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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106 replies
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  1. Aaron Erickson
    Aaron Erickson says:

    The audience of Yahoo finance – especially the ones who post messages to it, tend to be wanna-be office day traders, people who “pump” or “bash” stocks in pathetic attempts to move the price, and perhaps, wall street types who tend to have a high “asshole quotient” (to use a Bob Suttonism here somewhat liberally).

    Nothing to see there. Not worth your time to be worried about it. I think Yahoo would probably tell you the same thing if asked.

  2. Ron Boyd
    Ron Boyd says:


    I have been hooked on your ramblings for many years now. Not that it was the pinnacle of your writing but I was solidly hooked with that description of your 9/11 experience. (Although I had been reading your stuff for quite awhile before then.) I should probably add (some — those that are pulling your chain, perhaps — may find it useful to make a big deal about) that I am probably old enough to be your grandfather — certainly old enough to be your father. Consequently, my remarks will not (and should not) have that much weight among those who have sent you these discouraging remarks. So what?

    In any event, my age does give me one thing that is (or should be) very valuable to you. That is the 20/20 vision of looking into the past.

    Oh! That I had listened to myself, forty years ago, when I said those things you are now saying — how easy life would have been.

    Anyway, any judgement(s), of any real importance, about your actions will come long after you have left this world. Consequently, just “Keep on keepin on” and don’t worry about all the small minded people surrounding you. Their comments will not amount to a “hill of beans” when all is said and done.

    If it helps: Always remember that statistically speaking, 50% of the population of the world is dumber than the other 50%. So just categorize as you deem appropriate. (Observe which is the more vocal group.)

    You go girl!


  3. Alan
    Alan says:

    I agree. However, I think those abrasive comments are just obstacle and challenges. You don’t have to face every situation, especially if it’s not related to big picture.

  4. K
    K says:

    I’m another one who discovered you as a result of a negative reference on another blog (Jennifer Weiner, I think? I don’t even remember what it was about, anymore…)

    I enjoyed your perspective on work/family/life and I also live in Madison so I continue to read every day.

    But the Yahoo comments – those I don’t read. Ever. I sometimes wonder if columnists read those comments and if they are bothersome.

    The comments on your blog never seem to quite stoop to that level of meanness. It’s one thing to disagree. It’s another thing to be completely disrespectful and rude.

  5. Stuart
    Stuart says:


    I work for one of the leading HR research/consulting firms in the talent management arena & spend tremendous time consulting our Fortune 500 clients on the very issues you regularly outline. In fact, I consider you one of the “cultural touchstones” that I seek out to either validate or expand my own points of view.

    Just remember what you’re doing is in essence, issuing a call to action for the masses. We all know how people in general react to change, so why the surprise? Better to know that you have their attention rather than being ignored. Sooner or later, they will be slammed face first into one or more of the situations that you regularly outline and their moment of epiphany will be upon them.

    Keep up the great work.


  6. H
    H says:

    To me it sounds like knee-jerk responses from people who are startled/dismayed/threatened by your approach to work. Think of yourself as a doctor testing reflexes.

    But then there are all the rest of us, who think you’re spot on. Guess we should just tell you so more often!

    I’m lucky enough to manage a small group of people, most of them older than me by at least 15 years. I say lucky because I’m glad I get to be in the driver’s seat with that generation. I think those of us in the “X generation” are sort of the fault line between old-school work-ethic boomers and new-school life-ethic Y generation kids.

  7. Leslie M-B
    Leslie M-B says:

    I think it’s hilarious that a 16-year-old (in the comments of the post to which you linked) mistakes you for a 50-something-year-old. Ha! Such comments bring into high relief–and here I borrow a term from Woody Allen–the jejeunosity of such readers.

    Clearly the Yahoo! finance readers aren’t comfortable with well-educated, accomplished, young women who DARE to offer advice.

    You can’t please everyone. I think you do a terrific job. Keep up the good work!

  8. Matt
    Matt says:

    There are those where I work that want to do the minimum and are thinking about keeping their job until retirement and there are those who want to actually contribute. Your columns are clearly targeted toward the latter. Why waste life with people who don’t get it, move on to another company that does and if you find the right one, make it last until they stop being effective.

    …well, plus you have a nice smile! ;)

  9. Jeri Dansky
    Jeri Dansky says:


    One of the things I most value about your writings is that your perspective is so different from mine – and yes, that’s probably a generational thing. (I worked at the same company for 20+ years before starting my own business.)

    I appreciate being exposed to different ways of thinking about the world of work. I know that there have been HUGE changes in the workplace since I started my corporate career, and it’s nice to have your window into that new world.


