Treat Your Career Like a SmartPhone

Author and Googler Jenny Blake offers work solutions for young professionals.

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A blogger who reviewed your book wrote about how she loves your tips for being organized, including your Keeper File. What is that and how do you use it?

Back when I was training new hires at Google, one of my fellow trainers said, When someone sends you a nice email, you've got to save it. And he would save it in a folder called Keepers. So a keeper is any email you get when someone says "great job" or they compliment you in some or say how nice it was to meet you—anything that will bring a smile to your face. I was keeping these in email but now I've moved over to keeping them in a Google Doc ... It's so nice on a rainy day, when I'm feeling down or discouraged about something, I can scroll back through this Google Doc that has all these kind words and expressions of gratitude and it makes me feel so thankful.

In the book, you write about tiptoeing around a big goal. What advice do you give to folks who might be doing that?

The bigger the goal, the louder the sabotagers and critics. So the more exciting and thrilling something is, the more we tend to hear that rush of voices saying things like, "You're not good enough, You're not smart enough." ... A lot of times, people have a big goal somewhere in the back of their mind, but it's so big that it's scary. So they kind of tiptoe around it, they're a little afraid to say it out loud, and admit that this is actually a goal. For some people, it's writing a book, for some it might be taking an around-the-world trip ... Saying it out loud is the scariest part. From there, it's about addressing any concerns, building a support network, and taking baby steps ... Even for young people and recent graduates, I just want to encourage them—you don't have to wait 10 or 15 years to start doing something that's important to you.

[See And on the Side, I'm an Entrepreneur.]

What other career-oriented advice can you offer new graduates?

[Don't overlook] the power of informal interviews. ... [Start by] reaching out to people you admire and asking to sit down with them for a 30-minute coffee or lunch. ... [It's] a great way to learn more, expand my network, and pursue my big goals. So often, people want to pay it forward ... Don't be afraid to ask someone for their time. The worst they can say is no, and I've found that nine times out of 10, the answer is yes.

Be proactive about your own development. Don't wait for a manager to tell you how to improve or what areas to focus on ... Part of being at the entry level is learning how to navigate ambiguity.

I give a talk called "Career in the age of the app." Instead of thinking of our careers like a ladder and trying to go straight up to the top to some point in the sky, really think of our careers like a smartphone. Our upbringing and our education is our basic operating system on the phone. And instead of thinking about big ladder rungs and big leaps, think about your career as a series of little apps. Skills and experiences that you can download to make your phone work for you. There's no phone competition, [and] it doesn't matter what phone your friends have. Some of the apps will be fun, some of the apps will be side projects and passions, some of the apps will be skills you're learning on the job.

We're in a time right now where career is much more fluid than it's ever been. Instead of just having a day job, a lot of people have their day job, and they're downloading all these apps on the side. It's really empowering for people when they realize, just like a phone, your career is truly in your hands.