I interviewed the amazing Jenny Blake, Author of the book “Life after College” to talk about her sensational journey, getting published and how social media has impacted her story so far. See below for the video interview and transcript!
Sara Nguyen: Hi, it’s Sara Nguyen here from Social Media Rocketeer, and I’m really excited to be interviewing the amazing Jenny Blake, author of the book, Life After College. So, today we’re going to be talking about Jenny, her book and her journey. So, Jenny, let’s start from the beginning. For those who haven’t read the book, how did this all begin for you?
Jenny Blake: It was a long and winding road. It started with a blog, which, the blog turns four this December, and I just – I don’t know what compelled me to start writing. But, I did. I knew that I was kind of lost and lonely after graduating from college and, wanted to share what I was learning with other people. And, I remember at the time thinking, “Well, who the hell am I to try to be an expert in this area? What do I know?” And, so I sort of saw myself as an aggregator. But, I’ve always been a writer my whole life and, was so terrified to write a book. Absolutely just…terrified! Like…who am I? I’m too young. I’m too old. I’m not an expert. And, then one day I just got the idea for the format to write a book that I would want to read and I started writing it. I had no idea how I was going to get an agent or a publisher – any of that. I just…got a first draft down and that’s really how things got started. And then, as the universe tends to do for things that are meant to happen, the stuff kind of unfolded themselves as I went along.
Sara Nguyen: In terms of the blog, what’s your blog about for those who don’t know?
Jenny Blake: My blog Is called lifeaftercollege.org, and the line is: “Wake up, live big and love the journey.” My hope is that I can help people wake up in the sense that they become clear on what they want and they don’t feel like they’re just sleep walking through life. Live big means go for what you want and love the journey is to honor the ups and the downs. I really try to share a mix of practical tools and templates. Like, how to get organized, and anything that I struggle with. Time management, feeling burned out; whatever my issues are, it’s important to me to share that so that people can see they’re not alone.
Sara Nguyen: How did we actually go from this blog to this book? Because the topics, obviously, are really tied. How did we make the transition from blogger to book?
Jenny Blake: A lot of people ask me – way more than I even expected, “I want to write a book, but I don’t know where to start.” Just start writing. If you want to write a book, you can write a book. Every one of us can write a book if we just park our butt in our chair and put in enough time and be disciplined. One of my book mentors said that, in today’s publishing word, it’s not a question of if you’ll get published, but when and how. And, I really like that, because, what that says to me is, if you have something to say, say it. And, then, yeah, you can figure out later if you can get an agent and a traditional publisher or if you want to self-publish or, publish straight to Kindle, that’s all secondary. That’s just how you get your book out there. For me I wrote a first draft and then, hid it in my computer for about six months, I didn’t know what to do with it. Thought I might self-publish, but I knew I was just doing that because I was afraid of rejection from traditional publishers then, finally got the courage to write a book proposal, find an agent and find a publisher. The other thing I would say is, a lot of people think, “Oh, getting a traditional publisher is the only way to go,” but, you’ve got to do all the work. As the author, I did 95% of the work of selling and promoting it, so that is big for anyone. No matter how you get your book into physical form, you’re the one doing the work, And don’t be discouraged if you don’t find a traditional publisher – you probably will get more money doing it yourself.
Sara Nguyen: Jenny, tell us a bit about your journey. You haven’t always been working on Life After College, you’ve actually got a really interesting story about how you made the escape from Cubicle Nation, tell us a bit about that journey, because it’s really interesting.
Jenny Blake: Originally, I was working at a start-up company. I took a leave of absence from UCLA to go help one of my professors start this company, and, that’s when, I was the first employee, my friends were all still in school, I just felt so lost and confused. So, the website has actually been a common thread underneath all my career experience. And, after two years at the start up, I moved over to Google, it was the only place I applied, I was kind of bored at the start up, and, applied to Google, got a job on the Training & Development Team and, I ended up working at Google for five-and-a-half years.
Sara Nguyen: Wow.
Jenny Blake: And, writing the book for the final three years that I was there. Then, just this spring, I took a three-month sabbatical to go on my book tour – which was self-funded, self-organized – and, on my sabbatical I realized, this is it! This is what I want to be doing and the only reason I would be going back to Google would be out of fear that I couldn’t make it on my own. And, how can I sit here as an author, a speaker, a coach and tell people, “Live big! Go for your dreams! Listen to your gut!” if I wasn’t willing to do that myself. So, I made the really, really tough decision to leave all the perks and benefits and cushy salary behind, I gave my notice on June 15th – my last day was July 5th – and, I’ve been on my own ever since. So, riding the solopreneur roller coaster.
Sara Nguyen: That’s such an exciting story and really inspirational, as well. It’s really interesting to hear when people make the transition from ‘Cubicle Nation’ to working for yourself. What have been some of the hardest lessons that you’ve learned during this time?
