Some of you might know that the thousands of comments that I receive on my Yahoo column are generally abrasive. Here’s an example.

Some of the most common things people say to me in the comment section on Yahoo are:

1. Why do you write for Yahoo? You should be fired!

2. You don’t have enough experience in the workforce.

3. When you grow up, you’ll think differently about this.

It looks to me like Ryan Healy, who writes the Twentysomething column on Brazen Careerist, gets the same type of comments on this blog about his posts. Here’s an example.

Do you guys agree or disagree? What do you think about this?

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  1. Jenflex
    Jenflex says:

    To me, these comments reflect the degree to which people have [not] identified with the writer as yet. Maybe it’s a positioning issue (content doesn’t match audience expectations). Penelope, I don’t think you see that as frequently with your posts, because you’ve built a community over time…you’ve found your audience, and it’s even self-policing to some degree.

    That part of the community already has its critical mass.

    In the absence of community, reaction is generally going to be negative: It’s always easier to destroy than to build. Read “Blink” where he’s describing the initial reaction to the Aeron chair. Where people don’t know how to classify their reaction, they automatically tend to associate it with the negative until they acquire the frame of reference to reclassify it.

    Ryan, I’m thinking, hasn’t got enough overlap between his personal and his professional audience as yet, so the sense of community isn’t there. But, it will be, assuming the nucleus of the community (i.e., Ryan) can put up with the birth pangs.

    Sorry…I’m a mom…everything’s about parenting for me in some way. That’s just my metaphor.

    * * * * * 

    Thanks for the explanation. This actually sheds a lot of light on both the situation here and at Yahoo. And I’m encouraged by how well Aeron chairs sell today.
    I learn so much from Ryan’s ideas. He isn’t burdened by what’s happened earlier in his career because he didn’t have one.
    Almost every week, my first instinct is to argue with him. The times I don’t argue with him are the times I learn the most.
    When I was a freshman in college, we read St. Augustine, and I wrote a paper arguing against him. My professor gave me a D, and he told me that you learn the most about something by figuring out the strong points they make instead of arguing against the weak points. I spent the rest of the semester writing a paper about St. Augustine every two weeks. By the end of the semester I understood why he was a great thinker, and even though I didn’t agree with everything, his ideas changed my life. I wouldn’t have gotten that if all I had done was argue against him.


  2. Mike Berry
    Mike Berry says:

    My online experience has been that, the bigger the public forum, the more numerous the abrasive comments. I think people view personal blogs as “private homes,” so they’re less likely to insult the person who has offered them hospitality. But out in the public space, they figure anything goes and forget that there are real people with real feelings reading their comments.

    As a crotchety member of Generation Jones (thanks for bringing that crazy neologism to my attention. All I can now think of is geriatric Buddy Ebsen as BARNABY JONES), I often find myself rolling my eyes at Ryan’s musings and muttering under my breath, “Just you wait a few years, boyo.” But I would never presume to insult him in the comments here and wonder whether he’s treated more fairly on his own site, among his own peers.

  3. AJH
    AJH says:

    I think these negative comments that you and Ryan receive are related to the generational divides in thinking about jobs that are the essence of your blogs. These are exactly the attitudes of my older co-workers and family members. They reflect the reality of the modern workspace where the 20 somethings are derided by boomers for their lack of loyalty, work ethic, etc. They’ve spent years climbing their way to their position and they feel threatened by our contempt for that work model. In a way our attitudes towards work can seem to undermine all their years of hard work. It’s a little bit of jealousy that maybe we’ve figured out a way to circumvent some of the BS that makes Office Space such a funny movie.

  4. Amy
    Amy says:

    I’m a thirty-something who’s recently found your blog. I’ve recommended the site to a number of people who have never understood my need to change jobs every 3 or so years. Everything I’ve read here has been well written and useful. I’ve found numerous links to other sites that I refer to frequently and enjoy.

    I purchased your book last week and am looking forward to reading it (although I must admit it’s in line for consumption behind re-reads of the last two Harry Potter books and the newest one releasing next month).

    The strongest thing I take away from your site is the notion that there ARE other people out there who, like me, keep their resumes up-to-date, use every tool at their disposal for networking and expanding their skill sets, and are always looking for their next job.

    I don’t think you have to be ultra-ambitious to be a “Brazen Careerist” either. When I grow up, I want to be a Lotto Winner, but in the mean time I am going to get the most I can get for my efforts. I don’t live to work – I work to live… and The Brazen Careerist is inspiration for me – thanks, Penelope and friends!