  10. david
    david says:

    obviously enough people find what you do to be a good thing . for you to be a regular on yahoo. thats pretty far up the food chain. the more prominent you become, the mor positive and negative attention you receive. note paris hilton. who i love. and the flack she is getting. shes an american icon. an american princess.

    something i read said to find the germ of helpful truth in every criticism. that you learn more from criticism than from praise.

    just keep grinding.

  11. Emily
    Emily says:


    I love your blog and read it every day. I will graduate next spring from an ivy league university with a BA in history and, thanks to my wonderful and supportive mother and grandmother, I will have only a few thousand dollars of student loans. Although I won’t have much debt, I will not, under any circumstances, get any handouts or “free rides” from my parents after I graduate.

    My specific circumstances come next spring – broke but not in major debt – are a big part of why I love your blog, and why I think some people have so much trouble understanding the ideals behind your advice. I will not, nor thankfully am I financially required to, prioritize my cash flow over my happiness. In a lot of comments, it is assumed that people who are unwilling to push through unhappy jobs and unhealthy work environments are automatically lazy, living off their parents’ successes (hard-earned, mind you), and lack drive and ambition.

    This is exactly your point, though, and why I find these comments irrelevant and, frankly, useless. I am an incredibly hard worker, I will not live off of anyone’s money but my own, and I am very driven (I had to be to get where I am in life thus far). I also refuse to value money over happiness, and your blog gives me advice on how to do just that but in a financially reasonable and like-minded manner. Take, for example, your advice about grad degrees. Many people said that you should get a graduate degree because it does actually make you more hireable and will get you more money in the long run. That’s entirely beside the point! If I want to spend a few years in grad school doing something I enjoy, I will make it work no matter what the financial repercussions; if I don’t want to, I won’t.

    I am sick of being told to find a job and stick to it no matter how miserable I am. We seem to share the opinion that finding something that brings you satisfaction and allows you to support your desired lifestype is absolutely the best job for you, NOT finding the highest paid employment to give me financial stability. Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is not The Goal anymore! I am willing to live extremely modestly for the next few years (pb&j, anyone?) so that I can try new things, job hop, maybe take a few gap months here and there, and see what makes me tick. With my “name school” degree, I could easily find a mediocre job in a mid-size city and immediately start saving up so that old folks will think I’m being “responsible”, but that would be an utter waste of my talents. My lifestyle of choice, on the other hand, will require every last ounce of dedication, drive, ingenuity, and creativity on my behalf so that I can support myself financially AND personally.

    You don’t encourage people to be lazy and self-centered. You give advice for people who are willing to forge their own path in life and want to do so responsibly and wholeheartedly. Your words give me great guidance and the people who scorn you simply cannot see the value in prioritizing personal satisfaction over, or at least on the same level as, financial status.

  12. mike
    mike says:

    I disagree. I think that you are receiving comments that are more abrasive and degrading. I don’t know why people feel the need to personally express hatred and anger toward you for trying to offer guidance and assistance to others that are searching for career help/insight/education. I don’t feel you are trying to tell anybody how to live their life or how they should feel, so, its hard to understand how some of these people can become so incensed. I have seen this behavior throughout my entire life ( people openly degrading others as losers because of …you fill in the blank )and have never understood it. Some of these types of people have overcome more humble beginnings but many more in my experiences have come from nice middle income and very upper income backgrounds. Its almost like the juvenile behavior on the playground and on the bus from childhood. It can’t contribute to a healthy relationship with someone because sooner or later that attitude will be deployed against the “love of their life.” They seem to be equally represented in all age demographics. Anyway, such crude comments are not worth listening to. Thanks for the columne Penelope.

  13. Benjamin Bach
    Benjamin Bach says:

    Penelope, age is just a number. Keep up the great work!
    I’m 23 years old, and I teach a weekly personal growth class to people in my office 3 times my age. Age is never an issue… wisdom is timeless :)

  14. MCW
    MCW says:

    Well, you know I have issues with the current free-for-all approach over on Y!Finance blog comments. A few additional thoughts:

    1)as far as blogs go, any comments are better than no comments. Pragmatic but true, IMO. It’s sad how many blogs (including some that are supposedly fairly popular) have few-to-no comments.

    2) The comments nastiness index seems to vary by blog type and blog popularity. Blogs that attract the nasty: very popular blogs; more personal blogs; opinion blogs (including political blogs). By comparison, the corporate or professionals’ blogs get many fewer but generally more polite comments.

    3) Both in terms of the technology and the social norms, I don’t think we all have fully figured out how to cope with the ocean of assholery in online life. Blog comments are just part of it. Per comments specifically, the voting system (like Slashdot and Digg use) is one technical coping method; we need more.

