Winning the rental game

Written by Davis Nguyen  A year ago, I wrote about how my roommates and I were able to get rents that were less than half average in a newly renovated home in a safe, quiet neighborhood in San Francisco, the most expensive major city in the United States.

This month, one of our roommates is moving out and I was tasked with finding her replacement. And when you have a spare room that is below market price, people flock to you. Within the first day, we had more than 11 requesting applications, and I’d only told a handful of friends that we were looking to fill a vacancy.

Now that I am on the side to who gets to rent a place, I want to share two practices I’ve seen increase people’s odds of being offered a contract and one I wish more people did. Together these three tactics will help you secure a contract in a high demand area even if you are new to a city.

1. Do your research on the people you’ll be living with

Most people don’t know much about the people they will be living with. They are just so worried about securing a room. Doing some research upfront will set you apart. One applicant we had, found that two of us were both management consultants and asked us about tips for making the most of her first year in the field (she was also starting a job in management consulting for a different company).

As Dale Carnegie wrote in his seminal work, “You can make more friends in two months by being interested in other people than in two years of trying to get people interested in you.” With LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google you can do so much when it comes to learning about your roommates. Become interested in them.

2. Think creatively about the unique value that you bring

When interviewing, think about what can you do for the other people, not only what they can do for you. Our original roommate beat out almost 30 other applicants because she was so good at doing this. Despite being away from San Francisco when she initially interviewed, she did a convincing job telling us why we would benefit from having her as a roommate.

She offered to bring her couches cross-country so we would have a hang out area and she shared with us her irrational distaste of dirty bathrooms (meaning she would clean the bathrooms). While other parts of her application stood out, her willingness to think about how having her (or not have her) would influence our living environment brought her over the top.

Do you cook? Do you have a car? Do you have a projector? Think about what “add-on” you can offer for your roommates. By thinking about these “add-on” you’ll show you want to be part of their community.

3. Address your landlord/roommates concerns

This one I wish more people did. When people are reading applications looking for sub-lets, they have concerns: will you pay your rent on time? Will you be a positive energy in the house? Will you bring unwanted guests over?

As an applicant, if you can address these concerns, you’ve almost won them over. They aren’t impressed by what college you went to, where you work, or what talent you have if you can’t address their basic concerns.

If you take the time to put these tactics into practice during your next rental search, you’ll be miles ahead of other applicants. Go the extra mile because it is never crowded up there.

About Davis


Davis (@IamDavisNguyen) graduated from Yale University in 2015. He currently lives in San Francisco and works at Bain & Company. When he’s not helping CEOs transform their companies, he is helping recent graduates figure out the type of life they want for themselves and helping them get there.

Happy 8-Year Blogiversary to Life After College!

Written by Jenny Blake

I cannot believe it, but this month marks the TEN YEAR anniversary (!!) of the Life After College website, and 8 years of blogging. What an incredible, wild ride! 

In lieu of cupcakes and in keeping with our year-end tradition, this final 2015 post is a round-up of our biggest updates and favorite Life After College content. 

Our Favorite 2015 Posts

I could not run this blog without the incredible team of contributors who have become LAC family: Melissa Anzman, Paul Angone, Davis Nguyen, and Marisol Dahl. Their posts always make me think, laugh, and reflect—and this website is richer for it. Here are some of our greatest hits this year:

What the LAC Team Has Been Up To

Paul Angone—All Groan Up: This year my second book released: All Groan Up: Searching For Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job! And it only took me 10 years to see it happen! :) All Groan Up is basically my full, unedited heart and story on paper, and it's been amazing to hear how it's encouraging and speaking to other people's heart and story. Then my first book 101 Secrets For Your Twenties was translated for Thailand and India, and just recently Cameron Candance Bure AKA DJ Tanner from Full Houseshared it on her Instagram and Facebook pages! Signature Sauce: I launched and took the first group of 50 students through Finding Your Signature Sauce–an online course and community to help you uncover the 10 ingredients inside of you to live where your passion, purpose, and career collide. Check out a free 3-part video course called UnStuck: Crush the Things Holding You Back to get a feel for what the course is like and start doing work you love.

Melissa—Launch Yourself: I'm so honored to be a part of the Life After College community and 2015 was a year of quiet work, change and having an attitude of abundance instead of "no." Around the beginning of Q2, my career/business focus changed dramatically - I was asked to take on a more "corporate-y consulting" role, and instead of my automatic no, I said yes. I've been knee deep in using a different side of my brain and building what will be new in 2016 - MConnected Communications. This year was filled with a lot of launching through coaching and many Launch Plan Accelerators, and lots of web coding. Oh, and I was called a millennial at work for the first time, which is greatly shaping my plans for 2016 and confirmed that I'm exactly where I need to be. 