  5. Meaghan
    Meaghan says:

    The responses to Ryan seem horribly paternalistic. What seems interesting is that you have, in many ways, worked to create a community of people who are interested in changing the workplace, and that is well receieved. But when Ryan speaks for himself, it pulls out the “you don’t know what you’re talking about, whippersnapper,” comments. Thus, you have the authority to speak about what should be changed, but an invested party (Ryan) shouldn’t be too vocal/assured/demanding?

    Ryan has never said anything I wanted to respond to – positively or negatively. And, what compels someone to write horrid, nasty things to other people on blogs is beyond me. it is studied, and commented on, and the Kathy Sierra issue even made it to CNN, but it just seems like the ugly underbelly of online. Why the need to tear someone down? (Who knows – Ask Ann Coulter)

  6. Tim
    Tim says:


    I think you get it right about the half the time.
    Which isn’t bad.

    And when you do get it right it’s with a fresh insight. But when you’re off, you’re pretty far off. The workplace is getting tougher. It’s global and ultra-competitive. A “braided” lifestyle won’t cut it for the majority of the workforce.

    Encouraging gaps in employment history is not useful. I’ve hired people. Gaps are a huge red flag. Can they be overcome? Yes.
    But…If I’m investing in a person, I want to be as sure I can be that they’ll hang around. I want winners who can committ. Training new employees, having them get involved in the culture of the company, working with other departments on short and long term projects is expensive. Hiring new talent is expensive.

    I need to know they’re in this. So, you worked for a year and then went to Spain to paint and now you’re back. Good for you, but job hopping, to me, looks like our investment in you won’t pay off. In fact, it will be a losing proposition.

    Well, then, maybe you don’t want to work for us Fine. There are others just as good, with a better attitude that I can hire. Good luck to you. Seriously, if you can pull it off, great.
    Not many can. And that’s the thing. Only pointing out the exceptions to the rule isn’t helpful.

    Ryan, on the other hand, is a bright guy. I like him, but he is so young, so inexperienced, so lacking in wisdom–which he will aquire down the road–that I can’t take his writings seriously.

    Why do I read your blog? You seem likable. You’re positive, engaging, and a good writer. Yes, at times you’re way off base, but when you get it right, you nail it.


  7. Tim
    Tim says:

    Yikes, didn’t mean to imply Penelope isn’t bright–she is. What I meant to say here is:

    Ryan, on the other hand, WHILE he is a bright guy and I like him, is so young, so inexperienced, so lacking in wisdom – €“which he will aquire down the road – €“that I can't take his writings seriously.

  8. Anthony
    Anthony says:

    I read your blog regularly and recommend it to all my friends in our 20’s and early 30’s.

    The fact that the entire 40-something, work is my life crowd thinks you are a pariah only confirms what I already know: I don’t want to be like them!

    Most times I read one of your articles, I’m just nodding my head the whole time. It’s like you’re writing exactly about me, except that there are millions of people who share the same values.

    I am especially amused at all the “Senior Recruiter” types who take the time to write nasty stuff. They should be thanking you for opening their eyes to the what the new generation of workers want. Instead, they can’t let go of their own tightly-held values about the workplace.

  9. Kasey
    Kasey says:

    I just discovered your column about a month ago and have literally read through nearly every posting. I think you’re blunt, honest and realistic about today’s workforce and the new generation entering into it. Though I haven’t read Ryan’s blog in its entirety, his guest postings thus far have reflected a similar realistic worldview. While I can’t speak for those who take such an offense to your postings, nor do I even want to try; it has been my experience that both your’s and Ryan’s columns (the opinions, observations & suggestions) have been “spot-on.”

    Keep up the good work!

  10. David W
    David W says:

    I think it’s unfortunate you get so many negative responses. Granted, it’s common that web trolls to take the time to write negatively, while the ones who take something positive from your column simply absorb, implement and move on.

    I assume a lot of the negative responses in your linked Yahoo! article originate out of fear and or inexperience of what you suggest.

    Sure, you Penelope and your blog fans (of which I am one) are familiar with these forward thinking approaches in navigating career and family life, but many people are not.

    So suggesting these types of empowering alternative approaches (eg; save money; don’t bury yourself in more grad degree school loans unless necessary, etc) makes many people cringe because they haven’t personally experienced your suggested approaches, nor know of someone who has.

    In the negative responses, what I hear is a lot of people saying, “I’m not open to alternative approaches to life” .. or .. “I haven’t realized, or simply refuse to admit, that the world is a changed place from the perspective of what the baby boomers have instilled in us.” Good luck to them.

    I’m 32. Work professionally in engineering researh and development. And I see many great things in the new approaches you write about.