    4) fwiw, blog comments are generally in line with historical trends around customer feedback. The rule-of-thumb with customer sat is that most customers (regardless of whether they are happy, unhappy or neutral) don’t give any feedback, and in general happy customers are less likely to give feedback than unhappy customers.

    5) gender stuff definitely influences this whole dymanic, I’m just don’t have a nice neat summary for that yet. Both women and men can be nasty and bullying online, no doubt. But IME (some) men tend to be more outright insulting (“you idiot” “you’re incompetent”) than (most)women tend to be, and certainly (some) men use more violent language and imagery (ie the Kathy Sierra incident). Both of these more aggressive communication styles can be very jarring to people who have a more restrained comm style.

  15. Neil Fitzgerald
    Neil Fitzgerald says:


    Any advice is likely to be criticized by someone but there is no perfect solution for everyone’s issues. It’s interesting to read how you dealt with the issues you have faced but I’m not going to agree with all of what you have to say.

    With regard to Ryan, the interesting point is just how far from reality. He writes how many early 20’s employees feel, mainly:

    “Where is the career I was promised? I went to University/College and was expecting the career ladder to be paved with gold”

    He misses the fundamental point of thinking what an employer can do for him rather than what he can do for an employer. I was the same until I realised that if I can make myself a valuable asset to my employer, the rewards are better than job hopping hoping for the grass to be greener on the other side.

  16. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    Hey Penelope, I bet you’re delighted to be likened to Paris Hilton! Remember, they meant it as a compliment!

    I think most of what I wanted to say has already been said by others above. I don’t think the comments you linked to were all that abrasive and some of them make some good points – eg. your Yahoo columns should probably link to the original sources, not your blog. Having a blog can only establish you as an expert if you have some expertise to showcase. I think you do and you show it on the blog, but maybe the Yahoo posts need to show more because it’s for a different audience.

    When comments are personally abusive, I think you should either delete or disregard. When it’s someone disagreeing with you, I think that’s okay.

    I think Ryan’s blog is fine for what it is – the hopes and aspirations of a generation in their first jobs just out of college. I think it’s fine when he is writing about his own experience and his hopes, but I’m not sure he is in a position to offer advice yet. To be fair, I don’t think he does, but it does make his postings less valuable.

    Most older people (by which I mean late twenties or older!) probably don’t get a lot out of his postings because we remember what it was like to be 23 and we don’t need to be told. We keep being told that it’s so radically different but speaking as a late Gen X-er (I’m 31), it doesn’t really *sound* that different.

    The main differences between 1997 (my first year out of university) and 2007 are that a) the economy is better so young people have more choices and b) student debt is higher so young people have fewer choices.

    Otherwise, I suspect the experience of being 23 is not all that different to my experience of being 23 in 1999. And I would like to think that the experience I’ve gained in the past eight years counts for something – some of the commenters on Ryan’s posts actually seem to think it’s a *bad thing*.

  17. Chris Kerns
    Chris Kerns says:


    First, if Mother Theresa blogged on Yahoo!, she’d probably get a lot of really nasty comments; that’s just the crowd you find there. Anonymity combined with immaturity makes for a powerfully bad combination.

    While being able to accept and learn from criticism is always a good thing, but “you aren’t old enough” and “you don’t have enough experience” aren’t really constructive or useful, so just ignore them and move on.

    That being said, my guess is that what really draws out the bad comments is that your articles often seem to imply that you know what is best for everyone. Sometimes you make the distinction that someone’s individual situation may call for something different from what you are talking about, but often your statements are not very nuanced and come across as “one size fits all”.

    Put more simply, everyone’s situation is unique, and you sometimes project what is working for you onto other people in a rather absolute way. You have a lot of good ideas and advice, but not all of it is going to appropriate to everyone.

    But never let a Yahoo! comment bring you down. Consider the source.

    Chris Kerns

  18. Dale
    Dale says:

    When you challenge the dominant culture, you’re going to take alot of hits.
    Life is short, so just do good where you can, act “appropriately,” and be true to yourself. This advice is really tough to do on a personal level, it is almost impossible in the public forum – where you exist:)
    That is life.

  19. Matt Bingham
    Matt Bingham says:


    I don’t agree with these comments – To me your ideas fall right into this generation of workforce. I really enjoy your columns and have actually chuckled to myself on how direct you are. You will always get people that complain, that’s just how it works. Keep up the good work!!

  20. Dianne Parham
    Dianne Parham says:

    Well, I’m 56, retied (briefly) and went back to work. I purposefully went from a full time job working pretty much in isolation to take a part time job working with college students. And it’s great! I signed up for Penelope Trunk’s advice because I think she has a lot of sound advice. I don’t think nasty remarks are a reflection of an age group but of a type of personality. It’s easy to be rude and a bully at any age. It’s more difficult to be thoughtful. I don’t agree with 100% of what Penelope Trunk has to say, and some of what she writes doesn’t apply to me…so what? That leaves a lot of information that I can use. If it counts for anything, I’m a baby boomer who is still learning, and will keep on reading Penelope Trunk as long as she keeps on writing.

