Interview Q&A - Master Doc

These are interview questions I've answered over the years -- please feel free to use any facts or quotes! If you're going to republish an interview (or set of questions and answers) please just run it by me first :)

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Idea Mensch

Basilbe.co.uk

TwentiesHacker.com

Q&A with Jenny Blake for Alexis Grant’s The Traveling Writer

Her Campus: How She Got There: Female Career Spotlight

HerExchange.com - March 2011

CareerBuilder.com - April 2011

Everyday Bright - Interview questions for Jenny Blake

3 Tips for Getting What You Want After College - Radio Interview with Kim Iverson

Interview with Dan Schwabel - April 2011

RealityChic.com - March 2011

Your Hidden Potential - March 2011

Post on Dating and Relationships - request for must-haves/deal-breakers:

Moxy Magazine - April 2011

HerFuture.com - March 2011

Renegade Spotlight (DaveUrsillo.com) - March 2011

Questions from Running Press - February 2011

Interview Responses for Treehouses - February 2010

Interview Questions for Tia Singh - October 2010

Personal Development Q&A for Ross Hudgens - July 2010

Brand-Yourself.com Questionnaire - 5/15/10


Idea Mensch

A picture (should be large, at least 1000 pixels in width and 500 pixels in height, ideally with your face towards the right side of image)

Hmmm...I don't have any great ones that fit that description :/ Not sure quite what to do! Here are a few just in case they work...

http://www.problogger.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/jenny_blake_8.jpg

https://picasaweb.google.com/117857293905030743707/ScrapbookPhotos#5630544200115793170 (can send larger file if you think that could work)

I'm doing another photoshoot soon -- depending on when you set this post to run, I could have a new picture by the end of this month.

 

Bio: 200-500 words in third person

Jenny Blake is an author, blogger, life coach and speaker who helps others “Wake up, live big! and love the journey.” She has been featured on Forbes.com, US News & World Report, and CNN.com. Jenny started her blog, LifeAfterCollege.org, in 2005 and translated it into a popular book, Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want (Running Press, 2011), which serves as a portable life coach for 20-somethings. Jenny recently took her own great leap by leaving Google after five and a half years at the company (on the Training, Career Development and Authors@Google teams) to move to New York City and pursue her passions full-time.

 

What are you working on right now?

I'm a true "slash" solopreneur - I'm an author, blogger, speaker, life coach, and now a yoga teacher! I'm most excited about my online courses, Make Sh*t Happen and Design Your Life, and about starting to teach "Geek Yoga" classes in NYC as a way to create community and bring young entrepreneurs together. Finally, super stoked about launching a fun infographic in collaboration with Mint.com called Your Roadmap to Life After College -- an eye-candy CliffsNotes version of my book :)

 

Where did the idea for Life After College come from?

I took a leave of absence from UCLA at the start of my junior year to help start a company with one of my college professors. The experience of leaving school before my friends (and reading over 200 personal development books on things like money, happiness, organization and time-management to get my life in order) inspired me to start my blog, LifeAfterCollege.org that is now a book. The book is a result of working through my own struggles, crisis, depressions and succeses -- I've had many peaks and valleys in my twenties (as most have!) and my blog and book are an attempt to help others feel less alone in their journeys and to push through their fears to go after what they really want in life.

 

What does your typical day look like?

I wake up around 7 or 8 (no alarm whenever possible), read Google Reader posts in bed as I'm waking up, then try go for a run first thing so I start the day off on the right foot. Late morning: answer important emails, then try to be REALLY disciplined about doing PROACTIVE work since the morning is my most productive and creative time. Around mid-day I have lunch and/or go to yoga class, then as my productivity wanes in the afternoon and evening I go back to answering emails and doing light project work. I end the day by reading my favorite guilty-pleasure gossip site to wind-down before bed.

I've been reducing my meeting days to Tuesday and Wednesdays which really helps me focus on proactive, strategic projects the other days of the week. My meetings are a combination of working with coaching clients, networking/getting to know you calls, professional opportunities (speaking, partnerships), interviews (blogs, radio), calls with my intern about the courses, and calls with my mastermind group. Finally, I've been taking Thursday and/or Fridays as my days off, which allows me to feel productive over the weekend when the Internet (and my inbox) seem to slow down a bit.

 

How do you bring ideas to life?

I once had a coach tell me not to get bogged down by the "Tyranny of the Hows." I bring big ideas to life by focusing on the vision first -- getting super clear on what smashing success looks like, and very specific about how I will feel once the idea comes to fruition. Creating a compelling vision gives me the ammo and excitement to move forward, and the hows often naturally fall into place from there.

 

What's one trend that really excites you?

Early career employees starting their own blogs/businesses/presence online, regardless of whether they have a full-time job or not. It's such an empowering way to find your voice in the world, and a fantastic way to build community and make friends. I think it's really helping young people gain confidence to go after what they really want in life, and because of the Internet we have more potential to do that than every before. One of my keynote speeches is "The Ladder is Out: Career in the Age of the App" which is all about ditching the linear template mindset and moving toward a model where we each take full responsibility for the "apps" (skills, experiences, hobbies) that make up our career.

 

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

The worst job I ever had was selling chocolate bars as a kid in San Francisco. If I sold two, I'd get one for free. It sounded great at the time, but in hindsight was terribly unhealthy and a poor use of my talents, even at 10 years old. Pretty soon I started a neighborhood carnival and family newspaper -- those were way more engaging, creative and entrepreneurial. That lesson early on taught me to follow my own ideas and energy, not to just be a puppet for someone else's business.  

 

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I started my website six years ago, and my blog four years ago. If I were starting over, I would have set-up a newsletter WAY earlier (I've only had mine for a year) and would have started selling small passive-income-generating products WAY long ago. It wasn't until I quit Google that I really started monetizing my blog beyond my book -- I can't imagine where I'd be today if I started that 4 years earlier! Then again, the Google salary was a nice boost for the few years that I was growing my audience quietly, and at my own pace without the pressure of having to earn income from it.

 

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Start every day with fresh air + exercise - Running and yoga keep me sane as an entrepreneur. Every morning I lace up my shoes and go for a 20-minute run. No matter how busy you are, you can make time for that. The fresh air and blood flow helps activate my brain for the day (and happy chemicals) and gives me time to think through what my biggest priorities are. Yoga is a life-saver and grounding too -- I make time for that every afternoon.

 

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Becoming a consultant to help coaches and speakers build effective online courses to help monetize their ideas in a semi-passive (after development) way. After working in Training & Development for 5+ years at Google, I loved being able to translate those skills into products and services for my own business, and would love to help others do the same. I use a platform called Ruzuku for my Make Sh*t Happen and Design Your Life courses, and I absolutely love it.

 

Tell us a secret.

I still wear a retainer to bed. It's zebra print. I also still sleep with a teddy bear . . . the same one I've had since I was six years old. He somehow always ends up in the coveted inner spoon position ;-)

 

What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?

Evernote - can't live without it! Helps me track ideas and tasks across all my gadgets. I have a notebook called "Watch/Do/Read" that serves as a nice bucket for things I want to come back to later.

Google Docs - I've created 15+ templates to organize every are of my life. Check out http://lifeaftercollege.org/templates/ to grab any that seem helpful to you!

Droplr - Awesome for easily sending screenshots to people - anything from music playlists to image grabs.

 

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Maximum Achievement by Brian Tracy -- a hidden gem of the personal development world that talks about all the mindsets one needs to be extraordinarily successful (and happy) in life. It's an awesome book. And if you haven't read his more popular book, Eat that Frog, stop everything and purchase a copy right now! That book completely revolutionized the way I structure my day.

 

What's on your playlist?

I make a mix for every season (been doing that since I was in high school), so the playlist tends to change with the weather. For the Winter, I've got lots of Adele, Bon Iver, Florence and the Machine, and anything else you'd hear on Alternative Nation (satellite radio). In the Summer I tend to lean more toward the Vegas/party mixes with pop and rap -- anything that gets me dancing, singing or walking through the streets of New York City as though I'm the star in my own movie, listening to a rockin' soundtrack.

 

If you weren't working on your coaching, speaking and blogging, what would you be doing?

I'm really loving having yoga teaching in the mix -- even though I can't yet see how it fits in business-wise, it just feels right, and it's such a great balance to all the "heady" computer work I do most of the time. I also LOVE the idea of sharing my "medicine" with others and doing it in a way that's fun and not intimidating, and that helps connect people (another passion of mine). My big dream of the moment is to do Thai Yoga Massage training in Thailand, and visit my friend Elisa in Bali. I know I *can* do it -- just need to bite the bullet and book my flights!

One person we should follow on Twitter and why?

@williejackson - killer short, thoughtful blog posts, and always posts helpful links and funny commentary.

 

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

As I was filling out this survey, I told my roommate that once I answered the email I would have achieved the equivalence of a solar/lunar eclipse with shooting stars in every direction and unicorns bounding through the sky -- the mythical Inbox Zero that I'm lucky to reach once every two years. We had a good chuckle picturing all that fanfare -- especially over something as seemingly silly as an email inbox :)

 

Who is your hero?

I am fortunate to have many heros, but one that stands out is Susan Biali, one of my mentors and now good friends. She has been an inspiration to me since Day 1. She’s an MD turned Flamenco-dancing life coach, author and speaker. She is so poised and wise, and generous with her time. She’s been incredibly supportive of me, even before I had any momentum from my blog. Susan has been with me at every step of my process -- getting the book deal, learning the art of being a professional speaker, and learning how to stay healthy, happy and sane in the midst of it all. She’s demonstrated what’s possible for me in this field, and has done it with such grace and courage.

 

A professional question of your choice?(you ask and answer yourself)

At 25 years old, you said you went through a quarter life crisis that sparked your drive to create Life After College, what happened?

I’ve been an overachiever my whole life – it’s a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing in that I’ve done a lot of things; I have big goals and achieve them. And yet the curse is that for a long time, I just went from achievement to achievement, always driving, better, faster and more. By the time I was 25, then again right before I quit Google, I was utterly exhausted. For about 6-8 months after that, I felt completely stuck.  I knew that I would get through it, but it took time.

I realized that no matter what I felt like I "should" be doing to please my manager, parents, society -- the most important thing was that I honor myself, my body and accept that I am a valuable person beneath the shiny veneer of achievement. Now that I'm on my own I'm still very goal-focused, but I put way less pressure on myself to be successful by external measures and much more weight on feeling happy and healthy instead.

 

A personal question of your choice? (same as above)

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

Two of my favorite sayings are “Action is the antidote to despair,” and “You can’t cross the Grand Canyon in two small leaps.” Don’t be afraid to dream big! I like to tell people to “Live big and start small.” Even the biggest dreams have a first step you can take even when you can’t see the full path. Start there, then the next one will reveal itself, and the next, until you eventually have a snowball of success on your hands. Stand tall and shine your light in the world -- when something is right, the universe will roll out the red carpet for you; lean in and let serendipity help do the work (balanced with intentional effort too, of course).

Connect: (how can people connect with you via a link to your site, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.)

Blog: http://LifeAfterCollege.org

Book: http://amzn.to/jennyblake

Twitter: http://twitter.com/jenny_blake

Geek Yoga (NYC): http://GeekYogaNYC.com 

Where are you located?  City + state (if in U.S.) or city + country (if not in the U.S.)

