there wasn’t a great fit and now you don’t need them. Yes, you need them for the money, but you’ll find it elsewhere. You don’t need them for reach and I always thought that was the key value they delivered.

    Hang in there.

  17. Maureen Sharib says:

    Penelope, your writing is brave and prescient and terrifying to the (still, mostly) male establishment. When you have the temerity to point out a fact that young twenty-somethings "at the top of their games" can no longer be controlled and manipulated by age-old corporate head games they know there's a sea-change headed for their
    dark walnut paneled/overstuffed mahogany leathered/cigar infested corporate suites.

    The knee-jerk reaction they just handed you speaks poorly for that bullshit "hail-fellow-well-me" camaraderie they reserve for their own brethren. You keep on goin' girl. Yours is a voice we can ill afford to do without.

    Maureen

  18. Cody McKibben says:

    Penelope, that sucks. I’m sorry to hear about Yahoo.

    And I ‘feel’ you about worrying that you are “at risk” all the time. But, I think that it makes life just a little more exciting. And, rest assured that life will provide you with the opportunities you need, often when you least expect it. ;)

  19. Joe Grossberg says:

    I agree with Maureen.

    I mean — "You should write for Lifestyles. That is more women oriented."? Holy shit.

    That reminds me of the “Stanley, of course” line from Season One episode of The Office. (The boss’s first pick for the basketball team is the one black guy in the office, who turns out to be a horrible athlete.)

    I guess, until you adopt a male pseudonym, you’ll always be pigeonholed as a female career columnist instead of just a career columnist.

    Ah well, one thing’s for sure: in a world oversaturated with punditry, your column was original enough to elicit passionate opinions.

    Mazel tov on the first day of this new chapter in your life. I know there is great stuff in store for you.

  20. Marie says:

    I am sorry to hear this, but I am a true believer in EVERYTHING happens for a reason. I feel you will more than land on your feet.

    Please ignore that person’s insensitive Christmas comment, it is 100% inappropriate!!!

  21. Rani says:

    it seems that your boss’s boss’s boss is such a male chauvinist. “More women oriented”? Just because you’re a woman so your writing is only relevant for women, is that what he’s thinking? He’s soooo from the dark ages. I have fired yahoo.com long time ago, therefore i am sure you’ll be doing fine without yahoo.

  22. Karen says:

    Thanks for sharing this with us and again, being real about what’s going on in your life.

    It sucks to be blindsided (been there with a job here in Madison) but sounds like you’ve got the right thinking of how to use this as a learning experience and move on.

    Though the excuse for firing seems valid, the comment about writing for a ‘more woman oriented’ column kinda ticks me off. If you wrote for a more woman oriented column, that would mean less male readers, which in turn would mean less male comments, which I enjoy reading and learn quite a bit from their point of view.

    You seem to have a great attitude about this. Hope it hasn’t been too bad. Learn, move on and make something greater, like your start-up! Maybe HotJobs will pan out, though sounds like it could be something porn related (I do know what HotJobs is, by the way!)

  23. Matt Bingham says:

    Damn P…Sorry to hear that. I really enjoyed Thursday mornings when I could read your column on Yahoo. You have a talent for making people think about what they are reading…not all of it makes sense to everyone but it does shine a light in a different direction of thought. Looking forward to the next spot your article turns up!

  24. Aaron Erickson says:

    You know, this will probably end up being the best thing to ever happen to you. On Y Finance, you selling ice cream to eskimoes – a useful product that the particular audience didn’t want and obviously had a good deal of disdain for.

    Take it as a badge of honor and move on! Bigger and better things are ahead of you.

  25. Scott says:

    Penelope:

    Been there, done that. And since I was fired I’ve ended up better off and better paid. You have a lot of talent and I love reading your blog, so keep on keeping on! I think you’ll do just fine.

    Scott

  26. Elizabeth says:

    Sorry to hear the news.

    “More women oriented”? Someone actually said that to you? Wow.

    LMAO about the avatars above.

  27. wal says:

    And Yahoo wonders why they continuously lose ground to the likes of Google…frankly, your column was one of the best on Y! Finance, but I’ll continue to check out your blog. And, as a young professional in his early 20s, I find it somewhat offensive that management would suggest your write for a women’s magazine. That’s just ridiculous; your articles are terrific for anyone who has a career, not just women. Good luck in your future endeavors.