  21. David Harden
    David Harden says:

    What is interesting about all those comments is that they all say something like “yet ANOTHER…” or “AGAIN, this stinks….” which suggests that these are frequent readers of your blog. My question is: why they would continue reading your columns daily if they thought they were so bad??? I think it is either some people with an agenda against you or supposed know-it-all’s who can’t stand to admit that you’re coming up with good advice. In general, I tend to find your columns useful and interesting. The soft skills advice is helpful to consider when going about my day and I have even taken up following some of your advice on organization (keeping lists, handwritten). I say shake off the “haters” out there and keep doing what you’re doing.

  22. gordon
    gordon says:

    I think that the responses you cited are not well thought out and immature. What can you say to someone that basically says you suck at what you do withour stooping down to their level? It seems to me that those are just inflammatory comments to get your feathers ruffled.

    People will always disagree with your opinions. The more immature ones will post reponses like that. However, It does show that many people out there do disagree, and that some of the advice you offer may not be palatable to some of the more traditional/conservative corporate guys (the average slacker doesn’t read yahoo finance).

  23. Sine qua non
    Sine qua non says:

    Are you kidding me…you’re not gonna get an honest response from the people who SUBSCRIBE TO YOUR BLOG. I can only imagine your regular readers are just as dim-witted and helpless as you are. I read your articles for the same reason I look at accidents on the free way! They’re so bad how can I look away!?

  24. Ana Markovich
    Ana Markovich says:

    I disagree. You are an inspiration to me. I am glad that you are writing a Yahoo column, otherwise I would never have found your blog, I think that the people who post the negative comment are either afraid of change or they believe that we should sacrifice and dedicate our whole lives to our careers. They don't see that our generation doesn't want to sacrifice our happiness for money. We don't want to wait till retirement to enjoy our lives. Our career should be a reflection of who we are.
    Ryan Healy doesn't have a lot of experience, but he knows what he wants and that's enough. Our whole generation values family and happiness more than money. It is not reasonable to work 60 hours pro week, except for entrepreneurs. The 40 hour week law was made for a reason.

  25. Amy
    Amy says:

    OK, I’m 40 something, I have had a traditional corporate career, I am somewhat of a workaholic – but I think Penelope is GREAT. Why? I love the fact that she isn’t afraid to be politically incorrect. She is authentic. She is candid and not “pat” in her answers though her style is breezy and veers (sometimes) a little too close to glib. She writes about the stuff that swirls around in my head but in a way that is articulate and – for me- productive. I’ve recommended her blog to my staff (mostly 30 somethings) and they get a lot out of it too, especially the work/life and parent thing (new parents in my team). I think the folks who gripe about Ryan’s inexperience are missing the point. His expertise is in allowing those of us of a certain age and mindset get a peek into this cohort’s values and concerns. Does he represent a middle/upper middle class elite? most likely – if he had oodles of debt like most grads he might be a little more conservative – but hey, I read it for the insight into a group with which I have very little contact. For that, it’s interesting… And anyway I agree, 60 hours a week is painful – whether you have kids or not. Seeking balance and understanding tradeoffs at a young age is not a bad thing.

  26. Joselle
    Joselle says:

    Penelope, if you got comments like sine qua non’s on your blog constantly, then you’d have a problem. But I chalk up the mudslinging on Yahoo! to be just the nature of the beast. And, from my experience, not just a little bit of good old-fashioned sexism. You’re an attractive and ambitious woman who has, more than once, made no qualms about either and that has a tendency to rile up feathers without fail. For some reason, your posts and some people’s vitriol towards them, reminds me of Liz Phair after she “sold-out.” And well, I really like that album.

    As for the response to Ryan’s posts, although they can be harsh, I think people here really try to engage with him. I actually don’t see many similarities to what you get on Yahoo to what Ryan gets here. Sure, there are some patronizing, “Wait ’til you’re 40, kid,” kind of comments but even those posters respond to the specifics of his posts, which to me suggests that they actually read what he writes. When I’ve seen criticism of you on here, it is specific, an attempt to have a dialogue with you. On Yahoo, I can just tell that they either haven’t read what you’ve said or they simply can’t read.

    BTW, I discovered you on Yahoo. The second I came here, I was hooked. I don’t always agree but what I love is your directness and honesty, even if I don’t always wish it were true.