New York, NY

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Basilbe.co.uk

- Tell me a little about you/your life

I blog at LifeAfterCollege.org to help others "Wake up, Live Big and Love the Journey" through a mix of my own personal experiences and practical tools and templates. I recently made one of the hardest decisions of my life -- quit my job at Google after five and a half years -- to build my own business as an author, speaker and life coach. I was terrified that I'd end up in a van down by the river, but I'm thankful to say that so far, 5 months in, I've broken even. Finally, I love dogs, dancing, music, travel, and cupcakes :)

- What is your vision of your best life? (What are you still wanting to achieve: Be that dream work, relationships with family and friends, your ideal home, a lifestyle etc etc)

In my best life I'm waking up every day, going for a run, reading with a nice warm cup of coffee, taking and/or teaching yoga class, reading more, and doing meaningful work (not busy work, and not stressing over the small stuff). I feel like I'm closer to that vision now more than ever, so I'm really trying to focus on enjoying and expanding every moment, and remembering to express my gratitude for all the gitts in my life.

 

- Can you tell us about some of the challenges/obstacles/fears you've faced and how you've tackled them?

My biggest obstacles are usually internal -- I can be my own worst enemy. For a while it was the thought that I'm not smart/pretty/original enough, then when I would succeed, I'd have fears that it was all going to come crashing down at any moment. I'm a highly sensitive person prone to over-thinking and anxiety, so that's why exercise and yoga are so important for keeping me balanced.

 

- Have you ever thought you had everything planned, only for life to show you an alternative?

Absolutely! I thought I had landed my dream job when I was working at Google. I bought a condo, bought a car, and was working in Career Development. And yet, something was missing from my life. I started to feel over-worked and unhappy. Little did I know that those feelings were planting the seeds for me to soon quit my job, rent out my house, and move across the country from SF to NYC to pursue the roller-coaster of self-employment. I left the ladder and the "American Dream" I had created behind in order to live a life of freedom and spontaneity.

- Has there been a 'defining moment' that has changed your life/your view of life?  Or a series of events?  What has been the nudge in the right direction for you?

I had a terrible case of "book block" and even though I had a first draft of my book written in 2008, I couldn't bear to look at it or see it to completion...for SIX months. I felt horrible -- like I was watching my dream die on the vine. Then I decided to "act as if" and attend a local Speaker's Association meeting. While there, I met Michael Larsen -- the author of the book How to Write a Book Proposal -- and he gave me his copy. I realized it was time to get back on the horse and at least TRY to pitch my book idea to literary agents and publishers. That set me on the course I'm on today, where my book eventually was published by Running Press (after 27 rejections from other publishers) in March of this year. I learned that when something is meant to be, spontaneity and opportunity WILL work in your favor, but only if you meet it halfway with your own conscious effort.

 

- If you were to look back and offer advice to yourself, what 3 pearls of wisdom would you share?

Don't be so hard on yourself, and release judgment of others.

Express gratitude often.

Don't sweat the small stuff.

 

- What book, piece of music, blog, quote or person inspires you the most?

Martha Beck is an author and one of my personal idols -- she wrote the books Finding Your Own North Star and Steering by Starlight, which I recommend to every single person I know! I love quotes too -- one of my favorites is "Action is the antidote to despair."

Thanks for featuring me!


TwentiesHacker.com

Name: Jenny Blake

Age: 28

Location: New York City

Brief employment history: Worked at a start-up company for two years (YouGov Amercia), then Google for 5.5 years in Training & Career Development.

 

Current occupation: Solopreneur - author, speaker, life coach, yoga teacher

 

Why did you decide to freelance: I was struggling to keep up with my day job AND my side pursuits (particularly as the book was coming out) - and I knew in my heart and gut that I wanted to try my hand at entrepreneurship at some point in my life. I decided to leave the safety of my corporate job (as terrifying as it was) to give it a shot, knowing that if I failed I'd be able to sleep at night at least knowing I tried.

 

How did you set yourself up: I developed a strong community through my blog and got the necessary certifications (coach training from CTI), and build a strong skillset while at Google. By the time I left, I was able to quickly transition to a coaching/speaking based career, while also promoting my book (which is definitely not the money-maker of the family :)

 

Main pitfalls: There is much more uncertainty to this lifestyle -- I never quite know where my next income will come from, how much it will be, or when. The business also really depends on my health, energy levels and moods, which can feel like a lot of pressure at times. You can't just phone it in on a bad day -- you have to dig deep and really self-motivate.

 

Main advantages: My schedule! I feel so free and able to maximize my time. I only take meetings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I take Thursdays off and I work on weekends if I want to (when everything quiets down). If I'm tired or zoned out, I take a break in the middle of the day. I love being able to follow my body's needs at any given moment, and to make diet and exercise a big part of each day.

 

Would you recommend this career path to a friend: Absolutely - if they felt they had marketable skills that could provide steady(ish) income and they were up for the uncertainty rollercoaster of it.

 

Job satisfaction rating (out of 10): 10

 

Words of wisdom: A saying my dad shared with me long ago: "You can't cross the Grand Canyon in two small leaps."


Q&A with Jenny Blake for Alexis Grant’s The Traveling Writer

http://alexisgrant.com

*Bio and headshots are available at http://JennyBlake.org/About/Jenny-Blake (scroll down for images)

Questions:

1. You’ve recently launched a course called Make Sh*t Happen. Tell us about it!

After people finished my book, Life After College, many had a vision for every area of their life (work, money, fun, etc) but didn’t quite know what to do with it. I created the Make Sh*t Happen course to help people take their “one big dream from improbable idea to inevitable success.” I want to help people set a vision for their goal, build a support network, work through the dips that will surely come up, and learn how to really celebrate and expand the moment once they reach success. I’m thrilled to be able to work with 36 people for the inaugural group, then open it back up in January just in time for New Years Resolutions.

2. You’ve made your own sh*t happen recently -- publishing your first book, leaving your day job to work for yourself and moving to NYC. What are some of your secrets to success?

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received came from a coach who told me not to get bogged down in the “Tyranny of the Hows.” I learned that if I can create a compelling vision for what I want, and if it feels right and soul-stirring in my gut, that I will figure out the how as I go. For example -- I didn’t know how I would make the whole move to NYC happen, but I started taking baby steps and things naturally fell into place in a beautiful way that I couldn’t have even planned for if I had tried.


The other thing I would say comes from Martha Beck, who talks about making decisions or doing things that are “shackles on” versus “shackles off” (in her book Steering by Starlight). She says that if all you do each day is make decisions based on what feels shackles off and freeing, than you’ll be well on your way to living a life of joy and fufillment.

3. You and I have talked about how you figured out financially that you could hack it -- aka pay rent -- by working for yourself. Can you give my readers some insight into that thought process?

The financial piece was the most terrifying part of the decision to leave Google -- I was convinced I’d end up rocking in a corner after making no money on my own. But when I really thought about it, I realized that I was up for the challenge of putting my creative energy and talent toward earning my own income. I’ve succeeded and many things before, so why not now? I’m thrilled to report that while definitely a roller-coaster and very unpredictable, I’ve actually broken even on income to expenses so far.

4. Did you worry about leaving Google -- a super desirable place to work -- after five years there? What finally made you decide to take the risk?

Definitely -- so many people I talked to thought I was crazy to leave. But many of the people I most respected and admired didn’t -- they could see that I had so much potential beyond my day job. I had a friend ask me, “How will you feel one year from now if you haven’t made any changes to your life?” That REALLY kicked me into gear because I knew I would feel full of regret and like I was being hypocritical as someone who speaks and coaches on following yoru dreams.

I also asked myself the question, “If not now, when?” I knew I would regret never trying, even if it meant spending every penny of my savings to see if I was cut out for solopreneurship. I’m thankful to report that the fears are still real but MUCH smaller on the other side.

5. What kind of advice can you give to my readers who are unsatisfied and want to “live big” but are unsure of what their passions are?

Start by making a mind map of everything you love to do and that makes you feel “in the zone.” I got this from one of my favorite exercises, Paul Williams’ Pave Your Life Roadmap. Some other books that have really helped me are Finding Your Own North Star (also by Martha Beck) and How to Be, Do or Have Anything by Laurence Boldt.

6. On your blog, you often talk about setting big goals and planning for success, but the details of daily life are bound to get in the way sometimes. Do you have any strategies that help you remain focused on your big-picture goals?

It’s helpful to have a big, giant 50,000-foot view of what you’re working toward, but don’t feel like you have to bite off more than you can chew at any one time. Focus on making incremental progress day-over-day or week-over-week. Every little bit counts. The other thing that really helps me is prioritizing my most important work -- eating one or two big “frogs” as Brian Tracy calls them during my best energy windows, then getting into reactive work (like emails) later.

7. What made you decide to launch Make Sh*t Happen? Can you give us an idea of what that process looked like?

I realized there was a gap between how I was able to help people -- the blog and book are accessible cost-wise, but not very personalized to the individual. My coaching packages are very hands-on, but tend to be more expensive. I created the course as a way to expand my coaching and reach more individuals in a way that was affordable and fun. “Inspiration at scale” is something I really strive for, and this is a way for me to monetize what I’m doing AND help people go after their most exciting dreams. There’s nothing I love more! It’s so energizing for me -- I feel very lucky to do this work.

8. Give us an idea of what’s next for you. What are your goals for the coming months?

Taking a break! I’m really looking forward to slowing down for a little bit -- I’ve spent so long in a very intense building and creating phase (even after leaving Google) that I’m hoping to enjoy NYC for a little bit and take a more reactive stance on my work for a month or two. I actually think that will help me be more creative and productive in the long-run, not to mention healthy and happy!

Thanks so much for doing this interview -- and to all of you for reading!

You can read more on my blog, Life After College, and at my book website, LACBook.com.

                                        


Her Campus: How She Got There: Female Career Spotlight

Contact: Gennifer Delman [gennifer@hercampus.com]

Thank you for contributing to the Her Campus career profile project “How She Got There.” We are thrilled to include you among our ongoing group of successful women in different fields and industries. Please complete our questionnaire and include a high-resolution .jpg headshot within two weeks of receipt.

Name:
 Jenny Blake


Age (optional):
27

 
Job Title and Description:

Solopreneur; Author/Speaker/Life Coach


College/Major:

Political Science and Communications


Website (if applicable):
 http://lifeaftercollege.org & http://lacbook.com

 
Twitter Handle (if applicable):
 jenny_blake


What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?
My job involves a mix of reading, writing, coaching, interviews and speaking engagements. I’m also currently building an 8-week coaching program to help people take their biggest goal from improbable idea to inevitable success. A typical day starts with a 20 minute run, then I try to tackle my most creative “high thinking” work first -- otherwise I’m too tired later in the day. I restrict my meeting days to Tuesday and Wednesday, which helps me stay really focused during the other days of the week. Afternoons and evenings are for reactive work - responding to various emails and requests. I also try to squeeze in a yoga class whenever possible -- it keeps me sane!

 
What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

My first entry-level job was helping one of my college professors start a political polling company. I *was* the entry level -- it was me and six college professors. I got it by asking my professor if I could be her research assistant after taking her class. We started working together and when the opportunity for the start-up came up, she thought of me. I was ahead in school so I took a leave of absence from UCLA to move home and work. I later went back to finish in the Spring of 2005.