  28. jim says:

    What I don’t understand is why the readers of Yahoo Finance were so abusive towards you in the comments, the anonymity of the internet makes it easy for people to say hurtful things.

  29. theo says:

    Penelope,

    More condolences. Although it doesn’t help you, you’re right. That is a really interesting reason for firing you.

    Your thoughts on the dichotomy of freelance work are important and I hope a lot of people pay attention to them. I’m spending a lot of time trying to brand myself and work my way to the place where I can take that freedom. Having friends who freelance and face these challenges helps, it lets me see what I’m in for.

    I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors, and anticipate catching your columns wherever else they may appear.

    (On a side note, Yahoo! is evil, has always been evil, and I was always annoyed to have to give patronage to the devil to read your columns anyway. A previous commenter has a good point. Yahoo!’s clientele seems to be primarily boomers, they don’t seem very good at taking their audience into account.)

  30. Norcross says:

    Well, having found your blog via Yahoo!, I’m sorry to see you go. I WON’T be sorry to stop seeing all those negative, mean-spirited comments, though. HotJobs (or Monster, CareerBuilder, etc) would be a logical choice, so I’m sure something will happen.

  31. holly says:

    I don’t always agree with you, but I enjoy reading. Someone’s got to stir the pot, right? Sorry to hear you’ve lost your main source of income.

    Thanks for the honesty. As a young woman trying to put lifestyle first, it is truly appreciated.

  32. Mike says:

    Have enjoyed reading your column. Will try to keep up through the blog.

    Have you thought about writing for Forbes?

  33. James H says:

    Although I am sorry to see you were fired, many of your comments and advice were way off base. I am more sorry for all the folks who took your misguided advice and acted on it. You may be an OK person, but you are a terrible advice giver. Good luck on your new career.

  34. deepali says:

    Unlike your other readers, I’m not sorry for you, though I am going to miss the Thursday mornings at Yahoo Finance. But things happen for a reason, and there’s no sense in feeling sorry for ourselves when they do. Yahoo wasn’t the place for you, and your posts here on your own blog are MUCH better. Good luck with future endeavors, and I’ll just change the bookmark to redirect here.

  35. David Cox says:

    Penelope,

    While I didn’t always agree with your advise, I still felt that your articles brought a new angle to the table which either caused me to strengthen my own beliefs or change them to fit a wider mold. For that reason alone (of course there were other reasons too!), your column was greatly worth reading. I’m sorry to hear about you getting fired but we’ve all been there and you’ll do just fine.

    Might I suggest talking to the people over at Google? You’ll have a guranteed following from the fans of your writing style and all of those angry people that always post comments on your articles. Seeing as how Yahoo Finance is still top dog, I’d be willing to bet that Google would view taking you on as a way to increase their market share.

    Best of luck,

    David Cox

  36. Bouncing Betty says:

    I’m a new reader to your blog and the previous posts in your archieve. Damm it sucks to be let go from any job.

    All I can say is sometimes you have to make lemonade from lemons and I have this feeling you will be OK. Have a good one.

    BB

  37. Caitlin says:

    Sorry to hear that. I’m sure you’ll bounce back.

    I think this goes to show the wisdom of your advice to cultivate a braided career and avoid putting all your eggs in one basket.

  38. Bill Knudson says:

    I have truly enjoyed your columns to the point where I pass them along to my 16 and 17 year old of how to cope with the working world.

    I’ve gone the corporate route for 25 years and been through what you’re going through. Yahoo is making yet another mistake.

    If all I wanted to read was finance, there are other sites I could go to. Keep up the great work, you are influencing people much more beyond the column. Kids will outlive all of us regardless of whatever the current CPM is.

    I hope your supervisors continue to read your columns. They are going to need your advice just like the now former supervisors at AOL, MCI and Enron do. Castles made of sand fall in the eventually.

  39. Jesse Cline says:

    Penelope,

    Honestly, you will be missed. A few of my coworkers and I had good fun with several of your articles.

    Just an FYI, the line from wikipedia “one of the most traficked sections of Yahoo Finance, although most of her comments are negative” was written by yours truly, and there is no scientific basis or web traffic report I can cite to.