    * * * * *

    Thank you for this comment, Joselle. I think you’re right that the comments on my blog are not as mean as the comments on Yahoo. Thank goodness, right? I think maybe I just wanted to have a discussion about what people are thinking about all this. And I’m really glad you brought up how sexist the comments on Yahoo are. I have been wanting to say this and haven’t figured out the right way. Thanks for doing it for me. And P.S. I like Liz Phair too.


  27. Adam Ferguson
    Adam Ferguson says:

    The problem is that people are often assured that their way is the best, if not the only. Even someone buried in debt with a crap job and poor family life can convince his or herself that they know what they’re doing and the world is stacked against them.

    If you don’t like what Penelope or Ryan is writing, simply stop reading it.

  28. DougR
    DougR says:

    I love this generation’s lack of patience. For someone like me, with over 20 years of work experience and having to work another 20+ years, this impatience gives me an advantage in the job market and the workplace.

    I am more likely to do a better job of navigating company politics. I have the patience to develop and nurture a network of contacts which gives me an advantage over the competition during the job search. I have the patience to set up a long term financial plan that helps me make better personal and career decisions. I don’t have to be entertained every moment of the day therefore I focus better at work and home. I’ve learned to check my ego at the door. I’ve learned that image means nothing compared to your reputation. I’m more likely to continue building and broadening my work skills. (and there is so much more)

    I love THIS generation of younger competition. Their parents didn’t prepare them for the real world. They’ve had everything handed to them therefore their expectations are way out of whack with reality. I hear it all the time from prospective employers. The reputation of this generation is not positive. That is why you currently see a shift in the job market towards keeping experienced people like me.

  29. David Harden
    David Harden says:

    Oh wow, DougR. You must be an employer’s dream! It’s nice to think that you are all high and mighty and so much better than the younger generation. Oh wait, you’re exactly the type of pompus person that makes the younger generation resentful of their elder co-workers. Why don’t you try appreciating new attitudes and lifestyles rather than demeaning them.

  30. DougR
    DougR says:

    David – I work in the Silicon Valley in software sales. Next to working for one of the brokerages in Manhattan, I haven’t seen a more competitive environment. The Bay Area draws talent from all over the country and the world. These people are highly motivated – check out the Forbes Top 400 list of richest Americans. The billionaire boys from Google are one block away from my employer. Larry Ellison, the richest Californian, is 15 miles up the road. My current executive team is are Stanford, MIT, USC grads. Expectations are high. If you don’t meet them then you are canned. Talk to any ex-Oracle employee. The competition around you isn’t the touchy feely crowd. Results are king and new attitudes are secondary.

    This is the world I live and work in along with about 8 million other people. There is a great quote in the movie Wall Street – if you want a friend, get a dog. Reality sometimes stinks. But it is what it is. Sorry to burst your balloon.

  31. marinade
    marinade says:

    Penelope —

    I have never written a nasty or insulting comment on anyone’s blog. But I think that writers receive an especially negative response when they try to speak for “everyone.” Basically, I agree with a previous commenter: it’s annoying to me that Ryan tries to be a twentysomething everyman, because I’m 22 and I don’t agree with a lot of his views (and know lots of others who wouldn’t), and rarely feel so smug and secure about my decisions. Ryan should speak for himself, about his own life, problems, and decisions, and not try to speak for our entire generation. It’ll be more interesting and more authentic.
    Similarly, you are awesome when you’re speaking only for and about yourself (which is most of the time), but not as good when you try to generalize about what an entire generation wants, or does, or feels.
    Sure, we’re all guilty of thinking we know The Answer For Everyone, but I find that I respect people who try to admit the limits of their views and advice more than those who think they always have it down.

  32. melanie gao
    melanie gao says:

    To take Mike Berry’s analogy a little further, when I read your blog and the comments I feel like I’m in your living room in Smalltown U.S.A. I enjoy listening to what you and Jen and Pirate Jo and Dave and the Recruiting Animal and Ryan and Caitlin and all the others have to say. Even if I don’t agree, everyone is intelligent, interesting, and generally respectful of you and each other. So I like your blog.

    The Yahoo Finance column is like a casino in Vegas. People feel anonymous there, there’s no real sense of community, and people have come there to blow off some steam or else have one last unforgettable weekend with their friends before they get married. That’s a perfect storm I guess because they do blow off some serious steam. They do things they would never do if their family was watching. I don’t like it there.

  33. Tom
    Tom says:

    It’s deffinately the old school Baby Boomer point of view versus the “‘new school” thinking of Gen-Y. Are all of the yahoo finance people too investing in climbing to corporate ladder that they can’t possibly open themselves to understand that us 20 somethings don’t want to work 80 hours a day.

    I just moved to less than full time at my fortune 500 company, something typically done for monthers with young children, not men who don’t have children and just want to travel with their wives.

