After graduating college, Jenny Blake went from a startup to product training at Google, then switched to managing career development there before leaving to launch her own business. No matter how perfect the job was on paper, she'd find herself growing restless every two years. She began to wonder whether she was incapable of being happy, or if questioning what was next was a skill set she could develop and benefit from. So she reframed the plateaus that had felt like dead ends as "pivots." Here, she explains what happened when she ran out of money, and how you can make the most of your own career pivots.

Listen to Farnoosh Torabi's full interview with Jenny Blake.

Money is a huge element to pivoting. Career changes in particular seem to threaten our most fundamental needs on Maslow's Hierarchy if we worry about making the wrong move.

My financial tight spot, the chokehold that was on me, affected my decisions about what was next. That's what really sparked me trying to find a better way. Ultimately, reverse engineering my pivots and those of other people I interviewed to come up with this four-stage pivot method.

The media puts a lot of shame and blame on millennials for having that restlessness and what I noticed is that it's not just millennials, that actually everybody is asking the tough questions of themselves and of their careers. This, I would say, goes back to 2008 and seeing the financial crisis happen. So many people got laid off and companies reorganized.

People started to think about: "What am I really optimizing for in my career and what do I really want?" We see all these articles about robots in the work place, automation and outsourcing, I think it's really smart that people are asking, "How can I ensure that I'm fulfilled and creating meaning and impact in my work to the extent that I am able?"

We know high-net worth. These are people who've accumulated a lot of financial resources in their lifetime. But [the people asking about fulfillment and meaning] are high-net growth: They're willing to take a pay cut or bootstrap a business if it means continuing to pursue their own learning and growth and ultimately, that's not enough either. They want to make sure that that effort is making an impact on their broader communities and the people around them. A lot of this search for meaning I think is people reframing the conversation and for high net growth individuals, a pivot is not a sign of failure. It's often a product of their success. It's that they have achieved mastery. Not all pivots have to be super sharp and dramatic. If I had left Google to become a yoga teacher that would have been more of a 180, whereas I was doing coaching and creative element at Google and I pivoted to do it in my own business.

In pivoting, we have the opportunity to continue growing. Some pivots can even be within someone's existing role or business. It's a way of asking "what's next?" and really intentionally, doubling down on what's working to shift methodically in one direction.

It's thinking: "How can I grow into my new direction?" "New" can be within someone's role within their business—incorporating different experiments that will help ultimately double down on what's working. When startups talk about pivoting, it's often plan B—the original strategy failed, now they need to pivot to save the business. But when it comes to people and our careers and our side hustles or businesses, people are the most successful when they can look at what's already working and build from there. It's really about asking, "Great, what's working best that I wanted to invest even more into and where do I want to end up a year from now and how can I run small experiments to help me bridge the gap from where I am now to where I want to end up?"

A good experiment will help test the three E's.

The three E's are: (1) Do I enjoy this new area? (2) Can I become an expert at it? (3) Is there room to expand? Either within the team, within the company, within your own business, within the market place. I like to visualize them as race horses at the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby. We don't know which of the career pilots is going to gain the most momentum, but by setting up a few concurrently, you can task for the three E's. Then what ends up happening is that, often times one has a real sense of energy and it's almost like a magnet. Or serendipity starts playing a role and you meet the perfect person and figure out the perfect next step. The thing starts unfolding naturally and so a lot of times, our pilots are informing us.

Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance expert, the financial advice columnist for O, the Oprah Magazine, the author of When She Makes More, and the host of CNBC's Follow the Leader and the award-winning podcast So Money.


Next Story