  11. Jenflex
    Jenflex says:

    Hey, Anthony: What do you think — is possible that both the “senior recruiters” and the young adults who aren’t burdened by experience (Penelope’s comment above) are both going to be subject to some moderating influences over time?

    I mean, I’m a late-thirty-something, and yes, I agree with the posts saying (hopefully nicely!) that at some point we grow up to a degree that maybe Ryan hasn’t reached yet. Which is OK. I mean, I’m shocked at how hard it is for me to remember what I was like 18 years ago, when I’d have rather gone to a Grateful Dead concert and work nights at a catalog company and write poetry than have a “real” job. But I’m not there anymore. And I’m sure Ryan won’t be the same person in 10 years, either, whatever that means for him. That’s just life…Ryan doesn’t need anyone flaming him to get there.

    But I also think that the future reality isn’t going to be the “I told you so!” dystopia that many of these “senior recruiter” types are trumpeting. We don’t completely lose who we were, either, and the business world is going to have to adapt to the desires of a different workforce.

  12. laurence haughton
    laurence haughton says:

    Clients have asked me many times “How can I figure out my company’s weaknesses?” They were shocked when I told them, “Learn weaknesses from the slander your detractors spread about you.”

    My reasoning was simple. People who like you will sugarcoat everything to the point where you can “miss the point.” But your detractors exaggerate your worst. More often than not, there’s some truth in what detractors say. It’s just exaggerated and ignores the good.

    So if you really want to know where you’re falling short, put a detractor’s slander in perspective and learn.

    BTW as a writer and keynote speaker it’s been tough for me to do this. Every negative comment cuts. But I need to practice what I preach.

    * * * * *

    This is great advice — I have found this to be true. Although I think it is an artform to know which detractors to listen to and which to ignore.


  13. Nicole Russo
    Nicole Russo says:

    “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

    Without that, we’d have nothing. Do what you do. It’s been my experience that those that ruffle the most feathers tend to have the most valuable points to make.

  14. christin
    christin says:

    I agree that the ones who come on here to bash are probably the usual types who troll websites and bash. It’s so easy to hide behind a computer screen and lash out. Internet arguments can escalate way beyond what they would in real life, because in real life – there’s something called tact! and it’s a lot harder to say the meanest thing that comes into your head when you’re face to face with someone.

    Didn’t you write an article about email arguments? Maybe it wasn’t you – but I thought I read something recently about not discussing things through email that may be misconstrued. I think the same thing goes for the majority of the “mean” comments.

    but the negative comments – i agree with the above poster, if they’re not meant just to sting, it can be good to take them with a grain of salt and see what they are really saying. Because I think the people who take the time to thoughtfully write out why they disagree are not doing it to hurt feelings.

    I also think it’s correct to assess that most of Ryan’s writings – or even some of your more “bold” and “controversial” articles (ha) – run the risk of people reacting negatively because it’s something NEW and it not “the way we’ve always done it.” Give those people a chance to come around. Either that or they’ll learn the hard way in 10 years when they realize you were onto something and they might have stayed ahead of the pack if they listened.

  15. Jacqui
    Jacqui says:

    No one is going to give great advice 100% of the time. There have been times when I’ve strongly disagreed with both of you.

    BUT – you’ve both also had more than your share of excellent advice and great points.

    The difference is I (and most of the readers like me) can disagree vocally, yet respectfully. For whatever reason, these other readers feel so threatened by you or what you have to say that they feel the need to make personal attacks at you. I’ve never understood.

    In several instances, it’s kept me from commenting on certain posts, because I didn’t feel any need to argue career advice with someone who lacks any sense of professionalism or respect for other people. If these readers can’t conduct themselves in an adult manner, I’m not too concerned with whether they’re telling me to grow up and look at the real world anyway.

    Don’t let them shake you. You (both) do great work, and share unique points of view. If people want to disagree, let them learn to do so in an appropriate way before you give any thought to what they have to say.

  16. Jacqui
    Jacqui says:

    As a side note, I think Ryan (and all of in his age group) will admit that we’re young and inexperienced. We don’t really claim to know it all or have it all figured out.

    What we do know is what we would like to have and that what we want is pretty different than what others have wanted and what we’re currently getting for our 40 hrs a week.

    Ryan is not writing a gospel. He’s expressing the opinions of a demographic that doesn’t currently have much of an outlet on these topics, and shouldn’t be berated for doing so. All of the non-millennial readers were once our age with (I hope) big dreams, too.

  17. Jason
    Jason says:


    I generally like your posts while not liking Ryan’s. The main difference is that I’ll often learn something from a post or article that you write, while Ryan’s haven’t really taught me anything.

