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Former Google Career Coach Jenny Blake Says Career Conversations Are a Two-Way Street [Book Excerpt]

Jenny Blake

Career and Business Strategist at Jenny Blake
Jenny Blake is a career and business strategist and international speaker who helps people move beyond burnout and create sustainable careers they love. She left her job in career development at Google in 2011 after five and a half years at the company to launch her first book, "Life After College," and has since run her own consulting business. Jenny is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council and lives in New York City.

Career Conversations are a Two-Way Street

The following is excerpted from “Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One” by Jenny Blake, in agreement with Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Jenny Blake, 2016.

“Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One” is available now wherever books are sold. 

No matter how much managers take increased responsibility for initiating these career conversations, they are still a two-way street, and should be owned by individuals. Impactors know themselves best, and shouldn’t expect others to read their mind or wait to be asked.

“I do believe it is part of the manager’s responsibility to support career development, because it means you have a more engaged, productive, happy employee who is thinking of solutions and ways to solve problems all the time, not just in the office,” Ronnie Mae at MIT says. “But it is equally important for every one of us to be looking at our career and going after what we need. Both asking our managers for that, and asking other people in the organization.”

Jennifer Grayeb suggests that individuals ask their managers about their personal career journey, and the choices they had to make along the way. She also says one of the biggest lessons for younger impactors is balancing their desire for stretch projects and meaningful work with rolling up their sleeves and getting things done. If impactors want to create a growth culture, they should also take the lead in helping others. “For every opportunity you get, help open a door for someone else.”

Laura Grose, HR business partner at one of Silicon Valley’s fastest-growing startups, advocates that impactors keep a realistic and patient view of what roles may be available. She found that many impactors who enjoy the building phase may feel limited when their roles require more process and maintenance. “In high-growth startups, it’s common for early employees to wear many hats. But sometimes it takes a different person and more specialization as the company matures. Rock stars at doing everything in the beginning may find themselves less interested over time,” Laura said. “Sometimes your company goes through a growth spurt or a decline and it is no longer the right fit for your skills. You might need to figure out at what stage you add the most value and start seeking out those opportunities.”

Laura says that when impactors get impatient about getting promoted quickly, they should remember: “The question is not only about are you ready, but is the job available to you? There is only one CEO.”

One of the most untapped tools for pivoters is proposing a business case for why they would be valuable somewhere else within the company. “You don’t always have to go up, you can go across,” Laura said. “Make your case: I have knowledge A, if I apply that to business B, here is how I can transfer my skills to add enormous value. It is one of the least known and most effective ways to get new opportunities within an organization.”

“Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One” is available now wherever books are sold. 

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