    I have some AMAZING stories about the comments I get – where gen Y’ers see me as an idol (a trend setter) and Boomers think I’m ruining my career.

    I say keep up the great work Penelope, everyone I tell about your blog loves it and passes it on to their friends. I think the yahoo finance people are too far gone to save to some degree.

    – Tom

  34. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    Penelope, I really enjoy reading this blog and I think it does offer a fresh perspective. Some people like only one perspective (theirs) and are incapable of having a civil debate. I think these online conversations, the back and forth of comments and blogging, would sound completely different in person.

    That being said, I often find myself in disagreement with Ryan and we’re approximately the same age. Although I’d never leave a “you’re so stupid” comment, the tone in his blogs does often come off a little arrogant and naive. Which brings me to my major “beef”: sweeping generalizations or stereotypes about groups of people.

    People like to think that everyone is just like them, that their friends and peers are representative of the vast majority. Sweeping generalizations about generations, genders, ethnicities, professions, etc., may have a modicum of truth but prevent people from thinking deeply about an issue and have them looking for evidence to support their viewpoint rather than challenging it.

    So, I tend to bristle when Ryan tries to validate his point by referring to his group of friends. Usually your friends are fairly similar to you in terms of socioeconomic background, ethnicity, education and are also likely to have the same or similar beliefs, values, hobbies, and ideas about work.

    How does one give career advice/opinion that applies to different industries, different education levels, different goals? I don’t know, but I think emphasizing a “this is what works for me, maybe it will for you” point of view would help. And maybe backing off pitting generation against generation, I don’t think that ever works well.

    People should hopefully approach discussions, like those on this blog, with a sense of mutual respect, humility, and an willingness to learn something new or old.

    Easier said than done I suppose.

  35. Vincent
    Vincent says:

    A friend of mine introduced me to your blog. Your posts provide food for thought for me. I don’t always agree. I don’t always disagree.

    Abrasive posts are from abrasive people. The anonymity provided by the Internet makes it easy for people who are unable to be abrasive in public to be abrasive virtually.

  36. Fran
    Fran says:

    I like your work on the yahoo column.
    Those comments are just stalling you on what you are doing best, which is making great posts.

  37. Mandy Lewis
    Mandy Lewis says:

    It’s funny you bring up this topic, I was just think about it last week. I actually read the comments to your Yahoo articles, not for insight but for comedic relief and as a personal reminder that negative criticism doesn’t always mean you are doing something wrong. The main reason for most of these comments is because people who are a part of the early stages of a paradigm shift (in this case the new face of the work place) are heavily criticized, being told they are nuts, wrong, clueless, etc. Basically humans are creatures of habit and resistant to change, especially if that change means people new to a particular field or task won’t have to go through some of the same BS they had to starting out.

    This is the main reason I LOVE your blog. I have been creating a career as a fisheries/marine biologist in an untraditional manner for the last eight years. I have given up stability (I lived in 8 states in 6 years) to gain massive amounts of varied experience at field stations all over the country. The result is a career I love, memories and experiences you can’t buy and better stories than anyone I know. The best part is that I have a better understanding of who I am and what I want than most thirty year olds. Through all of it though I have had to ignore all the people who said I should settle down and that changing jobs so often would be bad for my career. I have recently been vindicated though, the position I am currently at (a full time biologist with a state agency) and my previous position both hired me mainly for my experience and proven record to be flexible and innovative.

    So keep up the good work and just remember to listen to yourself and know what criticism to ignore. Also people who want to spout off rude comments for every slip up or idea they don’t agree with should think about what it would be like if thousands of people read what they did at work everyday, it takes guts to put new ideas out in the world for public scrutiny.

  38. Aditya
    Aditya says:

    I read your book and follow your blog as well. But I must say that I agree with those negative comments. You don’t need to write unnecessarily rebellious posts to get the publicity.

    I don’t think if I stand in front of the wall by looking at it, my colleagues will think me as a great visionary! This is total crap!

    My colleagues respect me when I work and deliver. Not when I just talk and show off!

    Your thoughts are good, but they dont apply to all fields or career path. So don’t try to make it generic statements for all career paths. some times you need 2 page resume. Accept it. We may be engineers and worked on 5 different projects and 10 different technologies with 5 achievements. I need 2 page resume.

    I dont know why Guy Kawasaki linked your posts and reviewed your book. I think there are 2 reasons –
    1. To get publicity with your readers
    2. To get 2 posts for his blog.

    Seriously, your book is not that worth. Unnecessarily it contains impractical and misguiding advises and suggestions.

    The publicity you got for your book is astonishing, but again, it was by all bloggers to help each other and publicize each other.