    I find a lot of his posts read like ramblings against corporate america and his desires to start some kind of business at some point in the future. What am I supposed to learn about that, and other than being a “twentysomething,” what the heck does he know about young people that I or others don’t?

    Ryan’s working hard, and I respect that, but in my opinion he’s never established any credibility, which makes me much more critical of his work.

  18. Laura Athavale Fitton
    Laura Athavale Fitton says:

    Why do you care? (about the comments) For that matter, why do you care what we think of them? Some will like you, some won’t. Big deal.

    Like handling a “tough question” in an interview, first ask yourself WHY the person said what they said (as far as you can tell).

    If they’re a troll, they’re a troll. If they have a point, let it inform the conversation and keep moving it forward.

    There’s value — and a lot of people “listening” — in your writing whether you are right or not. In fact, there can be tremendous value in being dead “wrong “about something, if it starts the conversation that gets you to the “right” answer.

  19. Frank Roche
    Frank Roche says:

    I’d go with this: It’s easier to tear down that it is to use reason and logic in arguments. Many people have well-honed abilities to do the “cut downs” but little ability, in general, to apply critical rhetoric. It’s just easier to rip into arguments that it is to make a plausible alternative argument. Get personal, it’s easy.

    Why you? I’d say it’s because you think. You prod. You provoke. Sure, it’d be easy to be plain vanilla. Then you wouldn’t get nastygrams, or at least they would be fewer. But you have a viewpoint. You speak clearly. You reveal yourself. And for some reason, that scares the people who hold on by their fingertips to their worldview. I mean, isn’t the man in the gray flannel suit still the way of the world?

    I say keep on keepin’ on. You have a great thing going. And the trolls, and I especially mean those who don’t write an original word themselves, those who only criticize, will keep coming and making fools of themselves. It is entertaining reading. But as hard as it is, don’t take that junk seriously. Serious people deserve serious consideration. People who say “You should be fired” don’t know you…and they should be ignored.

  20. Robert 'Groby' Blum
    Robert 'Groby' Blum says:


    I wouldn’t worry too much about these posts. People are bound to disagree with you, whatever you say – wouldn’t life be boring if we all had the same ideas and opinions. As for the tone of the message, I think it’s an Internet Phenomenon.

    Or, as Penny Arcade put it, the Greater Internet F*ckwad Theory

    (Apologies for the crude language. That’s what it’s called…)

    Some people sooner or later realize that disagreement is usually a learning opportunity, some don’t. I wouldn’t worry too much about the latter ones – you don’t “want” them as readers.

  21. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    I’ve typically found that when people are seeking advice, they are really seeking validation of what they have already decided for themselves. Thus those who come to your articles simply because they see them listed under “Advice” or “Experts” in Yahoo are bound to be disappointed when presented with something that is in line with their own thought process. Those of us who read this as a blog see it as more of a discussion of the shift in cultural phenomena related to the workplace.

    But for those who think this blog is not relevant to large corporations, you’re wrong. I work in HR for one of the top five software companies in the world (30,000+ employees) and our strategy meetings have recently included topics including Facebook, creative benefit solutions, flex time-off arrangements, and more. The issue is that change in companies of that size is slow and methodical and requires persistence and vision. But most of all, it requires new blood and new ideas – some like Penelope’s.

    This is not to say that I don’t often disagree with some points (I actually became a committed reader when Penelope thoughtfully responded to one of my rebuttal comments), but the devil is in the details and its the principles of the arguments that matter.

  22. Rahul
    Rahul says:

    Depends. Does the difference between reactions on Yahoo and reactions here affect what and how you write?

  23. Jeremy
    Jeremy says:

    Your stuff isn’t bad, although I don’t always agree with it. I saw some good points in the comments: if you’re going to make potentially controversial statements, sourcing your blog is not a credible way to go. It might have been a good idea to account for the fact that your comments don’t apply to every job or situation, and that your recommendations should not be followed in certain industries.

    I usually skip over Ryan’s stuff because he seems to be trying to hard to be THE VOICE OF THE YOUNGER GENERATION and comes across too often as clueless, arrogant, and naive. Which, surprisingly, are traits you tend to have when you’re young. Also, the post you linked starts with silliness and gets worse from there (the statement about cell phones, internet, etc. affecting patience is oversimplified, and his gainsaying “I don’t buy that” comment reminds me of one of McLuhan’s favorite aphorisms: “I don’t know who discovered water, but it wasn’t a fish”–but going into the invisibility of the climate and attitudes created by technology would be beside the point). The post boils down to “I’m rushing through my career because I want a family,” which is not exactly valuable, insightful, or interesting. But I’ve subscribed to this blog for quite some time, and I haven’t run into a post by Ryan that WAS valuable, insightful, or interesting. Maybe eventually he’ll have something worth talking about, but I haven’t seen it yet.