    Good luck on your future endeavors,

    Jesse

  40. Mitch says:

    If nothing else – you have proven that you are a survivor. I have read your blogs for years and will continue to do so.
    I am frankly relieved to see you off the Yahoo site. Those comments were rarely useful, insightful or meaningful. I can’t believe that they didn’t somehow affect you. I wished that you could have written that column without getting all of the immature feedback. If you were so bad, whay did all of those idiots keep reading you?
    You are an outstanding source of information for me and I have come to know you as a psuedo career counselor / mentor.
    I don’t always agree with your posts, however they all make me think, form my own opinions and most importantly – examine my own life and career. I am waiting for the future post when you can look back at this and see that this was a blessing.
    Keep up the frank and honest advice.

  41. Joselle Palacios says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I’m sorry to hear about this financial hit you’re taking right now with the loss of the column. I am grateful that I found this blog through Yahoo, though and know you’ll keep growing.

  42. jake says:

    I will miss the comments at Yahoo, most of them were dead on.

  43. Chris Yeh says:

    Having been in the online advertising business, the reason the folks at Yahoo gave does ring true. Intuitively, my guess is that your audience isn’t super-valuable to folks trying to push brokerage accounts and mutual funds. Ramit’s blog is a much better fit (wouldn’t it be great to see how much hate mail *he’d* get…of course he would revel in the hatred).

    On the other hand, they are morons for being willing to give up a lightning rod for pageviews and controversies. Sounds like things are way too siloed over there.

    As some of the commenters have pointed out, Yahoo has served its purpose. It brought your blog a big audience. Lord knows, the financial part of it hurts (those who have never been a freelancer or entrepreneur don’t understand what a miracle it is to get money deposited in your bank account every two weeks regardless of what you’ve done), but you’ll be able to focus on writing the kinds of posts you want to write, and on building the startup.

    Firings may not be fair, but its rare that a firing occurs without a reasonable degree of misfit between the two parties. Freed from Yahoo’s constraints, you can now write the way you want to write, and that’s a good thing.

  44. gt says:

    Hey Penelope,

    I didn’t read your Yahoo column so I guess I won’t be missing anything. Good luck in the next thing, whatever it is. I don’t always agree with what you say, but it sure makes for a good stir in the bucket some days.

  45. Greg Rollett says:

    That sucks, but think you will come out stronger for it. The start-up will be a success, you are building a great team that is building a great network.

    I think you have it figured out, and if you don’t you’ll try and try again.

  46. AEinstein says:

    Stupid, stupid, stupid!

    There are only two infinite things: The Universe and the stupidity of people. And I am not sure about the first one. – A. Einstein.

  47. john says:

    now that… was a great blog. Well done and all the best in your next steps. i will definitely stay tuned in 2008!

  48. R78 says:

    P-
    Isn’t life a ball??? I was fired right after my mother died unexpectedly this year. But I immediately started the job search and quickly found a position in another firm that seems more in line with my goals, let alone pays better. I’m sure you’ll find a better path yourself and everything will work out. I love your blog and will continue to follow your writing, wherever the path takes you. Enjoy the holidays!

  49. Dustin says:

    Why not continue the column on this site? It seems like you have built enough traffic for a following – hatred or not. Throw a few ads up, look up Feedburner ads into your feeds, market your self/this site a bit more, and well you might get some of that revenue back.

  50. Vidya says:

    Penelope! Here’s wishing you an even brighter and more prosperous 2008.

    I think bigger and better things are going to come your way. You are so funny, honest, perceptive, and insightful that you’ll be able to write a number of places.

    I’ve learned more from your columns then from some of the “preachy” books I’ve read on careers & relationships.

    You remind me that nobody has the answers…and that even career columnists get fired sometimes. It makes me realize that all of us have lives that are messy and works in progress adn that’s the way it should be.

    Kudos to you for your brave writing! Looking forward to more of the same in 2008

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  1. Episteme says:

    “More Women Oriented” (Or: Ignorance creates a talentless environment)…

    Sometimes, I’m moved to blog because I am reminded of how unfair the world is. I suppose it’s something that most people are already aware of, but I usually forget that most of the world isn’t as enlightened as most of the people who I’m lucky to …

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