    Again, your thoughts are good, but don’t be extreme in any conclusions. You don’t have credibility to speak like that. Your background is different. And your suggestions worked for you doesn’t mean that it will work for everyone. It is never 0 or 1.

    So keep writing, but with real sense. Be practical. Theoretical advises with full of extremism sound good, but do not work.


  39. CA
    CA says:

    What is the easiest form of criticism? Personal criticism. It requires no mental effort. It is the easy way out. Some of the comments on your blog are quite disgusting. I think they are made by uneducated individuals – literate but uneducated.

    Penelope, I have been reading your blog regularly for the last month or so (not in Yahoo though, but at Brazen Careerist blog). I think one of the functions of a writer is to make people think and I think you are doing a decent job at that.

    I do not have to accept or agree with whatever you say. You also may not be an expert, but it’s your blog and you have the right to voice your opinion. I have the option to conduct my own research and form my opinions about the topic you wrote about.

    Differences of opinion encourages debate if people are civilized about it. Both sides benefit at the end of the day. We can also agree to disagree. I have also found that the more popular a blog is, the more abrasive comments can be.

    It is also a perception issue. Our perception is our world. We have formed value judgments about certain topics and the vast majority of people do not even question the premise their values are based on. They just accept it blindly as tradition. Hence, when you say not to “Get a graduate degree” it does not conform to their thinking pattern. Instead of exploring that line of thought objectively, they launch into a personal affronty – the easiest form of criticism.

    Going forward, you have an option: 1. to conform to what your “general readers” like to read or 2. be true to yourself and write your mind honestly. But I am sure you also know that you also have to bear the consequences of your choice.

    One last point: When you deal with inanimate objects it is black and white; 0 and 1. But when you deal with a human, it is no longer 0 and 1; there is an entire spectrum of grey. That would make for an interesting article, wouldn’t it?

  40. Andrey
    Andrey says:

    None, either We – readers or You – writers seem to know exact and ultimate truth about anything.
    Thus, people who know better on the topics written, shouldn’t read them from the writings. Let’s avoid reading their negative comments!
    Still, the writings are very valuable for great many other readers and the popularity is a proof thereto!

  41. Jonathan Ross
    Jonathan Ross says:

    The “established order” always fear change as dispruptive to the status quo. Here you and Ryan are, “radicals” offering a truly better way of perceiving and doing things and so the self-appointed guardians of the status quo feel the need to give negative comment.

    I for one have benefitted greatly from your blog and can only say keep on doing what you are doing.

  42. JR
    JR says:


    I think you’re right on, pretty much all of the time, not half the time as someone else noted.

    I’m a mid-manager in big high-tech. What you’re writing about plays-out every day for us: a different set of values, goals and behaviors that people react to by trying the same thing harder and with more fervor. (If you don’t speak the language, just say it in English louder and slower!)

    The biggest problem I see is that top management in so many places is in complete denial about the generational and cultural shifts that are going on. They’re not necessarily evil; just anchored in their own ways, although often with a healthy dose of hubris. That just doesn’t translate to the people we hire, who see it as a lack of vision and leadership.

    My ray of sunshine: your blog and others help arm me for those daily conversations where I chip away at helping people change perspectives.


    (BTW, I’m 56, still young.)

    * * * * *

    Wow, this is a great comment. It was a nice comment before the last line. But at the last line, I was shocked. You challenged my assumptions about what sort of comment a 56-year-old would leave. Thank you for surprising me and making me think harder about having an open mind.


  43. Mike Lewis
    Mike Lewis says:

    Anne Z. nailed it in her 6/28 comment:
    “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.”


  44. Marcia
    Marcia says:

    I want to comment on JR’s comment. I’ve posted here a few times, and have read your column on Yahoo (and read the comments). I’ve also read Ryan’s stuff, and Anya. I am 52, and I can relate to JR. I managed a department of techies, young and old. A lot of us aren’t trying to bash the Yers, we are trying to understand them. The only way to understand them is to listen to what they have to say and interact with them. I don’t always agree with you. Sometimes I think you are forward-thinking, other times I roll my eyes and think OMG! But that doesn’t really matter. The conversation is what matters.