    So there are my thoughts, since you’re asking for feedback. I wouldn’t typically post comments on posts like either of the ones you linked, though–it’s a lot easier to mark it as read and move on, or to unsubscribe if I keep seeing the same problems.

  24. Paula G
    Paula G says:

    I think people, when faced with an idea that doesn’t jive with what they think (and they feel righteous about it), they want to blame & lash out at someone. Makes them feel better to tell someone else (in this case you or other bloggers) that they are wrong! dead wrong! what do you know?! Sort of like the bully on the block when you’re a kid.

    To the degree comments spark a further conversation of differing opinions, I think that is great. Healthy discussion and exploring new ways of thinking, other people’s experiences and perspectives are great. Isn’t that what the web is supposed to be about anyway?

    If they are just malicious and short, un-elaborated upon bursts of ego (“I’m right, what does this chick think she knows it all?”) type rants, they generally just take up space. For those, I’d wish you ease in letting them just vanish into the ethers…

    Keep up the great work & opinions/advice. I don’t always agree 100% but that’s what helps me grow and re-look at what I do believe, right?

  25. Pirate Jo
    Pirate Jo says:

    I get really irritated by the patronizing, condescending tone people take when responding to Ryan sometimes. Why not just pat him on the head? Really, though, they are just validating some of the things he says. I read their snotty comments and think no WONDER he dislikes certain things about corporate America.

    That said, I do envy him. Penelope and I are about the same age, and I think she admitted to feeling the same way about the 20-somethings. When I went to college, I did the “responsible” thing and majored in a field (accounting) that, while boring, was supposed to have a strong job market. I graduated in 1992 and my first job only paid $7.00 an hour. And it wasn’t just me. Penelope is right about Gen X coining the term “McJob.” My department was full of college grads with 4-year accounting degrees, making the same crappy wages.

    Living with my parents, a trend among today’s 20-somethings I can’t even begin to grasp, was not an option for me. I didn’t have the money to go back to school, and at any rate it didn’t seem like the degree I ALREADY had was doing me much good. So I got a second job – working at Target for minimum wage. Even between those two jobs, working 60-70 hours a week, I didn’t even make $20,000 a year. It SUCKED! There was no such thing as companies “competing for” or “trying to lure” people like me. We got treated like dirt!

    When I hear about companies trying hard to kiss 20-something azz these days, a part of me feels angry and let down by … maybe the times I grew up in, or the companies I worked for. Why did I have to go through such a miserable time? It was four years before I could quit that second job. Backpacking across Europe? Going to Spain? Don’t any of today’s 20-somethings know what it’s like to be freekin’ BROKE? Or do all of their parents throw money at them?

    Yet I take all that and shove it back down inside, where it belongs. The fact that today’s 20-somethings have all these options and don’t have to waste their youth on multiple, crappy jobs is a GOOD thing. I’d never want to stick them in the same situation I was in. In fact, I’m thankful for them. They’re saying the same things Gen X has been saying for ten years, but none of those damn old-school bureaucrats would listen to us because there were too few of us to matter. Now that Gen Y is joining our ranks, it’s going to make things better for ALL of us.

  26. Almost Got It
    Almost Got It says:

    Would it sound negative to say I didn’t find that particular set of comments negative?

    ‘Sides, “No one ever kicks a dead horse” – Dale Carnegie (who’s even older than I am!) If Ryan (or any of us) are bold enough to challenge the status quo (hurray!), and in the give-and-take world of blogland besides, it seems a teeny bit disingenuous not to expect we’ll be challenged right back.

    Moreover: civil engagement of this sort is *good*, and we 1st worlders have no idea how fortunate we are to be able to have it! If Baby Boomers can learn from Milleniels, surely things can work the other way round as well. I paid a hell of a lot for these wrinkles!! ;)

    Though finally, yes, all sides should endeavor to be civil about it, and all (ALL) should start by finding common ground.

  27. Greg
    Greg says:

    "Almost every week, my first instinct is to argue with him." Thank you for the candid comment.

    I think there is a generational thing going on. I would like to see the comments on an identical post on Ryan's site.

    I have been considering a similar issue in one of my MBA classes. There are two of us in our mid-40s (married and kids). The rest of the class is the under 25 set. As a result of some pretty intense class discussions (and the gentle reminder of our Boomer professor, who reminds us generational differences DO exist), I have decided I need to pay particular attention to the avoidance of curmudgeony. It is not that I desire or want to become the Grouchy Old Man; it just seems to be creeping up with all the other baggage that comes with middle age.

