When the Internet Speaks, Half-Listen

3445354287_eef9337fab_qAre we living in the information age or the opinion age? It’s hard to tell sometimes. Yes, there are innumerable resources available to us in as little time as it takes to type a few words into a search engine, but for each of those resources there are ten critics. And that’s fine, except for one problem: these critics don’t call themselves critics; they call themselves experts.

One such “expert” is Penelope Trunk, co-founder of the Brazen Careerist. The area of her expertise: why grad school is unnecessary. In her LinkedIn note, she lays out many of the common reasons why people go to graduate school and then explains why these reasons are stupid. These explanations are swift, simple, and if I’m honest, lacking in the thought department.

So your excuse is that your parents are paying? Penelope says, get your parents to buy you a company instead. So you’re going to graduate school for free? No you’re not, says Penelope; you’re spending time! You want an enriching, spiritual journey? Penelope has a great idea for that one: go to therapy.

Some of her conclusions are narrow-minded; in response to the assertion that not everything in life is about your career, she says, “Sure, when you’re a kid, everything is not about careers. But when you grow up, everything is about earning enough money for food and shelter.” Others of her conclusions are just untrue; in response to someone who is considering teaching, she says, “Forget it. There are no teaching jobs.” Are teaching jobs difficult to get? Sure. But there are a few of them out there; any job search engine will tell you that.

In Penelope’s mind, going to grad school is what people do when they can’t find jobs. And finding jobs is something that Penelope is very familiar with. Just check out her LinkedIn profile, and you’ll see that she’s been steadily employed since 1994.

Now, I want you to do something weird for me: try to imagine what your voice sounded like before you went through puberty. Can you? No, you can’t, because when things change, it’s hard to remember what they were like in the first place. This is Penelope’s problem. She can say, “It’s simple. Don’t go to grad school; get a job,” because it’s been a long time since she was a 22-year-old college graduate without any idea what comes next. The employed life is the only one she knows anymore.

Really what all this adds up to is, be careful out there. The internet is full of useful information, but some of what gets called information is really just opinion disguised as a series of firm statements. When you’re a blogger, comments are currency. And you don’t get comments by saying, “Hey, maybe think twice before you decide to go to grad school because it’s not for everyone.” You get comments by saying, “Don’t go to grad school.”

What do you think of Penelope’s arguments? Have you/are you planning on going to grad school? Let us know in the comments.

Photo by flickr user Jorge Quinteros, used under a Creative Commons License.

3 thoughts on “When the Internet Speaks, Half-Listen”

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