    Regarding your question for readers: Yahoo is a tough crowd. If you think they pan you, just read the zingers they leave for Robert Kiyosaki! I’m not sure what people are expecting there, but I have come to realize that they generally give the fact-filled, solid, conventional wisdom more stars than the cutting edge stuff. They seem to think an expert should be just that…a tried by fire and came out alive expert. On the flip side, your blog is a softer, sometimes more personal commentary, as someone said, it’s kind of like you’ve invited us into your living room. People go to Yahoo for financial/career advice. They come here to see what Penelope has to say today. I have noticed many of the negative comments are NOT from older people because the poster will reveal his age, so don’t just toss out the bad ones as having come from across the generational divide. An earlier poster said that you would learn more from the “negative” comments, but take them with a grain of salt. I totally agree. Don’t get sidetracked by the posters who express their undying admiration for you. I’d take all those one star comments that say “Blah blah blah” or “This is an expert? So’s my dog” and just toss them out. Focus on the ones where people have actually commented on what you’ve said. I’ve noticed some people misread the article and then bash it based on their misunderstanding…I find those amusing.

  45. Jim
    Jim says:

    I read your column regularly. Sometimes I agree strongly, and sometimes I disagree vehemently. What I don’t do is flame you when I disagree. I don’t understand the ones who do.

    Now for the constructive criticism: If there is one annoying thing I see, it’s the attitude I sometimes detect in your writing that says, “My generation is the only important one, and you fogies have to adapt to us.” It reminds me of the younger half of the baby boomers — you know, the spoiled brats that embarassed the nation and themselves during the Seventies.

    I’m happy that you feel you don’t need the employers as much as they need you. If there are enough younger folks who feel the same way, it will really make consulting work or a half-time job easy for me to find when I retire a few years from now.

    That is because you folks really do need the employers. They seem quite happy these days to hire sixtysomethings who don’t walk around with ipods screwed into their ears and chips on their shoulders. We are, by and large, in better shape than our parents were at this age. We are experienced and our kids are grown up, but we’re not ready for the dog track.

    You’re competing with the old hands. Better put your track shoes on!

  46. Matt Bingham
    Matt Bingham says:

    Personally – I skip most of those comments because they usually have nothing to do with your column. There is one person in particular that it doesn’t matter what you write, he constantly bashes you and your family – which is rediculous. These people take the time to read your article, rate it, and type in a comment just to say that reading your stuff is a waste of time – they constantly criticize about your lack of research but yet the few who actually rebuttle have none. I disagree with them whole hearditly – the yahoo column is titled “Expert Opinion” which to me says that you are writing your opinion on a certain subject and that I may not agree with it. On things that I don’t agree with or have a question on I usually pose it as a question asking for further explanation – you know, have an open mind. The other thing people fail to do is realize that your articles will not pertain to everyone. My best freind is a mechanic – would he follow these rules. Some of them in regards to making a brand – but most of the articles wouldn’t apply. Sorry for the rant but it is very annoying reading through all of those comments. They add absolutely nothing to the column and in return makes it very difficult to weed through.


  47. Dale
    Dale says:

    Amen Matt!
    I believe in healthy constructive debate (Jim’s comment above being one such example), but most of the negative responses to Penny’s posts are just asinine. “You’re wrong and an idiot, I’m right and smart, so there :P ” How stupid and childish can people get? The only positive in this is the fact that it makes this blog more valuable as it highlights difference in the workplace and the world, and the need to manage one’s image in the face of a possibly more vocal, hostile, and competitive workplace.

  48. Jim
    Jim says:

    Okay, I explained what I did not like about P.T.’s column. I don’t want to leave out what I like, and there’s a lot I like.

    Penelope makes the point very often that we shouldn’t plan on spending our whole careers working for one company. I agree completely.

    Loyalty to an employer is fine, but loyalty is a two-way street. Corporations are inherently disloyal to their employees; only individuals have personal feelings like loyalty. The time may come when your employer will lay off several thousand employees. It’s nothing personal; it’s business, as the Godfather said.

    The approach to take is to be honest and give the full measure of work for the pay you receive; and never bad-mouth the company you work for. But realize that the time will eventually come when you will leave. When you do go, leave on good terms! Never poison the well for yourself.

    Build your brand. That is another theme that runs through these columns. It is very good advice. For a scientist, it means building your professional reputation, becoming known for being good at whatever field or fields are your specialty, and being active in your professional society. For a marketing person, it means being good at laying out advertising campaigns and making your association with the campaigns known to others. And so on.

    Gaps in your resume? That’s a tough one. They have to be the right kinds of gaps. I have a four-year gap in mine, but that was when I returned to school for my Ph.D. Some people take a year off to hike the Appalachian Trail. Whether that is seen as good or not depends on their field of work. For a physical training coach it probably is seen as good. For an artist, ditto. For a sales manager? It doesn’t look so good.

    Don’t work 70-hour weeks and let your health go to pot. Take time to take care of yourself. Penelope keeps repeating that, and she keeps getting flak for it. But she is 100% right.

    Others have pointed out that Yahoos like to flame columnists. They even give Ben Stein grief. I’d say it is just something that comes with the territory. It’s not you, Penelope; it’s the audience on Yahoo.

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