Marisol Dahl: 2015 has been amazing! I graduated in May and moved back home to New York, still unsure where my immediate life after college would take me. Throughout the summer I steadily grew my freelance business in digital marketing and communications—under Jenny's wonderful mentorship!—and am now doing that full time. I am growing into my own identity as a solo entrepreneur and am enjoying all the big "adult" experiences that post-college life brings. Happy New Year everyone! 

Davis NguyenBeginning Life After College: This year, I became the first person in my family to graduate from college and in the process fulfilled the 25 year American dream my family started when they fled from Vietnam.  After graduating, I used money I saved up from summer work to travel, discovering the world and myself. When my world tour concluded, I settled into San Francisco, started work, and officially started my Life After College. I am excited to make 2016 even better than 2015.

2015 in Review at JBE HQ

  • I'm coming up on five years of self-employment in March! Leaving Google in 2011 (see: From Six Figures to Suitcase Part 1 and Part 2: On Big Decisions and Very Real Fears) was a tough decision to make, but I haven't regretted that choice even in some of my lowest moments of solopreneurship. That said, in 2013, two years in to running my own business (affectionately nicknamed Jenny Blake Enterprises) I still hit another wall of "What's Next?" and struggled mightily to answer the question. That search, and my desire to make it easier on others, has inspired my next book . . .
  • Pivot: Much of this past year has involved deep, behind-the-scenes focus on my forthcoming book from Penguin/Portfolio, set to launch September 2016. In fact, I just turned in the final version, and now we move on to page layout!! In ~14 months it has gone from rough first draft to completed manuscript, and I'm thrilled and where the book has ended up. I am bursting at the seams to share it with you next year!! Look out for Pivot: Turn What’s Working for You Into What’s Next, hitting bookshelves September 2016 :) 
  • Momentum: In April doors officially opened for Momentum, my private community for side-hustlers and solopreneurs. I’m so grateful for the amazing group of founding members and for our exchanges—we share quarterly goals, give and receive business feedback, weigh in on each other's logos and websites, and share our latest-greatest books and tools. I also host private office hours, a monthly webinar with special guests, and answer questions via short audio clips that live in a Q&A with Jenny library. If you're looking for some momentum, community and accountability in 2016 we'd love to have you join us!! 
    • You can also start by joining the free Momentum Safari for 3 weeks of reflection prompts to generate focus and freedom in whichever focus area you choose
  • Podcast: The Pivot Podcast went pro! When I first started the Pivot Podcast, I kept it super simple—using an iPhone headset and uploading to SoundCloud. But this last quarter, I’ve been hustling to take it to the next level: including intro and outro music, using more sophisticated audio techniques, and finally listing it on iTunes. Catch up on past episodes, and subscribe and stay tuned for tons more in 2016! If you like the show, I would be very grateful for a rating and/or review in these early days of getting it off the ground. 
  • Lucent Pivot: In August we sunsetted Lucent as a mobile app, and pivoted to Lucent List, hitting on one of our greatest strengths of curating content related to meditation and mindfulness. Check out our new Tumblr page and subscribe for all the latest in the world of meditation.

Favorite Posts at

Onward to 2016!

The entire LAC team and I are beyond grateful for your company this year. Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing your own life after college adventures with us! 

If you have a quick minute, we’d love for you to fill out our super-short two-question survey, so we can make Life After College better than ever in 2016! We value your feedback immensely and want to make sure we're delivering content you love. 

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year Everyone, See you in 2016!! :)

Much love,

Jenny Blake Signature
Jenny Blake Signature

Happy 3-Year Blogiversary to Life After College!

It's been a great year here at Life After College. Better than great. SO GREAT that I was going to skip doing this round-up post because it feels self-indulgent, and I much prefer to give you thought-provoking new content.

However, my blog turned three years old this month and without my blog, my life dream of being an author would not be realized. So it's only fair that I celebrate this little corner of the Internet!

By the way - I think blogs age in dog years - 3 years feels like a a good way. I can't even imagine my life without this outlet and the friends and readers I've made because of it.

For more "best of" content: see the Happy Blogiversary posts for Year 1 and Year 2, or check out my shiny brand new "New Here?" guided tour.

Personal Milestones: I am humbled by everything that made the items below possible. I still have to pinch myself, and I only hope that I can give back to the world in equal if not far greater amounts for the gifts I've received.

My favorites and the most popular posts of 2010:

Blog Stats:

