I recently got the honor to interview Jenny Blake someone who I have admired for a long time. Jenny was one of my inspirations before I launched this website. She is a best selling author, career/business coach, and speaker amongst many things. She is also a voice for entrepreneurs and uses her talents to help people live better lives. Enjoy!
Tayo Rockson: To those that don’t know you, can you tell us about yourself and your journey so far in life?
Jenny Blake: I’ve always had a love of writing, but blogging has been the biggest catalyst in my life these last 5+ years. I went to UCLA and left early to work for a start-up company in Silicon Valley (later went back to finish), then worked at Google for over five years in Training and Career Development, and now I’ve been a solopreneur for two years in New York City (with lots of travel in the mix) focusing on speaking, coaching, and writing full-time.
TR: You said blogging has been your biggest catalyst. How did you build your subscriber and user base?
JB: I’ve always valued slow, organic growth. In the earliest days my main goal was to be as helpful as possible, and to connect with people in a meaningful way. I’ve never set out to purposefully grow my traffic — it happened naturally over time as I continued focusing on quality over quantity and building relationships. I started Life After College almost eight years ago now — then published a book of the same name in 2011, and just this year launched my new site, JennyBlake.me which focuses on how to thrive at the intersection of mind, body and business. None of this has happened overnight; it’s been an evolution.
TR: Nice! That’s pretty impressive that you have done all that. Can you also please discuss some of the obstacles you have had to overcome to get to where you are today?
JB: One of the biggest obstacles was trying to juggle my full-time job with the blog and book “side hustle.” As I recently wrote about, I was terrified about the idea of quitting to strike out on my own. But ultimately it was the only way for me to move beyond burnout and build a career that felt truly sustainable, and that was the best fit for me.
TR: I have been following your work for quite sometime now and it is obvious that you are a lady of many talents. You maintain a blog, run a business, you speak, you run a course and you are a self proclaimed world traveler. How do you find time for yourself?
JB: Thank you! That really means a lot. I think we all struggle at times to juggle our ambition and our full plates with building a sustainable career and life. To prevent against burnout, and to ensure that my business actually fits the life I want to live, I make my health and time for myself a top priority every day. I strive to get at least eight hours of sleep, I read for a few hours in the morning before answering emails or working, and I make sure to schedule time for exercise every day (usually a combination of yoga, walking and pilates). Those are my non-negotiables so I do not make exceptions — I fit in everything else around it.
TR: Makes sense, it makes for a more productive day I bet. I touched on your traveling a bit earlier, is it safe to say that your travels are part of who you are now?
JB: Absolutely. I spent the months of January-March living in Bali and Thailand, and my speaking engagements usually take me all around the world. I love traveling as much as I love the vibrancy of New York City. I’m really grateful to be able to split my time between the two.
TR: Wow! Love it! Shifting gears here, why do you think a lot of people aren’t happy where they work today?
JB: Confusion (not knowing what they want instead), fear (of failure) and uncertainty (how to actually go after what they want). In my experience, the best thing to do is start with baby steps. Just ask the big questions even if you aren’t ready to take action yet. What do you really want? If time and money were not a concern, what would you be doing? Don’t worry about the hows yet, just focus on the end goals — how do you want to feel every day? How do you want to be of service to the world?
TR: Awesome, I definitely agree with that. Little drops of water make the mighty ocean right?
TR: Can you discuss the importance of people building relationships especially in today’s world?
JB: Relationships are incredibly important, and I don’t think it’s something that can be forced. Authentic people-skills for me come from being curious about others, asking lots of questions, being a good listener, and being of service when I can be.
TR: Good stuff! I know a lot of young people who are looking to start out on their own and launch businesses. What is one piece of advice you can give these young entrepreneurs today?
JB: Don’t worry about making money from what you love right off the bat — focus first on adding value, being as insanely useful as you possibly can. Trust and respect will follow, then you will have an audience to whom you can really listen to. What do they struggle with? How can you be most helpful for them moving forward?
TR: Ok now so what does Jenny do for fun? What things would people be surprised to hear about you?
JB: I am obsessed with yoga, but I don’t think that’s much of a surprise 🙂 Fun for me is Sunday morning, reading the New York Times with a cup of coffee in hand. Or going out to a delicious multi-course meal with friends at one of the zillion incredible restaurants in New York City.
TR: I really need to start doing yoga. A few of my friends keep telling me to pick it up.
JB: You really should!
TR: It’s definitely on the to do list haha. Thank you so much for your time today Jenny. It’s been a pleasure. Before I leave you, what are some of your upcoming projects and where can my audience find you?
JB: You can find me at LifeAfterCollege.org and JennyBlake.me. I’m putting a lot of energy into my online courses these days: definitely check out The Acorn Project if you’re looking for clarity, or Make Sh*t Happen if you are already tip-toeing around a big goal and want to learn my step-by-step process for taking it from “nice” idea to inevitable success.
JB: Thank you for reading!
TR: You are welcome!