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?

Confidence is so important. Confidence in your ideas, confidence in yourself, and confidence that you can do anything you put your mind to. Be mindful about how you might be holding yourself back with ifs/thens -- WHEN I am older, THEN I can write about things I’m passionate about that. I would also say to allow yourself to be vulnerable and authentic -- and focus on making meaningful connections with others in your industry (whether it’s blogging, writing or anything else).


Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?
Susan Biali, one of my mentors and now good friends, has been an inspiration to me since Day 1. She’s an MD turned Flamenco-dancing life coach, author and speaker. She is so poised and wise, and generous with her time. She’s been incredibly supportive of me, even before I had any momentum from my blog. Susan has been with me at every step of my process -- getting the book deal, learning the art of being a professional speaker, and learning how to stay healthy, happy and sane in the midst of it all. She’s demonstrated what’s possible for me in this field, and has done it with such grace and courage.


What words of wisdom (well-known quotes, an anecdote from your boss) do you find most valuable?

“Action is the antidote to despair,” and “You can’t cross the Grand Canyon in two small leaps.” Don’t be afraid to dream big! I like to tell people to “Live big and start small.” Even the biggest dreams have a first step you can take even when you can’t see the full path. Start there, then the next one will reveal itself, and the next, until you eventually have a snowball of success on your hands.


What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
Not resting enough. I was working full-time at Google while writing my book and maintaining my blog, and as much as I tried to keep my life balanced, I burned out several times and came to a grinding halt. It’s so important to build in more rest and recovery than you think you need -- especially if you’re tackling a side hustle like I was.  


What is the best part of your job?

Inspiring people to live their lives to the fullest; getting amazing “keeper” emails from people who say that I’ve helped or inspired them in some way. It fills me up with gratitude and strengths my commitment to doing this work every single day.

 

How important is it that college students engage in philanthropic work?

It’s up to each individual when they find philanthropy and what form it takes -- for me personally it was really moving for me and gave me perspective on my own life. It made me grateful for everything I have and helped me make some great professional connections as well.

What do you look for when hiring someone? What qualities stand out?

Motivated, smart, passionate about their life and their work. Someone who loves learning, and who wants to make a positive impact on others. Someone who is creative and proactively comes up with new ideas for ways to make improvements, and someone who isn’t afraid to renegotiate deadlines and commitments if they’re having trouble meeting them (rather than just letting them slide).


What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

Whatever it is that you want to do in 5 or 10 years -- find a way to start NOW. If you want to be an author, start a blog. If you want to start a blog, start keeping a notebook with thoughts and ideas. Set up a Tumblr account. You won’t go from zero to smash success overnight, so look for ways that you can start building what you love, one little step at a time. And definitely reach out to others you admire in the field -- ask them for 15 minutes of their time (respect that limit) and see what advice they might have for you. Finally, set a vision for what you want before you get bogged down in the “hows.” What do you want to create? What would it bring into your life? In what ways are you already there?

You got this!

HerExchange.com - March 2011

Jenny Blake, author, entrepreneur and career development coach at Google, has created as close to a ‘real world manual’ as you could ever hope to find in Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want.  This isn’t a ‘sit on the sidelines’ kind of book – it is totally interactive and will force you to get real about what really matters.

Are you ready??

 

SG: Your book is titled Life After College, but the guidance you provide to finding your passion feels ageless.

JB: Absolutely!  I wanted to write a book that’s about living life to the fullest and working through a process to discover what really matters to you – the lessons and exercises apply to everyone!

 

SG: The book takes a very holistic look at a person’s life, was this always how you approached life or did you develop this awareness?

JB:  I developed it over time. When I left college, I was working in a start-up and I read every book that I could get my hands on; books on leadership, high management, finances, because I wanted to optimize all of those skills.  In my reading, I realized that the books were very distinct; one book on career, another on relationships, but those areas aren’t separate – we are living one, whole, life.

 

SG: At 25 years old, you said you went through a quarter life crisis that sparked your drive to create Life After College, what happened?

JB: I’ve been an overachiever my whole life – it’s a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing in that I’ve done a lot of things; I have big goals and achieve them. And yet the curse is that for a long time, I just went from achievement to achievement, always driving, better, faster and more. Trying to get good grades and do all of the extracurricular activities, push to get a job right out of school and move up the ladder quickly, becoming a manager by the time I was 24.

By the time I was 25 I thought, I have a great job, I have great friends, and it’s all good. But I was utterly exhausted and I realized that I did not know who I was outside of my achievements. For about 6-8 months after that, I felt completely stuck.  I knew that I would get through it, but it took time. And now looking back I’m so thankful to have had that experience, the book is so much better because of it. Life After College gives people the tools not to prevent those times, but to work through them.

 

SG: It takes courage to share your life openly, I totally get it!  How does it feel for you, to be authentic about the evolution you’ve gone through, including crisis?

JB: At first I was mortified!  Yet, when I talked about my crisis, it always got the biggest response.  On my blog, I wrote an open letter to love, and I said I am sick of you. I am sick of looking for you – I’m going to go enjoy my life for a bit. I’ve felt great ever since, it has been wonderful. The support I get from everyone is terrific.  I recommend everyone get real with and about themselves.

 

SG: As a classic ‘type A personality’ goal setting is critical for you. What’s a goal you’ve set that you’re particularly proud of reaching?

JB: This book is a huge accomplishment, and a big part of the success is not getting bogged down in the ‘how’.  For a while I was so worried with how to find a publisher, how to promote it, but I hadn’t even finished writing it!  I share with people, just look one to two steps ahead and keep moving, don’t get lost in ‘how.’

 

SG: There is a section in the book about finding balance – but, are you balanced?

JB: I have to constantly remind myself to not just wake up and respond, react, respond, react and rush around. Have intention and think about building a life, not just a career.

 

SG: There is also a section on money and finances, what is your best money advice?

JB: Denial is not a financial management strategy. By ignoring your credit card or ignoring the fact that you don’t know how to manage your money, that’s not going to help anyone. Knowledge is power.  You don’t need to be a financial wiz, but you need to have a basic handle on what’s coming in and what’s going out and set goals around that.

 

SG: Something I love is your discussion of people operating in excellence vs. genius. How do you encourage someone to recognize what place they’re in?

JB: Yes, high performers often find themselves operating in excellence, doing really well but not pushing it that extra mile to genius.  I’m almost a broken record in terms of telling people to trust their gut.  I ask coaching clients, “What is your head say, what does your heart say, and what does your gut say?”  My head might say, “This is a great job, you’re doing great work, this is perfect.” But, my heart might say something different and your gut might say something different, too. Deep down, you know when you’re operating, and living, at your genius.

Are you living at your genius?  You can.  You must first believe it’s possible.  Then, use the tools that Jenny shares in Life After College to unravel your passion – and then GO FOR IT!

CareerBuilder.com - April 2011

-What advice do you have for new graduates whose job search may take longer than expected?

Hang in there and focus on creating value in your life even outside of your job search. For example, start a blog, take some classes, join networking groups -- find activities that will add value to your resume and your life -- which will hopefully take some of the pressure off of relying solely on your job search to provide validation and satisfaction. Besides, you never know when you might meet a fruitful contact through any of those venues!

-How can new grads put their best foot forward in an interview with a potential employer?

To the extent possible, just be yourself -- no matter how nervous you may feel. Remember that interviews are a two-way street -- you want to see if the company is a fit for you as much as you might be trying to impress them. Take three long, deep breaths before your interview to work out any nervous energy that might be building. The more natural and authentic you can be, the better. And don't forget to smile!

-The job market is getting better, but it’s still tough. Should a new graduate accept the first job they are offered, even if it’s not their ideal?

This will vary for each individual depending on their current financial situation (living with parents or paying rent?) and risk tolerance. The important thing to remember is that it's not the end of the world if you don't end up madly in love with your first job -- focus on the skills you are learning that will serve you for the rest of your career, and know that you can always correct course with the next gig. Think of building a career like managing your smart phone -- what apps can you download (skills, experiences, education) at each phase that will serve you down the road?

-In general, what’s the best advice you have for new college graduates

Do not limit yourself to what you think is possible - you are capable of so much more than you even realize. Focus on what you want to create in your life, and try not to be bogged down by the "tyranny of the hows." You may not see every step of your path defined at the outset (in fact most of the time you won't), but if you can start small and start somewhere, things will unfold naturally. Finally, trust your gut and don't be afraid to take great leaps!

Attribution: Jenny Blake, author of Life After College (you could also link to my blog, LifeAfterCollege.org which has lots of helpful templates for college grads -- including a Job Interview One-Sheeter and Four-Step Budget template)

Everyday Bright - Interview questions for Jenny Blake

1. I knew I was going to like this book when I got excited reading the Introduction.  You talk about the blessing and curse of being motivated by achievement.  You say, “As soon as I turned 25, I realized I was utterly exhausted.  I didn’t know how to maintain the same cycle of achievement, and I became incredibly sad and tired.  I knew I couldn’t maintain that frenzied pace for the rest of my life.”  

Tell me more about that: was it a sudden realization? Did someone say something to you?  Because that’s actually a huge realization that many achievement junkies never get to.

It was sudden in that I literally could not muster the strength to do ANYTHING. I had finished a draft of my book, and I couldn’t bear to look at it for six months. I felt tired to the core -- unhappy in my role, and as I described in my journal at the time, “a dreadful hum of anxiety permeated my day-to-day activities.” No one had to say anything because I could feel in my gut that something wasn’t right.

I realized that I had defined myself by my achievements for so long that I didn’t know who I was without them -- I didn’t feel worthy of love and respect for just being ME -- which is sad looking back, but true. That’s when I realized I NEEDED to take time off and just feel my feelings...and now it’s a much better book because of it. I’m also a more compassionate coach and friend because I know what it’s like to hit emotional lows that seem to come out of nowhere. For other achievement junkies, there’s a fascinating description in the Enneagram Type 3 Personality Profile. I cried the first time I read that because it was so true for me.

2.  You go on to say that you broke the cycle by getting clarity on your purpose in life, ultimately getting hired as a career development program manager at Google.  How did clarity help you land your dream job?

Clarity, time and compassion helped me dig deep and be honest with myself about what was and wasn’t working in my life. Clarity did not come overnight -- it took almost a year (at least for this dip) -- but little by little I started filling in my vision. The analogy of a puzzle just came to me -- first you click in the edges: what’s the big container? I knew I wanted to work with people and inspire them through practical tools and coaching. Then from there, you can start to hone in on the smaller, middle pieces -- the “how” of what that might actually look like. After I got clear on what I really wanted, I was able to have the right conversations at work, show my interest through blogging (and nail my interviews because of my demonstrated passion outside of work) -- which all converged to help me land my dream gig.

3. Speaking of clarity, how do you handle your achievement tendencies now?  What’s different?  You say your personal motto is “Live Big!”  That still sounds like an achievement mentality.