  • Visits - In the last month I received 11,580 visits (20,532 page views) from 110 countries -- up from last year's 7,000+ visits (13,500 page views) from 97 countries. The total visits for 2010 was just over 100,000 uniques (200,000 page views).
  • Top Keywords - In 2010, the keyword "life after college" sent 8,773 visits. "Jenny Blake" was the next highest search query with 1,199 visits.
  • Quirky keywords (a personal favorite stat) - bad cubicle position, can limerence be broken? (don't I wish!), can you rent a real live jaguar?, do you stop having fun after college?, it's not you it's me letters, I'm too sexy for my cube, limerence is a bitch, running with cupcakes, tell myself I love my job, and possibly my favorite - it hurts to throw away an empty box of Sprinkles cupcakes.
  • Best "Jenny Blake" keywords - jenny blake cover model (I'll take it!), jenny blake engagement ring (looks over both shoulders - none here), jenny blake exercise videos (nope, sorry!), jenny blake sexy (okay I like that one), jenny the cat woman secret lives (damnit, I liked the sexy keyword better).
  • My most popular content in 2010 (according to Analytics) - 8 ways to organize your life with Google Docs (6,054 pageviews), How I Stay Organized (5,869 pageviews), A Day in the Life of My Paycheck (3,096 pageviews), and the Life Checklist Template (2,576 pageviews). I think many of these made it to StumbleUpon, which really helped drive traffic.
  • Most Popular Templates - Four-Step Budget (2,285 users), Professional Development Strategy (2,158 users), Life Checklist (2,255 users), Job Interview One-Sheeter (2,333 users)

Last but certainly not least, THANK YOU.

Thank you for:

  • Being here
  • Being awesome - the best readers I could ever ask for
  • Reading, engaging, commenting
  • Making all of this possible

One of my mentors, Chris Guillebeau, often says he gets paid in nice emails. I feel exactly the same way. I am richer every day from amazing reader emails, new friends, community, and gratitude. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.

A Delicious December Hodge-Podge

Grab a cup of coffee, this is a long one! Many of my blogging counterparts have a weekly series where they round-up their work and link to great posts from others: Friday Linky Love, Writing Around the Webb, and Fresh Finding Fridays to name a few. As much as I admire their consistency and commitment, I have fun doing mine completely randomly and giving them a new name every time (Couldn't Have Said it Better Myself, Crock PotsLinks Galore, and Miscellaneous Musings). What I'm really trying to say is that I don't have nearly the self-discipline to post these regularly. And yes, I also have commitment issues.

Change Makers TV Interview - Video Now on YouTube! (~30 minutes)

I was honored to be a guest on Gopi's local TV show -- during which I talk about blogging, the book, career advice, and even my dating life (which led to a guy jumping out from behind a car as I was ask me out...after he watched the interview from the sound room...and continued to beg ask as I politely said no at least five times. FML.)

One note before you watch: my book is called Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want, not "The Complete Guide to a Perfect Life," which I would not claim to have or advise others to strive for. The real beauty of life is in imperfection, which is also what makes a slight verbal typo perfectly okay with me. :) {RSS/email readers: Click here to watch}

Two interviews with fabulous women: Betty Jean Bell and Tia Singh

Love Your Work Life LogoAudio interview with Betty Jean Bell of Love Your Work Life - It only took five minutes on the phone with Betty Jean for me to feel like I was instantly talking with one of my best friends. Her passion and energy is absolutely contagious! Take a listen to the ~25 minute podcast or click here to download the mp3, where I talk about my blog, the book, the quarter-life crisis, and pursuing big goals. Head on over to Love Your Work Life (and check out her adorable Christmas header!) to learn more about Betty Jean and her network of coaches.

Written interview with Tia Singh for her Live Your Life YOUR Way series - Tia is another coach extraordinaire who I met through Twitter. She literally sparkles (as her Twitter handle suggests), and we have quickly bonded over our emoticon abuse (exclamation mark, anyone?!?!!) and our love for helping others flourish. I was so honored to be featured in her series, and very touched by her wonderful introduction. Read more here.

Both of these ladies are giving a way a free copy of my book, so head on over and comment to enter!

#Reverb10 - I'm participating and have an author prompt on Dec. 21 -- wuhoo!

I'm excited to be participating in the #Reverb10 project with many other bloggers. It's a daily prompt to help people "reflect on this year and manifest what's next." I'm also incredibly honored to contribute an author prompt (author bios here) - look out for me on Dec. 21, baby!

I'll be answering the prompts on my Tumblr so I don't annoy you with daily posts -- here is a sneak preview of my first post:

2011: This next year will be the year of FREEDOM. Freedom from shoulds, cant’s, have-tos and obligations. I want 2011 to be the year of trusting my gut, listening to my intuition, and making decisions that are nothing short of SOUL-STIRRING. {Read more here}

Awesome links elsewhere - most definitely worth checking-out:

A follow-up note to my June post, Serendipity and the Art of Being Alone

Some of you may remember my story earlier this year about spending the weekend alone in New York City after existing plans fell through. While shoe shopping, I met a woman named Ann - an amazing lawyer who had a house built for herself in Italy (with her own hard-earned dream fund).

We ended up going to lunch then dancing on booths together at Bagatelle Bistrot in our new Louboutins -- girl power at its finest! I later dubbed Ann "my NYC angel" and she calls me Jenny From the Rock (as in Alcatraz).

While in NYC this week I'm attending Ann's big 40th birthday bash to help her celebrate in style. Living proof that random meetings can turn into beautiful friendships...and a reminder to get out there, be yourself, keep going when life throws a curve-ball, embrace surprises and be open to the beautiful art of serendipity.