    Ryan: You are a cocky smart-aleck who thinks he has it all figured out. Your posts remind me of what I was like "back then" (except at 23 I was assistant manager of a burger place). I hope there are always a few of your kind around my work place.

  28. Devin
    Devin says:

    I think you have to understand if a post is pretty decent the typical user won’t go out of their way to leave a comment.

    But, if they REALLY like it or REALLY hate it then they’ll chime in.

    You both write about controversial ideas. Things that question the status quo are bound to gather “you’re ignorant” comments, right?

    I’d much rather the feedback and opposing points of view than have my comments field turn into an echo chamber.

  29. Ryan
    Ryan says:

    Hey Penelope,

    You definitely have a unique perspective on how people in their 20s and 30s should handle their careers. Thus, of course you are going to get some abrasive comments! In my opinion, the day you stop getting abrasive comments on Yahoo is the day you should resign as a Yahoo columnist! Your articles and opinions, whether people think they are right or wrong, make people think and present fresh perspectives…frankly, Yahoo needs several more columnists like you!

    Take care,

  30. Jaerid
    Jaerid says:


    First off, I would take negative comments to mean that you are on the right track. I think people become so complacent and locked into running between the lines that they see anything outside that as being ridiculous. The knee-jerk reaction to dismantle an idea because maybe once upon a time the commenter agreed with it but has lost hope.

    I absolutely love how Ryan’s ideas light people up here. I laugh at the “smart-aleck” kid reactions and the “wait until your my age” comments. I can only speak for myself, but as a Gen Y (Millennial, etc) I classify myself as optimistic to a fault. I actually have a hard time dooming and glooming.

    Overall, I think it is the optimism, persistence, and “brazen” way the ideas here rub against the grain that drive the negativity – after all it is so much easier to be negative than positive (especially to the disgruntled, self-loathing, jealous types out there)

    I say keep blazing the trail and use the negativity as inspiration!

  31. Rebecca
    Rebecca says:

    I believe it is an issue of anonymity. People say things they never normally would in person. Which I think we are all guilty of time to time; we’ve all made statements about a celebrity or political figure that, if met in person, we wouldn’t repeat.

    Those who choose to continually waste negative energy on such comments are draining themselves and that’s their problem.

    That said, the way things are written in comment form or email can be interpreted differently than in real life. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that a respectful atmosphere is cultivated online.

  32. Alan
    Alan says:

    Penelope, you’re not the only one getting the nasty responses. Almost all of the Yahoo! columnists get ugly responses. There are people out there who are just very negative and closed minded and are more likely to respond than those who agree (or almost) with the columnists. I think Yahoo should drop the comments section.

  33. Suze
    Suze says:

    Keep writing! Ryan should keep writing, too. Many people won’t agree with you — sometimes I don’t, but I do try to stay away from being nasty — but IT DOESN’T MATTER.

    The world needs fresh insights.

    So many of the comments on Yahoo are terribly mean spirited. Have you ever checked out the comments Suze Orman receives? They’re pretty awful — lots of pot shots are her private life, much like the comments you receive.

    If there’s anything insightful, try to get something from it. As for the haters, ignore them.

    Keep writing.

  34. Rebecca
    Rebecca says:

    Evidently you’ve struck a nerve. Perhaps the boomers doth protest too much…or perhaps they are projecting.

    In my line of work, I’m continuously amazed at what people send in as feedback. Not only do we email things we’d never actually say, I think we elevate ourselves to a level of arrogance that we don’t (I hope) exhibit, or even actually believe when the conversation isn’t face to face.

    It’s much easier to forget that we’re all connected, and much easier simply to write defensively.

    If you ask me – the worst feedback you could get would be ZERO comments. The volume you’re getting tells you that you’re right on track…

  35. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Hi. Thank you, everyone, for the great comments. An unexpected result of this post is that I got a sort of focus group about what this blog is and where it should go. Very helpful.

    I love the community part of blogging so much. Days like today make me feel so lucky to be a part of this community. Really. And thanks.


  36. Anne Z.
    Anne Z. says:

    I don’t get why people are so rude and condescending. I try never to do that — though I imagine I have on occasion and maybe some of my blog posts come across that way.

    I think it represents some old-style think about the web too, like you will never meet this person as a real person (not nec. in the flesh, but by email or on Facebook or whatever). The people I “know” online would never be so rude to me. And the people who really get that the social web is more about connection than about being right or superior would never do it either.

    * * * * *

    Thanks for making the point that “old-style” commenting is not okay now. I think you’re right that the free-for-all attitude about web anonymity is outdated.