Live Big! to me means taking risks - not shying away from life or big opportunities. It means giving ourselves full credit, recognition and permission to live our lives to the fullest - whatever that might mean. And you’re right -- there’s probably still an undertone of over-achieving in there :)

Now I really try to heed Tony Schwartz’s advice (the author of The Power of Full Engagement, which is all about managing your energy). He recommends that people ditch the marathon mindset and focus on sprints and recoveries instead. Big projects and goals require big sprints -- and they often feel great while we’re pursuing them. But it’s critical to balance out those intense periods with build in recovery. Not one night off per month -- ACTUAL recovery.

I’m still learning to do this because I love what I do, so it’s easy for me to get caught in the trap of working around the clock. But building in recovery periods in advance is what allows for sustainability in the long-term. I had a complete break-down three weeks before my book came out because I hadn’t done this. Lesson learned...AGAIN!

4. One of my favorite exercises in the book is the one on personal values.  You list yours as Freedom, Service, Physical Vitality, Gratitude, Growth, Cupcakes!, Clean-Burning Fire, and Ride the Wild Tiger.  I love the originality--that must make them more meaningful.  But I noticed that the exercise calls for you to prioritize your top 5, and you list 8.  How do you prioritize and balance your values?  Is there such as thing as too much for this exercise?

Thank you! I think prioritizing is good because it makes it easier for us to focus and remain clear on the core driving principles. That said, I did cheat and include 8 :) I developed these over several years, and found myself adding to the list. Different values show up in different contexts -- service is about my career aspirations, whereas cupcakes is part of creating balance and cultivating joy. I suggest people narrow their list to 10, then write them on post-its and re-order over a period of weeks (if not months) based on what feels most true for them.

5. I LOVE the work section of the book.  One recommendation you offer is to embrace the side hustle.  How can someone who isn’t entirely happy in their current job take advantage of the side hustle concept?

The key to developing a side hustle is ditching perfectionism and all or nothing thinking. Oftentimes people feel like they have to pursue their passion full-time, or they can’t do anything. Just start somewhere -- something is better than nothing. Experiment and carve out one hour a week to work on something you care about. That may very well snowball over time if it’s working, and if it isn’t, try something new! Side hustles are great because they give people creative control over their own life and abilities. I also just wrote a post on the practical side of how to manage a pet project or side venture: 6 Ways to Manage a Side Hustle Without Going Insane.  

6. If there was just one lesson learned that someone, regardless of age, could take away from your book, what would you want it to be?

You don’t have to see the whole path ahead in order to do big things. In fact, it’s inherent to the process of a big goal that you WON’T see the whole path. That’s what makes it exhilarating and worth pursuing! Trust that the steps will reveal themselves as they’re ready, and don’t get bogged down in the “tyranny of the hows” as one of my coaches once said to me. Just start! Flesh out the big picture vision and identify the ONE step you can take tomorrow to move you toward something you really want.

Link to bio:

http://www.lacbook.com/about-jenny/

Shorter version:

Jenny Blake is an author, blogger and life coach. Her newly-released book, Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want, is a “portable life coach for twenty-somethings” that features practical tips, quotes and coaching exercises for every area of someone’s life. She has also worked at Google for over five years in Training & Career Development and is currently on a three and a half month sabbatical so that she can travel around the country for her 14-city book tour. Read more at her blog (LifeAfterCollege.org), her book website (LACBook.com) and follower her on Twitter @jenny_blake.

3 Tips for Getting What You Want After College - Radio Interview with Kim Iverson

1) Give yourself the freedom to explore what really matters to you (I'll share examples: mind-mapping, filling out exercises like the ones in the book)

2) Ditch perfectionism and all or nothing thinking; start somewhere -- something is better than nothing (goes for a job, exercise, pursuing interests and activities)

3) Turn life's biggest challenges into questions. "I'm stressed about money" becomes "How can I make additional income?" or "I don't know what I want to do with my life" becomes "How can I feel more engaged and passionate?" I write these questions and stick them to the back of my door (or a journal) - revisit from time to time or when you have answers that pop up (my dad and I refer to this as "dropping the bucket" into the well of your brain -- it will come up with an answer when ready)

Jenny Blake is an author, blogger and life coach. Her newly-released book, Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want, is a “portable life coach for twenty-somethings” that features practical tips, quotes and coaching exercises for every area of someone’s life. She has also worked at Google for over five years in Training & Career Development and is currently on a three and a half month sabbatical so that she can travel around the country for her 14-city book tour.

Interview with Dan Schwabel - April 2011

How did you know what to do when you graduated college?

I got lucky in that an opportunity fell into my lap -- one of my professors was starting an online political polling company and she asked if I wanted to help. I was still in school, so I took a leave of absence to move home and work there as the first employee. I did know that I wanted to be doing something exciting related to the 2004 election, and this happened to fit that criteria even though it wasn't working directly on a presidential campaign. I recommend that soon-to-be-grads make a list (or a mind map) of everything under the sun that interests them. So often people think they need to have the answer to that question right away -- start by brainstorming as many ideas as possible, then look for themes and narrow down.

How does a recent grad decide if they should start their own business, continue to graduate school or start working full-time for a company?

For me this is a question of learning, energy and readiness. Where will you get the most learning? Which of those three gives you the most energy or excitement? And finally, if you're interested in all three -- which is most compelling, and is there a way to build in the other two later on? Each of us operates on a different set of values and preferences -- some thrive in an environment like graduate school, while others love learning from co-workers and peers at a large company. On the other hand, if you're feeling ON FIRE about an idea or passion for your own company and you can see a way to monetize that passion, there's no better time than when you're young to take some big risks!

What are the three most important thing that a young professional should know about the workplace before entering it?

1) Get comfortable with ambiguity, and with adapting to change. You will not always know EXACTLY what is expected of you, or how to complete a project. You've got to trust your gut and take some chances -- don't look to your manager to provide 100% guidance 100% of the time.

2) Be proactive -- make yourself known as a problem-solver. Ask how you can pitch-in and help your manager or team. If something is wrong, don't just complain - start thinking about how you can fix it.

3) No job is worth compromising your integrity or your sanity. Make sure you're taking care of yourself -- getting enough sleep, exercising, focusing on life outside of work. You're in the working world for a long time -- even though some jobs are very demanding, do everything you can to ensure that you're not compromising your health or happiness.

Is it really possible to plan your life out or do you have to just let things happen?

Different people have different preferences for how much of a plan they want to follow -- for me, it's a mix of both. I like to have 2-3 big goals that I'm working toward at any given time that connect to a broader vision for my life (inspiring/helping others, travel, spending time with friends and family) -- but I try not to get too regimented about how I get there. Life will often throw curve-balls, so taking a flexible approach works best for me. Besides, sometimes those curve-balls end up leading me down an even better unexpected path!

Why should a young professional think about the big picture of life and not just the details?

It's so easy for us to get lost in the weeds of our lives -- emails, errands, small stuff. My goal is to help people focus on what really matters to them -- what are their top values and priorities? What kind of life do they really want? What types of people and activities bring them joy? That's the big picture, and when you can focus on that 10,000-foot view, it makes it so much easier to help the details fall into place.

RealityChic.com - March 2011

First, I must say a big CONGRATULATIONS to you!!

What is the most exciting part about seeing your new book Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want on bookshelves and on Amazon?!

Thank you so much!! The most exciting thing is seeing my book in physical form -- it lived in my computer for so long that it’s such a trip to be able to hold it in my hands. It’s real! I still find it hard to believe. It even has a great new book smell :D

Why do you think life after college can be so confusing or such a difficult transition for many 20 somethings?

Christine Hassler (author of 20 something, 20 everything) put it really well -- she describes the feeling of the post-graduation depression as an “expectation hangover.” It can be hard for people to contrast the way people envisioned their life after college with what the actual reality. They find themselves feeling disappointed and confused, and it’s not always clear how to solve the problem/s or move forward. That’s why I think personal reflection exercises are so important - they allow people to articulate those fuzzy visions living up in the attics of their brain.

What do you hope people can learn or gain from your new book?

My hope is that people will walk away feeling inspired to make positive changes in their lives and take some risks! I want people to feel like they have a handle on the nuts and bolts so that it frees up their energy to go out and do big things. I want people to walk away feeling more confident and inspired than when they started - armed with practical tools and inspiring quotes to really move them forward in a positive direction.

If you could give one piece of advice to a recent graduate who might not be happy in their career what would it be?

Start experimenting with projects and activities outside of work, and ask your manager if you can take on some new/different projects at work. It doesn’t always have to be all or nothing -- sometimes small changes can make a big difference. For people who are really stuck, I always recommend asking, “What ONE change would make the biggest impact on my overall happiness?”

Has starting your blog Life After College changed your life for the better?

It has absolutely changed my life for the better! No doubt about it. It’s given me a voice, and it’s helped me develop my own thoughts and ideas, outside of the company I work for. I am also so thankful for all of the wonderful friends I’ve made through blogging -- it’s introduced me to the most incredible community of young go-getters and entrepreneurs.

Do you have any thoughts or advice for other Gen Y bloggers who want to grow their blog or eventually write a book?

For growing your blog - you will find your voice as you go. Focus on building relationships with others, and on putting out quality content. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have big numbers right away - there’s so much value in blogging even if you have a tiny readership. Try to enjoy it for the process, not just the outcome. The same goes for writing a book! Start small - just start writing. Don’t feel like you have to write the whole book at once. You might also start by keeping a list of “thought-starters” as writing prompts, then setting a goal to flesh out 1-2 a week.

I have to get in at least two style questions! What clothing item can you absolutely not live without?

I love it! My nude Christian Louboutin patent pumps. They make me feel like a million trillion dollars and I would never want to live without them! But those aren’t necessarily an everyday item. My daily can’t live withouts are white t-shirts, yoga pants, and nice cozy sweaters. I know I cheated and listed like five things :)

What is your favorite go to outfit, and how many hours or minutes did it take you to choose your first book signing look?

Favorite go-to outfit: black skinny jeans, cute over-the-knee boots, t-shirt of some kind and a blazer or sweater. Choosing my book signing look was actually easier than I expected! I had just spent a day with stylist who helped me get all set on great book-related outfits. I ended up wearing black pants, my peacock blue patent Louboutin’s (other splurge purchase!), a bright purple shirt, and a black blazer. I felt very author-y! And very Carrie Bradshaw in my shoes :)

Last but not least, are you celebrating your book release with cupcakes?!!

ABSOLUTELY!!! They will be at every stop if I have anything to do with it :) I ordered $250 of cupcakes for the book launch party -- worth every penny!

Your Hidden Potential - March 2011

Hi Jenny, First of all, Congrats about the launch of your book, You're all over the internet, How are you doing today?

Doing great! I'm answering this on launch day - which has been incredibly exciting. I'm beyond grateful for all of the suppor the book has received so far -- blown away.

To those who don't know much about you, Can you give us some background information about yourself?  

Sure! I am a life coach, blogger, yoga teacher, and now author :) I wrote this book while working at Google full time. Most recently I was a Career Development Program Manager and internal coach -- now I'm on a 3 month sabbatical so that I can focus on promoting the book. Prior to Google, I took a leave of absence from UCLA at the start of my junior year to help start a company with one of my college professors. The experience of leaving school before my friends (and reading over 200 personal development books on things like money, happiness, organization and time-management) inspired me to start my blog, LifeAfterCollege.org that is now a book.

How has the experience being so far, What opportunities has it brought you?