Jenny Blake: I would say the biggest lesson – or adjustment – is getting used to uncertainty. Before it, I always knew I have a paycheck coming every two weeks. And, of course, while you could get fired at any point, there was a certain amount of certainty about that. Now that I have been on my own, I don’t know where the money’s going to come from and I don’t know when and it’s not all that consistent and, in one month, I had $7,000 of income that I had planned on that went away. It got canceled or postponed. There’s a sense of uncertainty and being able to ride out those dips and keep the faith and work really hard. I mean, I definitely am working as much as I was when I had a job, but, on the plus side, it’s much more flexible and I have full control over my day and my creativity and what projects I choose to work on, it’s been really, really fulfilling actually, and I’ve enjoyed this Petri Dish on what it means to start a business.
Sara Nguyen: How do you stay motivated and on track working for yourself? Because that’s another common pitfall that solopreneurs kind of go through. How do they stay structured and how do they stay focused when you’re in control and you don’t have anyone really telling you what to do anymore?
Jenny Blake: I guess, for me, it’s never really been an issue. If, I think if someone loves the work they’re doing, it’s not so much a question of motivation, but, more energy management. So, if I’m working around the clock, then I’ll get burned out and I won’t want to work for the next week, or, I won’t want to go to all the meetings I have, or do the things on my list. But, when I am really working on great projects that I know are really going to support me going forward and help people, to me, it’s not a question of motivation, it’s just getting the work done. I think have some routine really helps, as well. Before I had some structure to my day , every day was just a free-for-all. I didn’t know what to do when. Now, I know I wake up, I go for a run, I do something creative, or (tackle) my big projects – my “Big Frogs” first – then, I do email in the afternoon and that works pretty well for me and keeps me kind of on track.
Sara Nguyen: Who are some of your mentors and your motivators?
Jenny Blake: I really, really, just value and appreciate – you mentioned Escape from Cubical Nation – Pamela Slim. She’s a good friend of mine and definitely and inspiration. I love the way that she’s stood up her business – her book, her blog, her coaching – and, she helps so many people. It’s amazing when she does her, “Look what my clients have done” wrap up. It’s just fun to see that. So she’s a big one. Jonathan Mead who writes IlluminatedMind.net, he’s doing some really, really great stuff and, Jonathan Fields, who just wrote his book, Uncertainty. And, then my good friend Michael Ellsberg in New York, who also just came out with a book, The Education of Millionaires. All of them have fantastic books, worth checking out and they’ve been so helpful and motivational for me, personally.
Sara Nguyen: That’s awesome. In terms of the book, you spoke about having to promote the book yourself and having to push it yourself. How have you done that and how has social media played a role in your business, and with the book?
Jenny Blake: Social media has helped. I never did this on purpose, but, looking back, I’ve had a lot of networking calls with people. I got a lot of people where we meet through Twitter or blogging and then we talk on the phone for 30 minutes. And, building those relationships over time, or, meeting people at conferences, and getting really active and taking social media relationships offline, has helped a lot. And, the other thing I would say is, I call it “Growing Up” with people, but, having this circle of bloggers where, we’ve all built our blogs at the same time and really support each other, that helps a ton with the book promotion. One of the things I did was create a book website, which is LACbook.com, and, the goal there was to make it really easy for people to share and spread the word. And, I also had the publisher send 200-advance copies to all my closest blogger friends and family and, it really was just kind of trying a variety of different things and seeing what stuck.
Sara Nguyen: Awesome. Where to now, Jenny? You’ve launched Life After College, the blog, you’ve got the book out, and, I’ve also just seen that you’ve also just launched your training/coaching program as well, so, you’ve done it all, what’s in the cards now for Jenny Blake?
Jenny Blake: Well, the coaching program that you mentioned is “Make shit happen!” and, it takes someone’s big giant goal from improbable idea to inevitable success. It’s an 8-week coaching course where, the current class is 36 people, and it’s been so much fun! It’s so fun to see people come alive through pursuing this big, scary thing that they previously were afraid to do, and to see how the group is supporting each other. I am just in love with the whole class, and that’s been really, really fun. I want to try and take that further next year and re-launch the class in January with New Year’s resolutions. Launch to more people, maybe even do an in-person meet up, which would be really fun. And, possibly, that could be the next book, so, we’ll see. And then, what’s next is to actually slow things down a little bit, and get out and see New York, because, I just moved a month ago and there’s so much great stuff in this city to really explore.
Sara Nguyen: Fantastic! Well, thank you so much for all your time, Jenny. I know how busy you are. So, where can people find you if they want to hit you up and read your book?
Jenny Blake: It’s so funny…I have mine right here. Awesome! The book is on Amazon if you want to grab a copy. My website is LifeAfterCollege.org, and, you can find me on Twitter @Jenny_Blake.
Sara Nguyen: Thank you so much for your time, Jenny. It was so much fun and, keep us posted with your progress.
Jenny Blake: Definitely! Thank you for the interview Sara.