Jenny Blake does not shy away from taking risks.
In 10 years, the UCLA alumna took a year off from college, moved on from the first job she had at a start-up company, and left what she first considered a dream job to start her own business.
Blake talked about her path to becoming an entrepreneur at the “Map Out Your Plan: Plan It Forward” panel to about 20 peoplein Kerckhoff Grand Salon on Tuesday.
“Plan It Forward” is a multi-year campaign partnership between Her Campus, a national online magazine for college women, and Merck, a global healthcare research company. The campaign focuses on helping college women plan and achieve their long-term goals, which include career, financial and family planning.
The Plan It Forward campaign encourages female students pledge to plan and achieve a set of goals and share their pledges on social networks.
“A lot of times college students are so focused on their next exam or next internship that they forget to think about what they want in a few years,” said Windsor Hanger Western, the co-founder and president of Her Campus and a speaker on the Plan It Forward panel.
Officials from the campaign asked Blake, who is a full-time author, speaker and micro-business coach, to be one of the panelists because she is a female role model who is not afraid of taking risks and is successful in pursuing her passions, Western said.
At the panel, Blake compared a career path to operating a smart phone.
“We sometimes expect education and career to be a linear process, but we should think of it like a smart phone,” Blake said. “You are the CEO that operates your own life, and you can choose to download the apps that you want, which can be a job, a skill or a passion that you want to pursue.”
Blake enrolled at UCLA in 2001, where she worked for the Daily Bruin for about a year. At the same time, she said she fell in love with a political science class taught by Lynn Vavreck, a UCLA political science professor. She later became a research assistant and started working with Vavreck.
After studying at UCLA for two years, Blake decided to take a year off from school and went to work at Vavreck’s tech startup, Polimetrix, a company that specializes in online political polling.
“It took me some time to think it over. But I intuitively knew that having a job experience as the first employee of a startup company is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I took the leap,” Blake said.
After graduating from UCLA in 2005, she started working for Google in training, coaching and career development. Though she said she loved her time at Google and thought in many ways it was a dream job, she knew a part of herself wanted to explore and run her own business.
“Sometimes, we just have to take a big leap in life – it might be really scary, but we just have to take baby steps and the courage will follow,” Blake said.
Blake left her job at Google in 2011, after publishing her book, “Life After College,” in which she shared her experiences about working in the real world. Now, she is an entrepreneur in New York City, coaching clients launching their own book, blog and business.
At the panel, Blake encouraged college students to experiment and explore their interests, rather than focus on paths they feel obligated to pursue.
“It could be really overwhelming for students to know how to position themselves,” Blake said. “Be skeptical when you start saying ‘should’ regarding your career or your life, and try to separate what you truly love from what you think you should do.”
Aslin Paxtor, a first-year undeclared social science student, attended the panel. At the event, Paxtor pledged to graduate from college, go into graduate school, save money for the future and run a marathon.
“I felt really inspired,” Paxtor said. “The panel was very interesting and it gave me hope and confidence that I can achieve my pledge.”
Blake said that she loves the idea of empowering young women to have conversations and learn to plan for their future.
“Think about what you want to do and where you want to be a year from now,” Blake said. “And put meaningful plans in place to get there.”