It's been incredible. Don't get me wrong -- I've had lots of stressful moments too - times where I was ready to give up, or where I thought the whole thing would fall apart. But pushing through those taught me the power of perseverance. I have learned so much about myself through this journey - and it's crazy to see it all wrapped up in one 6x9 package that I can now share with the world.  

Let's talk about your book: Life After College: The Complete Guide To Getting What You Want, What is it all about?

Life After College is a compilation of tips, quotes and exercises, divided into chapters for every major life area. Chapter categories include life (values, goals), work, money, organization, home, friends & family, dating & relationships, health, fun & relaxation, and personal growth. The idea is not to provide nuts and bolts so much as big picture inspiration to help people dream big and go after what they really want.

What would you say makes this book different and effective than maybe other development and coaching books for young professionals?

This book is very punchy and straightforward -- I really tried to cut out all of the narrative that lots of other books seem to have. I wrote this for the ADD generation -- the format is tips, quotes, coaching exercises and recommended books for every area of someone's life. People can open the book to any page and hopefully find something useful. I also think the coaching exercises will really help people create their own vision for their lives -- that's the part I'm most excited about.

Not everyone understands how much discipline it takes to finish a book, so i wanted to know what are some of the things you did to add structure and discipline in completing the book?How has the journey been so far?

It really helped to take two weeks off work when I started -- it was during the Christmas holiday so it wasn't a big deal. That allowed me to really focus for multiple days in a row. You're absolutely right -- it takes a lot of discipline, but it was all worth it. Other things that helped were finding friends who also wanted to hang out and work on creative projects at the same time. It helped me feel less isolated and gave me someone to bounce ideas off of when I got stuck.

You're also putting together a book tour, when will that be happening?

The book tour is self-funded and self-planned (the publisher doesn't really help with that), so I will be mostly going to places where I have large pockets of friends and readers. I'll be headed to 14 cities total, including New York, Boston, Maine, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Los Vegas and even London! You can see the full schedule here.

What tips could you give readers especially those that are on the verge of finishing school?

Set aside one hour each week (either alone or with friends) to do some big picture visioning - what is most important to you? What three goals do you want to reach for in the coming year? Oftentimes we get so bogged down in our daily lives that we lose perspective on what really matters to us. I would also say trust your gut -- learn to listen to your instincts and it will help you find people and opportunities that are a great fit.

Where can we purchase a copy of the book?

Thanks for asking! You can purchase a copy on Amazon (http://amzn.to/jennyblake) or at a bookstore near you. You can also learn more about the book on my book website (http://LACBook.com) and on my blog (http://LifeAfterCollege.org). Thanks so much for the great interview!

 

Post on Dating and Relationships - request for must-haves/deal-breakers:

Must haves: respectful, kind, driven, loyal/trustworthy, good communicator, supportive, optimistic, passionate about something!

Nice to have: athletic, loves watching football, loves dogs, doesn't mind that I don't cook, tolerates my cupcake obsession

Deal breakers: addictions, smoking, anger issues, pessimistic

Moxy Magazine - April 2011

Why did you write Life After College? Tell me a little bit about your educational and professional life before you began working on the book–what inspired it?

I wrote the book over a period of two and a half years, so a lot contributed. The first influential event was taking a leave of absence from UCLA at the start of my junior year to help start a company with one of my college professors. The experience of leaving school before my friends inspired me to research as much as I possibly could about how to be successful - I read over 200 books on business, personal finance, organization, happiness, etc. Then I hit my quarterlife crisis around age 25, while I was writing the book. From that, I wanted to share my highs and lows in service of helping other twenty-somethings work through what can be a very overwhelming time.

 

April’s issue of Moxy is on organization–essentially, Life after College is about how to do that on the big scale. Can you offer us one or two top tips for getting it all together?

Write everything down (I use Google Docs, Todoist.com and TeuxDeux.com) and tackle the biggest clutter areas of your life on a recurring basis. Clutter could be physical (stacks of paper piling up) or mental (systems that are broken and causing stress). Be constantly looking for areas that are not running as smoothly as they could be and ask yourself, "What ONE change would make the biggest impact on this area?"

 

And now some questions about how you got here…

What was your first job?

My first job was writing for a local newspaper, The Los Altos Town Crier, when I was 16.

 

What did you like or dislike about your previous job(s)?

I love working with people, whether it's in-class training, coaching or speaking. I realized that I don't like being buried in powerpoint or other non-people related tasks (even though I do love simplifying complex systems and creating structure to support scaleable training/speaking/coaching).

 

What has been your biggest challenge, either in your personal life or your professional life? (Have you overcome it?)

My biggest challenge has been pacing myself. I enjoy having a full plate and setting big, giant stretch goals for myself, but that can easily lead to burnout if I'm not careful. I'm still in the process of learning how to build in ample breaks and recovery time. It's so important! The only way to stay sane and still do what I love :)

What has been your biggest accomplishment (other than or in addition to Life After College)?

I'd say it's a tie between running the marathon and buying my condo -- both of which I did when I was 24. At the time, both felt utterly impossible. Like life dreams that were meant for other people, not me. I realized that with some planning, dedication and support from friends and family that both were possible. They forever changed my thinking about what is possible for my life -- which is a large part of what motivated me to write and find a publisher for my book.  

Other than appearance, what is the first thing that people notice about you?

My smile and my enthusiasm. Although I'm certainly not always happy, I really do try my best to be a "clean-burning fire" in the world and leave a positive impact on people.

 

What's the one thing about you few people know?

I have an irrational fear of fish. I hate snorkeling, don't eat fish, and I won't get into a lake if I can actually see fish swimming around in it. Finishing the swim portion of my triathlon was a small miracle!

 

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A journalist or TV reporter.

 

Who were your childhood heroes? Why?

I love Wonder Woman and Lois Lane. Both were strong, powerful, smart and sexy! I'm all about throwing a little spice into life :D

 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

"Take great leaps early" from my Dad, which is a reference to one of his favorite quotes: "You can't cross the Grand Canyon in two small leaps."

 

What advice would you give other professional women based on your own experiences?

Live big and start small. Don't hold yourself back -- identify what's important to you and go after it! If you have a case of "the jealousies" or you find yourself scared out of your mind, it's probably a sign that you're on the right track! That said, don't try to bite off a giant goal all at once. Take baby steps -- start small and just focus on the 1-2 steps in front of you.

 

What’s your next big dream or goal? When/how do you expect to make it a reality?

I would like to find a way to work for myself and be location independent. I've been at Google for five years and am currently on sabbatical -- trying to leave this time really open to just exploring and being spontaneous. Not sure when I'll make the leap to self-employment, but it's definitely in the cards long term!

HerFuture.com - March 2011

Bio:

Jenny Blake is an author, blogger, life coach, Googler and yoga teacher. She has worked at Google for over five years in training, coaching & career development and is currently on a three-month sabbatical for her self-funded book tour. Prior to Google and halfway through her junior year at UCLA, Jenny took a leave of absence to help launch a political polling start-up company with her college professor and mentor. She returned to finish at UCLA in the spring of 2005.

The experience of leaving school before her friends inspired her to start a blog, LifeAfterCollege.org, which she has now translated into a book. Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want is a portable life coach for 20-somethings, filled with tips, quotes and coaching exercises to help people focus on the BIG picture of their lives…not just the details. Read more about the book on her book website, organize your life with one of her infamous templates or follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake.

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Interview with Jenny Blake, Author of Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want

What is your book about and what inspired the unique format?

Life After College is a compilation of tips, quotes and exercises trimmed to the essence, divided into chapters for every major life area. Chapter categories include life (values, goals), work, money, organization, home, friends & family, dating & relationships, health, fun & relaxation, and personal growth. While geared toward college graduates, the rapid-fire tips, quotes and interactive coaching exercises would serve anyone looking to find some clarity and direction in their life.

I wanted to write a book that would not only be fun to read, but that would provide immediate, tangible value to people through a variety o tips, quotes and coaching exercises. The books that have changed my life really force me to think and get clear on what I really want, and allow me to take action based on what I’m learning. I also wanted the format to be inviting - to allow people to jump in at any point, wherever they most needed to put some attention in their life.

How do you relate to Life After College? What experiences or lessons led to you becoming a life coach and blogger?

I received five coaching sessions through Google in 2007 and although this might sound cheesy, those sessions completely changed my life. Through coaching, I got really clear on what is most important to me -- and realized that I wanted to make an impact by helping people live happy, well-rounded lives (through simple, practical tools & tips). It inspired me to start blogging, attend coach training, and join the Career Development team at Google. Given the tremendous impact coaching had on my life, I feel absolutely privileged for the opportunity to help others in a similar way.

What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received?

Take great leaps early -- from my dad. He’s told me for as long as I can remember the quote that “You can’t cross the Grand Canyon in two small leaps.” And it serves as a reminder for me to take risks and to go after big dreams with all that I’ve got. My personal motto is Live Big! which I think encapsulates this mindset well.

In the exercise “Make Envy Work for You," you talk about the upside of jealousy, which is not usually seen as a positive thing. What's the story there?

This is one of my favorite exercises. We often beat ourselves up for getting jealous of people, but I actually think it can be really informative to look at what we are envious of -- my friend calls this "The Jealousies."

Even though I often refer to the saying, “comparison is a losing game,” there is value in making a list of people you admire, then listing what qualities or possessions they have that inform goals you may want to set for yourself in the future. Some items will be more materialistic and others will be more focused on WHO they are -- but the sum total of the list can be a great way to brainstorm big goals and set some direction (while still being a first-rate version of yourself, of course). An added bonus of making this list is that many of these people can serve as mentors and role-models -- either directly or from a distance.  

Speaking of mentoring, that's a big part of what we do on HerFuture. How do you recommend people go about finding a mentor?

Finding a mentor can be intimidating, because traditionally it meant setting up a long-term relationship with someone, which is a big commitment on both sides. How do you find that person? How do you know if it's a good fit? How do you structure your meetings or calls? Instead, I recommend a lower stakes version that can build over time.

I have an exercise in the book called "The Power of Informal Interviews", where I recommend people make a list of people they admire. From there, they can reach out to set-up 15- to 30-minute conversations, either in person or over the phone. People are often afraid to ask someone they admire for their time, but you'd be shocked at how many love to say yes, no matter how busy they are. Oftentimes those people got to where they are with the help of great mentors, so they say yes in an effort to "pay it forward." Even if you're nervous, just ask! The worst that can happen is that they say no. You’d be surprised at how often they’ll say yes! Another tip: if the first meeting goes well you can always set-up another one, but don't worry about trying to create a long-term relationship up front.

You have accomplished so much already—what’s next?

Whew! Great question...for once I don’t have a grand plan! I just want to make sure that I’m enjoying my life, being open to spontaneity and serendipity during my time off, and inspiring as many people as I can in the process. I hope to continue sharing my ideas and ups and downs with the world to help people go after what they really want in this life -- in whatever form that may take.

Renegade Spotlight (DaveUrsillo.com) - March 2011

1.) In your own words, introduce yourself!

Hi there -- nice to meet you! I’m an author, blogger, yoga teacher, cupcake lover, puppy fanatic, football-loving gadget-obsessed girl from California. 27 years old, currently on leave from Google (my day job) where I’ve worked for 5+ years in Training and Career Development.

