Life Guidance for Gen Y

It’s a good thing I checked my Twitter feed yesterday morning before I put up a different version of this blog post because there was a tweet from Jenny Blake, author of Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want (Running Press, 2011), saying she just quit her job at Google. Yes, that’s right. She quit her job at Google, where since 2006 she has been Career Development Program Manager and internal coach. Yes, that Google. The one with gourmet food, a gym, nap rooms; the one that fosters “white space”—that is, time for employees to think about things besides their current project; a top ranking employer-of-choice for college grads (see http://aol.it/iqwdto. Note: AOL classifies this article under “Weird News.” Oh, OK, AOL. You the boss.) Judging by the book, and yesterday’s blog, http://bit.ly/iZZkKd, she did the right thing. For her. And that’s what ultimately important.

If either of my kids ever quit a six-figure job with an amazing employer, you can bet that I’d morph straightaway into Jewish Mother Mode (JMM). I can see the texts I’d be pounding out on my phone, the IMs I’d be sending, and I can hear the silence with which they’d be met. Yup, my kids know how to tune out the nag. But being that I’m not Jenny’s mother, I can be a bit more objective. Jenny’s book, speaking tour, and blog have become her consuming passion, and she’s a big on living your passion.

Life After College, in fact, steers Gen Y to career paths and life journeys that will make them happy, and not—IMPORTANT—necessarily rich. It’s a big debate these days, whether colleges (and advisors and parents) should be steering young people to the careers that will put them on the path to an assured income. Going for the bucks is OK for some. Indeed, for many 20-somethings I speak with $$$$$ and lots of it is their goal in life. They focus early on in college and as soon as they graduate (or finish a professional program) they pounce. Satisfaction with self? Sure, they measure that in dollars.

But for all the others out there, the ones who graduate and ask, “now what?” the questions Jenny poses and the marvelous exercises she includes seem to me great tools for directing choices. I like how Jenny invites people to write in her book, kind of like Dr. Seuss’s My Book About Me (which my daughter owned and revised many times). This really is a “workbook.” Jenny uses icons to demarcate various sections: two pens for the “coaching sessions,” a diver for “deep dives,” i.e. more in-depth examinations random topics, such as clean sinks.  The “Two Cents From Twitter” pages (headed with a red version of the blue Twitter bird) come off as a bit of a gimmick, but crowd-sourcing is a big thing now, and James Suroweicki has certainly convinced me about the wisdom of crowds. So maybe she’s right to include snippets of ideas gleaned from her audience. I also wasn’t crazy about the inspirational quotes, but that’s me. I’m not an inspiration quote person. (I can tell from my Twitter feed that I’m in the minority.)

I would give Jenny’s book to any Gen Yer, perhaps as a companion to What Color Is Your Parachute (Ten Speed Press, in its umpteenth edition, and now a great reference for kinds of careers). Jenny is practical, upbeat and full of belief in herself, an attitude that becomes quite contagious, and I would recommend that my fellow baby boomers make sure their kids have copies. Read it yourself first, though, because many pages could turn into “conversation starters.” And read it for yourself too. Yes, Jenny is our kids’ peer. She is nevertheless a born life coach whose advice cum way-of-thinking suits any age group. We could all pause to take our “quality of life” temperatures (see pp. 234-35) or fill in the blanks about our “ideal day” (pp. 241-243). You might have to purchase two copies.

Yeah, that’s one thing I love about Jenny’s book. It works better on paper. Sure, you could complete the exercises on an iPad ebook, but typing ebook notes is still a cumbersome task. With a book like this, “easy” is an important quality. This book reminded me that some things are best in older formats. Like us, our kids’ parents.

  • Life-coaching vs. psychotherapy: I wouldn’t recommend coaching over, say, seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist if one is truly depressed or stressed. But for those crossroads we reach, whether at age 22 or 59 . . .? Life-coaching definitely has its appeal. It’s short, direct, proactive.
  • Life-coaching vs. psychotherapy, redux: To my mind, a lot of life coaches are bullshit artists who prey on the insecure and needy. So are a lot of psychotherapists. Still I trust psychotherapists who have had years of verifiable and quantifiable training over coaches, who generally go through some kind of training program that lacks an overarching authority to set standards.
  • Life-coaching vs. psychotherapy, one more observation: It isn’t either/or.
  • Finding help for your kids: Let them lead you to what they need. You probably have better connections for doctors and even life coaches than they do, so have some contacts ready in case they ask.
  • Finding help for your kids redux: Jenny’s book costs $14.86 on BarnesandNoble.com. That’s a small investment for a tool that might help your Gen Yer discover his or her mooring.

So good luck to Jenny, who’s already something of a rock star. If you’re looking for an inspirational speaker for an event, you can contact her on her blog: LifeAfterCollege.org. Clicking on the book cover will take you to BarnesandNoble.com.

As always, please leave comments. I prefer them on the blog, but, as always, I like your communications on Facebook and Twitter and by email.

This is Jenny Blake