  37. Richard
    Richard says:

    Yes I agree that the comments are more abrasive. Yahoo Finance has a more diverse audience than your blog. On your site you swim with the dolphins at Yahoo you swim with the sharks. I don’t think Ryan has his base established yet.

    I think the comments are abrasive because you position yourself as a Career Expert and some might think your breezy platitudes could be HARMFUL.

    Impressionable 20 something’s could use your advice as justification to make costly decisions without considering where they will be in 10-15 years. Time speeds up as you get older. A decade could go by in the blink of an eye.

    I know because I’m 32 and had a “brazen” attitude in my 20’s. I’ve spent the past several years trying to correct my mistakes. Do I like the corporate world not for a minute, but I have responsibilities and need to keep my options open. I’m often reminded that there are over a billion people overseas studying for my job right now.

    You and Ryan are writing to a niche market and giving the market what it wants to hear. I think the comments can go over the top, some are unjustified and downright mean.

    However I think the dissenting comments are necessary for balance.

  38. Tamara Paton
    Tamara Paton says:

    I celebrate variety in blog comments, provided we remain respectful. A range of reactions to Ryan and Penelope’s posts isn’t something I’d like to see squashed.

    The material found in the Brazen Careerist is deeply personal. When Ryan or Penelope take a stand on a personal issue, feathers are bound to get ruffled.

    I don’t perceive a blogger’s choices and priorities as judgment of those making other calls. When readers take offense, I suspect they react out of insecurity vs. a legitimate complaint about content.

    Ultimately, I feel sorry for harsh commenters and move on. Hopefully Ryan will take appropriate lessons from the feedback, but not let it impede his path.

  39. Mark
    Mark says:

    I guess my irritatation at you and Ryan’s posts stems from the question “what credibility does this person have for saying what they are saying?”. I look at your career and do not see anything terribly successful (or unsuccessful) about it – I look at Ryan’s career (what little there is) and see nothing of substance to base many of his hypotheses on. Both of you often reference sources that are questionable or downright wrong. Yet both of you profess to be “career experts”. And the blog medium actually lends credibility to this claim due to the allure of this being “new media”.

    What I am afraid of is that many Gen Yers will take this advice as gospel and make choices they will regret in the future.

    And no, I am not a boomer – I am in my late 30s. I do feel that I have accummulated at least a little wisdom to make my opinion valid.

  40. helix
    helix says:

    When a higher primate such as a baboon is attacked by a stronger peer, the baboon deals with its anger by attacking a weaker baboon (or one that is unable to fight back). No joke. Read “Why Zebras Don’t get Ulcers” by Robert Sapolsky– a fabulous book written by a scientist about stress response in primates and how this applies to humans as well.

    The anonymous nature of blog postings emboldens people who have problems to lash out against others without consequences. In other words, we people have a bad day, many choose to “take it out” on a blogger anonymously.

  41. Jun
    Jun says:

    I’m an attending physician in mainland of China. I read your blog everyday. So do a lot of my fellows. Your insight into the world is positive. I really enjoy reading it. Everyone has his/her terrible moment, while denial him/herself and, in the same time, happy others. Anyway, they’re looking for help from your blogs. Thank you for sharing your life opinions.

  42. Justin
    Justin says:

    I think it’s interesting the you have invoked the term ‘authenticity’ to describe what Generation Y values, while the opponents and critics have claimed that you lack ‘credibility’.

    I’ve been doing some research into new media, rhetoric and power – and it seems as though Generation Y’s lack of concrete power, career exerience and so on will always be invoked by the entrenched Baby Boomers as evidence of this lack, and a means of marginalising the youth voice.

    However, Generation Y (and I count myself amongst its number) places a high value on authenticity. This means that, providing they have a point or message behind them, we’ll be listening to your personal comments, experiences, and ancedotes with interest. If it’s already something we know is credible – that we or our friends have experienced ourselves – then they don’t have to be backed up by scientific proof or numerical evidence; something that the Baby Boomers seem to demand in the name of ‘credibility’.

    Some of the comments that you’ve highlighted make me dispair as to the sheer size and depth of the generation gap. I mean, sure, Generation Y hasn’t had a chance to get all that much credibility or experience under its belt as of yet, but many of your respondents seem to be tearing our hopes and aspirations to shreds – in my mind, without due cause.

    So, yes, don’t get disheartened. Keep it up!

    * * * * *

    This is such an interesting comment. Thank you.

    The issue of authenticity vs. credibility is very real. You describe this so well. I have to think about this. I’m fascinated with the idea that all the things older people did to get credibility count for little in a world where authenticity rules. So interesting. And now totally makes sense why people attack me on the grounds of credibility.