2.) What are some of the short- and long-term dreams you are pursuing?

Short-term: launch my book successfully into the world WHILE allowing myself to just relax and have fun. What is success? Feeling like I gave the promotional efforts my absolute best. Total dream? Making a best-seller list and/or The Today Show. Both would be beyond my wildest dreams -- things I would have never DARED to say out loud even a year ago. But now I figure, what the heck? If I say them out loud and I fail that’s better than selling myself short from the start. I’m also blessed to be taking a three month sabbatical from Google -- I want to make sure I soak up my time off and just have fun and learn what life is like on the outside...on my own clock and my own schedule.

Long-term: Develop semi-passive income streams where I’m not always trading time for money. Be able to live from anywhere; arrange a bi-coastal living situation where I can split my time between NYC and CA (and even live abroad). Feel comfortable enough in my work and income to take a break. To cut back on the hours I work every week so that I can learn how to relax and just enjoy my life! I am also trying to start that now of course :)

3.) What effects have these pursuits had on your life?

The book and the blog have truly given me purpose. They have helped me define and greatly expand myself outside of my day job; I’ve learned how to express myself and inspire others in the process, which is incredibly rewarding. It is an absolute gift to have built a community as supportive as the one at Life After College - I am more and more grateful every day. As hard as it can be sometimes juggling two jobs and putting my deepest fears, thoughts and ideas out there to the world -- I’ve learned so much about myself and made so many incredible friendships in the process. .

4.) What has pursuing your dreams taught you about yourself? About others? About life?

We all have so much more in common than we realize. When I feel sad and alone, and I post a blog post about challenges I am facing, I am amazed at how many people come out of the woodwork to say they can relate. It reminds me that we are all human, that we all have ups and downs, and that our lowest moments are incredibly rich growth opportunities (as difficult and as painful as they feel at the time).

5.) Do you have any special methods or practices that help you along the way? What are your sources of inspiration?

My sources of inspiration usually come from my biggest challenges -- from wrestling with something on my own then figuring out how to express those feelings in service of helping others. As for when inspiration hits: usually when I’m exercising -- running, swimming, riding my bike, doing yoga -- that’s when my mind gets clear and I can chew on life’s biggest questions. During a swim session I once asked the lifeguard for a pen and paper (dripping wet) so I could outline a blog post that struck me in the moment. I had 25 minutes left -- didn’t want to lose it!

6.) Do cynics, doubters and pessimists affect you and your pursuits? If so, how? If not, do you avoid them, tune them out, use them to your advantage, etc.?

I’m SUPER sensitive and this was one of the things I was most afraid of when I started blogging. I wasn’t sure I would be strong enough to handle nasty Internet trolls or haters. I feel INCREDIBLY fortunate to have built a community that is full of positive, smart, respectful people...no major pessimists or doubters so far (at least in the comments...knock on wood!). I fight them off with kindness and by remembering the advice from the book The Four Agreements. Whatever people say to you -- good or bad -- is always part of THEIR story, their vision of their own lives. As one of my co-workers once said, “Don’t let criticism go to your heart, and don’t let compliments go to your head.”

Questions from Running Press - February 2011

Life After College started as a blog—did you ever imagine it would become a book?

Not in my wildest dreams! I have wanted to be an author since I was a little girl, but I never thought that starting my blog would lead to a book -- at least not so soon. I wrote the book after two years of blogging, then got the book deal after three. I’m so thrilled and humbled by how much my blog has grown and the community I’ve been able to create around it.

Do you ever wish you had a "normal" college experience, instead of starting a post-grad life your junior year in college?

There are definitely times where I look back on college and wonder if I would have deeper friendships with people if I had stayed longer. Graduation was tough - people had already planned all these trips together, and there I was just coming back from working full time to finish school with my class that Spring quarter. I ended up going to Cabo San Lucas with my mentor and we had a blast -- so it all worked out in the end! I also cherish the friendships I’ve made (and kept) at every stage in life -- high school, college, Google, and now through the blog. They each add to my life in unique ways and the composite picture makes me very grateful for all of the unique experiences that I’ve had.

Are all of the tips based on your own experiences or others (friends, clients) as well?

Most of the tips are based on my own experiences, comments from blog readers and observations from working with clients. I have also worked at Google for over five years, which has a huge (and thriving) population of recent college graduates. Through my work on the Training and Career Development teams I’ve been able to really learn a lot from my co-workers. Finally, my brother graduated within the last two years, so I’ve learned a TON from watching him get adjusted (with my mom’s help). Hearing about all of their pain points inspired a lot of the tips in the book (and the handy checklist at the end).

You mention in the introduction that change is constant—in that vein, do you look back at the advice you give in Life After College and complete the exercises yourself?

YES! I find myself referring back to exercises and concepts I have written all the time. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the book so that I can write all over it and pretend I’m reading it for the first time. My hope is that the exercises are timeless for peopele -- they can complete them once, then come back in six months or a year and relfect on how they’ve changed, then do them again as-needed (I have lots of templates on my website that make this easy for people).

You discuss how a good way to meet new people after college is through volunteering and joining intramural sports teams—did these strategies work for you?

I have been really lucky to meet a lot of people through Google, but it was a lot harder when I worked at the start-up company and was the only employee under 30 years old. Getting involved with groups outside of work definitely helped, as did connecting with like-minded people online, then scheduling time to chat on the phone and meet in person if they were local.

Of all of the chapter themes—Work, Money, Home, Relationships, Health, etc., which did you find the most difficult to write and/or live?

Definitely dating and relationships -- it’s such a personal chapter, and people can be in SUCH different places when it comes to their romantic lives. This chapter felt the most vulnerable, and I also had the most doubts about whether I was qualified to dispense advice. But over the course of the two years that I spent writing the book, I had enough experiences that I could draw upon to provide people with general guidelines that were more about honoring themselves no matter what situation they find themselves in.

You say “Make Envy Work for You.” Please explain.

This is one of my favorite exercises. We often beat ourselves up for getting jealous of people, but I actually think it can be really informative to look at what we are envious of. Even though I often refer to the saying, “comparison is a losing game,” there is value in making a list of people you admire, then listing what qualities or possessions they have that inform goals you may want to set for yourself in the future. Some items will be more materialistic and others will be more focused on WHO they are -- but the sum total of the list can be a great way to brainstorm big goals and set some direction (while still being a first-rate version of yourself, of course). An added bonus of making this list is that many of these people can serve as mentors and role-models (either directly or from a distance).  

In your opinion what is more ideal -- a well paying job that you like, or a mediocre paying job that you love?

I personally would choose the mediocre-paying job that I LOVE any day over a high-paying job -- especially one where I felt bored or stagnant. I’m all about the side hustle -- so if you can find a mediocre-paying job that you love, you will have more creative energy to pursue projects outside of work that could also bring in additional income. Finally, you never know where that mediocre-paying job will lead -- if the learning curve is high and you are lit-up with possibility every day, great things will happen.

If someone is stuck in a career that they don't enjoy, do you think it is wise to start over with a new career, even if it means they may suffer a financial setback?

Yes. I believe that it’s never too late to start over, as scary as it may seem. It’s about living life to the fullest - but I also think this varies greatly depending on each individuals’ values. If someone values stability and security over all else, they may be better off staying with the status quo. But if you value risk-taking and adventure, this isn’t even a question. This is where I advise people to really listen to their gut. One of my favorite coaching exercises around big decisions is to ask: What does your head say? What does your heart say? and What does your gut say? It can be really interesting to see the difference between what our head (“social self”) wants compared to our heart (our “essential self” -- terms coined by Martha Beck).

What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received?

Take great leaps early -- from my dad. He’s told me for as long as I can remember the quote that “You can’t cross the Grand Canyon in two small leaps.” And it serves as a reminder for me to take risks and to go after big dreams with all that I’ve got. My personal motto is Live Big! which I think encapsulates this mindset well.

In your book, you recommend unplugging from Twitter, Facebook, and all other social network sites. In a world where almost everyone is connected to people through these mediums, why do you suggest removing oneself from them?

We all need a break somtimes. I don’t recommend unplugging forever -- but for those of us who are plugged in and checking devices 24/7, I think we can benefit from putting our technology down, lifting our heads up and going for a walk outside or starting conversation with a  stranger. Technology has become our safety net (if not our way of life) so it’s important that we all take recharge breaks (just like our gadgets!) from time to time.

You have accomplished so much already—what’s next?

Whew! Great question...I don’t have a grand plan...I just want to make sure that I’m enjoying my life and inspiring as many people as I can in the process. I hope to continue sharing my ideas and ups and downs with the world to help people go after what they really want in this life -- in whatever form that may take.

Learn more at: LACBook.com and LifeAfterCollege.org.

Read more interview Q&A here.

Interview Responses for Treehouses - February 2010

1. Could you give a brief overview of the book version of Life After College?

I wanted to write a book that was punchy and easy-to-read, yet also informative and inspiring. There are tons of books for college graduates already, but most are focused on the basic nuts and bolts (things that people can now easily Google) -- or they are limited to just one area, like Career. I share some tips and inspirational quotes, but also provide coaching exercises that would help people optimize every area of their lives. Just like my blog helps people focus on the BIG picture, the book does the same but in a Twitter-esque style.

The format is what makes it unique. It’s a book written in a format that I (and I think many other 20-something Gen Y’ers) would want to read. It’s not a narrative, but rather a compilation of tips, quotes and exercises trimmed to the essence, divided into chapters for every major life area. Chapter categories include life (values, goals), work, money, organization, home, friends & family, dating & relationships, health, fun & relaxation, and personal growth.

2. What was the process in going from blog to book? Were you approached and offered the opportunity or was it something you pushed for yourself?

I started working on the first draft of my book before any publishers were interested. I thought I would self-publish, but then realized that it would be a complete shame to not even try to reach out to literary agents and publishing houses, no matter how intimidating it seemed. Oddly enough, the same week that I finished my proposal, a publisher reached out to me. At first I thought it was a joke! But when I realized they were serious it gave me hope that maybe I was onto something and that other publishers would be interested to. Even though the original publisher said no eventually, their interest gave me the push to find a literary agent and pitch to more places. 27 publishing houses said no, but one said yes! My book will be published by Running Press, a division of Perseus, on March 29.

3. How are you tying in the book with the blog? Is the blog going to be a pure promotional tool (in the least cynical way possible!)?

Interesting question -- it’s actually almost the reverse! The blog is the heart and soul of my operation -- it’s been around for 3+ years, and it has helped me build this wonderful community of friends and readers that I am so incredibly thankful for. I am so thrilled to have a hard copy of my words and ideas out there in a more permanent form, but the blog is where I get to truly be myself - real and in the moment (as opposed to the delays that happen from experiencing life to going through the publishing cycle and getting the book out). I’m hoping that the book will help me reach many more readers who decide to stick around the blog for the long-haul :).

4. How have you found the publishing process, as someone who's going through it for the first time?

I’ve found it to be really interesting, exciting, and FAR less hands-on than I expected. I expected my editor at Running Press to tear the book to shreds when she got the first draft -- surprisingly that’s not how it went. All of the tireless nights and weekends I spent editing were because of my high standards and desire to make it the best book I possibly could -- but it wasn’t being dictated by someone else. They were mostly concerned about length - I had to cut 450 pages to get it down to 300! I suppose that’s a good problem to have though.

5. Would you recommend a blog as a good starting point for someone who wanted eventually to be published in physical form?

Absolutely! Blogs are such a great way to find your voice, meet other like-minded people, practice writing, build a strong base of content, and continue building muscles as a thought-leader on whatever topics most interest you. For some GREAT writing-related resources, check-out Justine Musk’s Tribal Writer blog.

6. How similar did you find the book writing process to blogging? Were you conscious of using a different tone, or of feeling any pressure to write in a certain manner?

I felt the need to make sure every single sentence could stand up on it’s own. While blogging is more transient (posts are rarely re-read after they disappear into the archives), I knew my book would be held to a higher standard (by readers and myself). I would have these nightmares of people picking out one or two tips and calling them cliche or stupid -- even though the rest of the book might be helpful. So I felt this pressure to craft every sentence and make sure every single point was as useful as I could make it - while also giving some cushion for the fact that we are all in different places / sophistication levels after graduating. Something that seems blindingly obvious to one person might be enlightening for someone else!

Given that desire to make sure every sentence of the book was useful, it was important to me that I also made sure to inject my voice. I realized (only after producing the first draft) that my most popular blog posts are ones in which I am vulnerable, transparent, and sharing my ups and downs. I made sure to go back and put some of those in the book so that book readers could relate to me as a real person -- not just an expert. In the closing I say, “I am just like you.” And I really mean that -- I don’t want to put myself on a pedestal - I just want to be helpful by sharing as many tips and exercises as I can.

7. You've offered coaching as well as working at Google and writing the blog and the book - did having so many commitments hinder the writing process or were they in fact good sources of inspiration?

Most of it was great inspiration -- even just being insanely busy! It led to some really important tips and exercise about balance, stress, time management and organization. I definitely feel like I have two full-time jobs at the moment, but thankfully will get some time off from Google for book-touring in March through June. I am determined to make rest and fun major priorities in my life!

8. From what you've seen from 'inside' the publishing industry, was there anything that surprised you or that you thought could have been done differently?

It was surprising - though not in a bad way - how much autonomy I had over the content and structure. I realized that my vision was important - and in many cases I was making micro-decisions about the book on my own. It’s awesome to have that much say, but I would definitely advise future authors to gather a sub-committee of editors and reviewers who can help be a tie-breaker for tough decisions or content reviews.

9. How are you planning to promote the book? Is it through traditional means or something you're taking charge of yourself a bit more? I know you've asked people who sign up for advance copies of the book whether they can host meetups, for example.

I have this 15-tab Google Spreadsheet that I affectionately call my “Book Marketing Plan of Greatness.” It’s a to-do list of hundreds and hundreds of spreadsheet rows that covers online promo, offline promo, website development, book touring, partnerships, etc. I basically summarize it as follows: it's like buying lottery tickets (with various marketing efforts as tickets). Instead of buying one ticket, sitting on it and hoping for the best, I'm buying as many as I possibly can until the launch. Online promo, offline outreach, networking, speaking, you name it - I'm working on it. I may not finish everything I want to get done, but I'll have built myself a fort of tickets that will hopefully pay-off! The book Guerrilla Marketing for Writers covers this concept brilliantly.

And finally, are there any questions you'd like to ask yourself for the piece? Anything that you think would help the readers get a full feel for your book?

I just finished making my book trailer videos - and I’d love for you to check them out! You can view the final version at LACBook.com, or read a funny story about how it came to be. In short, a guy I went on a “failed” online date with ended up being an Emmy award winning film producer who offered to make the book trailer for free. Crazy, huh?! That’s what I call serendipity. It’s awesome how much people are willing to step up and help for a big project like this -- completely humbling actually.

Thank you all for reading, and Thom for conducting this great interview!

Interview Questions for Tia Singh - October 2010

Please do send me a pic + bio that you'd like me to include

Bio:

Jenny Blake has worked at Google for almost five years, and is currently a Career Development Program Manager and internal coach. She is the author of the upcoming book, Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want (Running Press, 2011) and blogs at LifeAfterCollege.org, where she provides simple, practical tips about life, work, money, happiness and personal growth. Jenny’s goal is to help people focus on the BIG picture of their lives…not just the details. Follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake.

1. What does Your Life YOUR Way mean to you? When did you realise you were living life your way and how did that make you feel?

My life my way means listening to my gut and trusting myself. It means letting myself celebrate when I'm happy, and giving myself the time and space to process when I'm sad. My life my way also means not comparing myself to others. It is important to me that I am clear on my values, goals and priorities, and that I take actions in line with those - not based on pressure or influence from others. It also means giving myself enough breathing room to be creative and relax and have fun! I had a moment today where I really felt all of those feelings come together - driving on my way to Santa Barbara for yoga teacher training, with the book in it's final weeks. I just felt really proud of how far I have come, and really excited to continue along my path of inspiring others through practical tips and encouragement to live life in their own unique, fabulous ways.

2. Many people fail to get going because they have so many passions that they can’t decide which one to pick. How did YOU discover and pick (if you had more than 1) a passion you could turn into a business / career you love?

I discovered my passions a few at a time, and through some trial and error. Once I find things I am interested in (like writing, yoga and coaching), I start brainstorming how I might incorporate them into my life in a way that feels energizing and unique to me. An example with writing - for a while I was hesitant to start a blog because I didn't think I was controversial enough (I had been reading Penelope Trunk's blog). Then I realized that if I put my own unique spin on things, it would be fulfilling to me no matter what the response from readers was. Besides, by being myself I had a much better chance of finding "my people" - readers who are inspiring, smart, motivated and energizing. I also try to tackle my passions one or two at a time -- one year I will focus on coach training, another might be yoga training, and another still will be book marketing and promotion. For those of your readers still looking to discover their passion, one of my favorite exercises of all time is Paul William's Pave Your Life Roadmap.

3. A common refrain amongst people who are stuck between wanting to follow their passion & their many responsibilities is the very 'real' fear of "I don't have money / time / don't know how to make it work / what if it doesn't work out, how will I survive?!". What was the biggest challenge / fear YOU faced in turning your passion into a living and how did you take the first step in getting past it?

The biggest obstacle I faced was insecurity. If I wrote a book, would it be any good? Even if I got a publisher, would anybody buy it? Once it hit stores, would it get torn apart by critics? I still don't know the answer to all of those questions, but I realized that my fear and insecurity was largely a figment of my imagination. Eventually I realized that I would rather try and fail than never try at all. Once I started taking action, every step forward has been met with positive reinforcement from the Universe. For a great book on tackling your fears an "upper limits," check out The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. That book really helped me step outside of my own glass ceiling and take risks to put myself out there. Other things that have helped me are research (I read LOTS of books) and talking to other people who have tackled similar challenges before me.

4. Knowing what you know now and seeing how successful you are, what ONE most important piece of advice would you have given yourself when you were first starting out and is there anything you would have done differently?

I would tell myself to carve out time to be creative every single week. Emails, meetings and TV can take up all of our time if we let them (outside of hanging out with friends). Some of my happiest nights are the ones where I push all obligations aside and start working on my next project -- a book or blog post that is exciting to me, that doesn't come from a place of obligation. People ask how I managed to write a book while working full-time and running my blog, and I think it was largely by making space for myself to relax and be creative amidst all the other tasks in my life. Make it a social thing too! Find friends who are also interested in pursuing side projects and motivate each other. Work in coffee shops, have wine and chocolate nights, and set-up rewards for when you make progress.

5. Being an entrepreneur requires commitment and discipline in both mindset and marketing. What are your best daily / weekly habits & practices that help you stay inspired, productive & making progress especially when it gets "tough" to keep going?

I often get overwhelmed thinking about handling everything on my plate, so it is super important that I block out time for myself to be alone and unwind. I also keep several to-do lists: long-term projects on Todoist.com and weekly/daily tasks on TeuxDeux.com. To get ready for the week ahead, my friend Julie and I have "email parties" where we both get caught up on work over Reality TV ("Say Yes to the Dress" anyone?), wine and chocolate. It helps make work on Sunday nights something to look forward to! I also think it is important to leave weekends unplanned whenever possible. Some of my favorite weekend days are the ones where I wake up, make coffee, read the newspaper or a good book, and sit outside on my patio journaling and writing. Don't save what you love for the end of the day when you are tired and frazzled from running errands -- start your day with what matters and you will feel so much more energized!

Thanks Tia for interviewing me, and to all of you for reading this far!

Personal Development Q&A for Ross Hudgens - July 2010

Q1: There are many terms that fall somewhat loosely in the realm of “personal development”. Life hacking, lifestyle design, self-help, life coaching. In some ways, “minimalism” seems somewhat asynchronous with these terms as well. What do you think about the variable terms that are being used, and how would you define what you blog about?

I think the terms all point to being proactive about making our lives what we want them to be. It doesn't really matter what you call it - the point is educating yourself about what strategies and mindsets are out there, and taking steps to live the best life that you are capable of (knowing, of course, that there will be ups and downs and that those are all part of the learning process). I think at the end of the day, a lot of people aim for the goal of happiness. In Maximum Achievement (one of my all-time favorite personal development books), Brian Tracy talks about peace of mind being the ultimate goal which really resonated with me. We can't always be happy, but we can act in ways that are consistent with our beliefs and with a sense of integrity to our values.

My blog is about a really wide range of topics - life, work, money, happiness, organization, realationships, and anything else related to personal development. I describe it as a mix of personal stories and practical tips for your “big picture,” meaning that I’m probably NOT going to tell you how to write a resume or anything else that you can easily find on Google. But I do talk about things like passion, loneliness, and being yourself.

I try to mix personal experiences with resources and tips that I think will be helpful for people. I find that I love sharing books, links or resources that have helped me - and while people enjoy those, they also seem to really appreciate when I share personal struggles or moments of vulnerability. Those are the posts that always remind me how much we all have in common; there is something really comforting about relating to each other about the ups and downs of our lives. In general I try to share as much about myself as I'm comfortable with, because I've learned that with so much content out there on the Internet, people really appreciate knowing more about who is behind the blog.

Q2: Personal development seems like a youth movement, especially on the internet. Most people in the space, especially online, are relatively young. This seems part of the natural growth cycle of development (we have special desire to grow as we’re young, at some point the need to develop slows). What do you think will occur with the “aging” of the personal development niche on the internet? Do you have long-term plans within personal development, or do you expect to branch out?

I would have to disagree with you on this one. I don't think personal development is a youth movement - I think it's a movement that started thousands of years ago (Buddha and Lao-Tzu come to mind), that every generation has since recycled and added to in its own ways. There may be a perception online that it is a youth movement because that's where the young people are. The older personal development leaders are probably still getting the whole blogging/tweeting thing figured out, which does leave a great opportunity for young people to step in and help bridge the gaps between generations.

My long-term plans within personal development are to continue learning, growing, failing, crying, celebrating, and doing everything else that represents a full life. I have a personal motto, "live big," that I always hope to honor. I hope to contribute to the personal development space by showing that life is not about being perfect or mastering any of these concepts 100% - it's about taking baby steps and just doing the best we can at any given moment.