  43. Tiffany
    Tiffany says:

    Ryan’s comments may come off as naive to some of your readers, but the reality is, he’s a young, career-minded worker, trying to make it in a rapidly changing workplace. He’s smart enough to realize he can be a part of the evolution by talking about it, forcing the issue, and letting managers in on top worker concerns.

    HR departments and managers should read his posts hungrily, because chances are, most of their Gen Y employees would agree with him, and the rest would have their own opinion, probably a different one than their organizations and bosses. So at least he’s starting conversations on the issues that matter to us.

    Just as Penelope noted that this very comment stream is a focus group for her about her blog, her posts and Ryan’s posts should be a something decision makers are tuning in to just as keenly as as focus group and actually using in how they run their businesses. Or in the end, they’ll be left in the dust by companies and organizations that do.

  44. Chloe
    Chloe says:

    I’ve often wondered how you cope with the dreadful comments you sometimes get. I hope you’re not taking them too seriously. I have a lot of spare time in my working day which leads me to read a lot of blogs. Brazen Careerist is by far and away the one I most look forward to reading (and the one I can most rely upon to have a new, and interesting, post).

  45. Pirate Jo
    Pirate Jo says:

    Hey Penelope, where do I get my percentage for being part of the focus group? ;-)

    I agree with a lot of the others here that the “anti” comments are useful for balance and to see where the other side is coming from. Just as Ryan’s comments are useful to see the perspective of a freshly-minted college grad, starting out in the work world. If any of the business people out there reading this give a rat’s arse about first impressions, you should sit up and take notes whether you agree with him or not.

  46. Mary
    Mary says:

    The problem I have occasionally with Ryan’s posts is this sense that he is thinking of himself as the voice of his generation — and as a result, he seems apt to make sweeping generalizations that are seemingly impossible to back up. I always find those sorts of statements not particularly helpful in a singular context. However, they do cue me in on what to listen for in other contexts to learn if the generalizations have some accuracy. Also, to be honest, because he has positioned himself as an “everyman” for the twenty-something group, his voice isn’t as interesting as yours.

    But, you know me, I’m always bugging you to source your statistics better. Ever find out how the $40,000 was arrived at? ;-)

  47. Matt
    Matt says:


    I don’t really have the time to read through all your comments on this post, even at the risk of repeating someone else in this one. Seems like you have your fair share of supporters and antagonists, and with anyone who presents a new idea (in your case, a series of new, counterculture, workforce ideas), this should be expected.

    I say this to encourage you, because I feel like you have a fairly good notion of the workforce today, and I’m glad you are not deterred by the angry people of this world who feel the need to share their discontent with the rest of us.

    To further encourage you, I want to say I read your book, loved it, and I’m looking forward to the next! Although, please write on a different subject, or at least approach careers with a different angle, otherwise I’ll be tempted to compare you with the Robert Kiyosaki’s of the world, who publish practically the same book over and over again, still charging $17.95 for each new installment in their series. You have an unparalleled creativity in your thoughts and ideas that I don’t see in many writers, and I hope you allow this developed talent to govern your course and not the sales number.

    In my opinion, you’re doing great, and if you don’t get negative feedback from what you say, there’s a chance no one is listening :)

    To borrow from Steve Jobs who made an incredible speech to a Stanford graduating class (easily found on the web) . . . “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish”


  48. Debra K
    Debra K says:

    My blog if you ever want to check it out is:
    As for your question. I actually starting reading your blog because Jennifer Weiner (author) said some negative comments about you on her blog. And I’ve been checking back with you ever since. I don’t think it matters what these people say, if you have this many people reading your blog, then they must be coming to you for something. I like your blog because you don’t hold back your opinion and sometimes it’s not the typical opinion the experts would voice. But it is one that we all think but don’t have the guts to say. We’re all supposed to be happy with our work and you show that we all do not have that opinion and it’s okay to want more.

  49. Brip Blap
    Brip Blap says:

    I think there’s a distinction that needs to be made between angry comments like “you are awful” and reasoned counterpoints. Ryan’s article inspired a lot of people to forcefully disagree with him. I do – I’m a Gen Xer and I think he is going to be in for a rude and brutal awakening in his mid 30s. But that’s far different than if I lashed out by calling him a name. Penelope suffers from being on Yahoo, which is just behind the NY Times for apparently attracting professional trolls. I think Penelope’s writing style is great even when I don’t agree with what she says. Ryan has a ways to go to get the same tone down, rather than sounding (as he often does) a little smug for someone who’s just starting out in life. Just my opinion.

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