Q3: Who are your favorite bloggers in and outside the space? Is this who you look to for writing inspiration, and if not, where do you find most of your topics come from?

My favorite bloggers/thinkers in this space are Martha Beck, Chris Guillebeau, Brian Johnson, Gay and Katie Hendricks, Byron Katie, and Ruth Ann Harnisch (who is hands-down THE most amazing coach I have ever worked with).

I read 3-4 personal development books per month (follow me on Good Reads for reviews or check out some of the book notes on my blog), which is where I get most of my inspiration. You could say I am addicted to ordering used personal development books on Amazon (my brother nicknamed me Jenny Highlighter Hands because I usually tear through 4-5 books every family vacation).

Q4: Is there a lack of criticism within personal development? Isn’t there something to constructively criticizing others (and oneself), including in blogging technique, to improve further? Should this be done behind closed doors, or is there benefit to offering it to the public (i.e. through blog posts over e-mail, or less-so, through comments)?

I don't personally see a lack of criticism. Perhaps a lack of negativity, which I really appreciate. I'm thankful I don't have "trolls" or really negative commenters on my blog. That said, I absolutely think there is benefit to constructively criticizing others. If anything, I think people who are into personal development make MORE of a habit of looking at themselves and how they need to improve (and helping others do the same).

Q5: As it pertains to the process itself, was there ever a moment of “I’ve got this figured out”? I know there’s always going to be that “I’m always learning” cliché, but to  ever have moved to the point where you wanted to start/develop a personal development blog, there must have been a period of near self-actualization that came from within, or at least a belief that you could present it in a way that inspired others. Can you describe this moment/feeling, and the duration of time/process that came to it? E.G, in every person’s life, they actively start looking towards self-help/personal development books, or something comparable. Let’s say this is the beginning.

I received five coaching sessions through Google in 2007 and although this might sound cheesy, those sessions completely changed my life. Through coaching, I got really clear on what is most important to me - and realized that I wanted to make an impact by helping people live happy, well-rounded lives (through simple, practical tools & tips). It inspired me to start blogging, attend coach training, and move into a new role at Google (as a Career Development Program Manager and internal coach). Given the tremendous impact coaching had on my life, I feel absolutely privileged for the opportunity to help others in a similar way.

Those coaching session really facilitated the moment where I stepped past the inner critic voices that were saying things like, "What could you possibly have to say? Are you smart enough to blog? Insightful enough? Controversial enough?" I got so tired of holding myself back or waiting for the perfect conditions that I decided even if I didn't have everything figured out, I would start somewhere. Although there wasn't a moment where I said, "Yes! I've solved life - I can blog now!" there was a moment where I said, "Yes. I do believe that I can add value around my passion for personal development by summarizing what I'm learning and sharing my ups and downs." I've always been into reading personal development books, so when I discovered coaching and blogging, I felt like that was the major "aha!" moment -- finally seeing the connection between how my love for reading, learning and developing could be channeled to help and inspire others as well.

Personal Plug :)

One of my biggest, scariest, hairiest goals is that I'm writing a book. I actually finished the first draft in early 2009, but got total "book block" when my quarter-life crisis hit. After a long series of events, I'm now back on track; I have a literary agent and we pitched it to about 30 different publishing houses last month. There's some exciting news that I can't quite share yet, but there's a good chance I'll have a book coming out in Spring of 2011!

I describe my book as “Twitter meets What Color is Your Parachute for every area of your life.” It is not a narrative – it’s a compilation of tips, quotes, advice and exercises for many aspects of someone’s Life After College (similar to my blog). If you're interested in getting the inside scoop on my book project (email updates about 1-2x per quarter with personal stories, tips and resources), feel free to sign-up here. I've committed to sharing the ups and downs throughout the process - and look forward to being on the journey with you!

Brand-Yourself.com Questionnaire - 5/15/10

Name: Jenny Blake, Life After College

E-mail: jennyblake@gmail.com


Question 1: Describe your personal brand in a few sentences.

This question is a little tough for me because personal branding is not something I actively cultivate - I think it comes as a natural result of just being myself. So if I were to try to describe myself (as others see me), I would say an enthusiastic, friendly Googler and blogger who loves templates and sharing tips but who also shares a more vulnerable side from time to time. And for better or worse, my love for cupcakes is also a part of my brand, which is fine with me because cupcakes represent fun and celebration - and couldn't we all use a little more of that in our lives?!

Question 2: What kind of clients do you usually work with?

I coach young professionals who are motivated but feeling a little lost or stuck. Some are very recent graduates and some are in their mid-twenties. I help people figure out what is most important to them, get clear on what they really want and come up with a game plan for how to get there.

Question 3: What is your blog, Life After College about?

My blog is about a really wide range of topics - life, work, money, happiness, organization, realationships, and anything else related to personal development. I describe it as a mix of personal stories and practical tips for your “big picture,” meaning that I’m probably NOT going to tell you how to write a resume or anything else that you can easily find on Google. But I do talk about things like passion, loneliness, being yourself, and managing your life with the help of Google Docs.

I try to mix personal experiences with resources and tips that I think will be helpful for people. I find that I love sharing books, links or resources that have helped me - and while people enjoy those, they also seem to really appreciate when I share personal struggles or moments of vulnerability. Those are the posts that always remind me how much we all have in common; there is something really comforting about relating to each other about the ups and downs of our lives. In general I try to share as much about myself as I'm comfortable with, because I've learned that with so much content out there on the Internet, people really appreciate knowing more about who is behind the blog.

Question 4: Why did you start Life After College?

During the first quarter of my junior year at UCLA I got the opportunity of a lifetime. My political science professor and mentor suggested a possible internship opportunity for me at a startup company in Palo Alto. I grew up there and was ahead in school, so I told her and the founder I would move home to work full time if it meant I could help start the company. I had tremendous opportunities and responsibilities, but I hadn’t anticipated what it would be like to be in the real world – to work full time, to save money, to spend so much money, to be so far from my friends. As much as I loved the confidence I got from working so hard and learning so much every day, at times I felt incredibly lonely and confused.

 

I learned a lot in the year I spent at home, when people wondered if I’d dropped out of school for good, when my friends were still partying and taking finals. I read books, scrounged websites, and sought advice – and then felt compelled to share everything I was finding with other graduates through my blog. (Read the full story about why I started Life After College)

Question 5: How do you relate to Life After College? What experiences or lessons led to you becoming a life coach and blogger?

I received five coaching sessions through Google in 2007 and although this might sound cheesy, those sessions completely changed my life. Through coaching, I got really clear on what is most important to me - and realized that I wanted to make an impact by helping people live happy, well-rounded lives (through simple, practical tools & tips). It inspired me to start blogging, attend coach training, and move into a new role at Google (as a Career Development Program Manager and internal coach). Given the tremendous impact coaching had on my life, I feel absolutely privileged for the opportunity to help others in a similar way.

My reasons for blogging are to inspire people, help them feel that they are not alone in their journeys, give people practical tips and systems, and help people take baby steps toward their biggest goals (while hopefully feeling some sense of confidence, happiness and inner peace). I love the connections and friendships I've made through my blog, and continue because I love writing and sharing, and because I am constantly amazed at how much my readers inspire and uplift me too.

Question 6: In your opinion, what leads to a quarter-life crisis?

I think that the quarter-life crisis can come from a lot of places...perhaps most from the "expectation hangover" (a term coined by Christine Hassler) -- when we wake up and realize our lives aren't matching-up to some set of pre-defined expectations we had for ourselves. My quarterlife crisis came exactly at age 25. I thought I would somehow avoid it because I had a great job, a house, friends - but for some reason I just sank into a depression-like state. I wasn't thrilled at work, I wanted to be in a relationship but wasn't - but mostly, I felt like I was supposed to be happy and grateful for my life, but couldn't shake the big cloud that seemed to be following me around. I think quarter-life crisis' happen because we are making a shift in our lives. We are shedding the old skin to make room for the new - and that can be a painful process sometimes.

Question 7: How can someone conquer their quarter-life crisis? What advice would you give them?

For starters, don't run from it. Try not to avoid it or pretend it's not happening. Sometimes you have to sink into your sadness - really feel the emptiness - in order to understand it and come back out the other side. I think the emotions surrounding a quarterlife crisis can actually give us a lot of clues about what we DO want in our lives, even if we can't see how to get there yet.

There's a quote from Martha Beck that I love: "If you want to find your passion, know your life’s purpose, meet your soul mate, or feel intensely alive, don’t look toward the fun things that fit logically into the flow of an easy life. Ask yourself, “What am I running away from?” Whatever that thing is, turn around. Walk toward it. Face it and conquer it, or die trying."

I think the quarterlife crisis happens because of the tension we experience between the life we really want and the life we are currently living. So the first step is admitting there is a difference. The second is reflecting on what is important., what we are running away from, but most importantly what we want to run toward. Then start with baby steps to make changes that will improve the situation. Finally, ask for help! You don't have to go through it alone.

Question 8: What is the most rewarding thing about your job? How do you find passion in it?

The most rewarding thing about my job is getting to work with people on their deepest dreams and desires, then watching as they make them come true. There is no greater feeling than helping facilitate an "aha!" moment for someone. I love 1:1 coaching, and I also love delivering trainings about coaching or personal development. It is such an honor and a privilege for me to be able to work with people, teach them, encourage them, and give them the courage to live their best lives.

Question 9: How can someone really benefit from life coaching? Why would you recommend it to someone?

I am fascinated by human potential. I think we are capable of so much - not just in terms of accomplishments, but happiness too. I think sometimes people are so stuck in their own mess - with no one to talk to - that they just spin in circles and hold themselves back. And while friends and family try to be helpful, usually they are just giving advice based on their own insecurities and fears. It's not helpful.

Coaching is about looking forward - it helps people get from where they are now to where they want to be (and then some). A coach is like a personal trainer - he or she helps people set goals, be accountable, encourages them and accelerates progress. Can someone lose weight without a personal trainer? Absolutely. Can a personal trainer still give them a good kick in the ass, teach them new things and help them make progress faster? Yes.

What I like about coaching is that it is really about listening. I'm not telling people what to do (AT ALL). You are the expert on your life - and deep down in your gut, you probably know what is right for you. I see it as my job to listen, ask big open-ended questions, say what I'm hearing/noticing, encourage and give people practical action steps to move them forward when they are stuck. A coach also helps someone articulate their core values - identifies when those values are at risk and how those values can inform decisions in the future.

Question 10: Anything else you’d like to add?

One of my biggest, scariest, hairiest goals is that I'm writing a book. I actually finished the first draft in early 2009, but got total "book block" when my quarter-life crisis hit. After a long series of events, I'm now back on track; I have a literary agent and we pitched it to about 30 different publishing houses last month. There's some exciting news that I can't quite share yet, but there's a good chance I'll have a book coming out in Spring of 2011!

I describe my book as “Twitter meets What Color is Your Parachute for every area of your life.” It is not a narrative – it’s a compilation of tips, quotes, advice and exercises for many aspects of someone’s Life After College (similar to my blog). If you're interested in getting the inside scoop on my book project (email updates about 1-2x per quarter with personal stories, tips and resources), feel free to sign-up here. I've committed to sharing the ups and downs throughout the process - and look forward to being on the journey with you!