Karen Jacobsen, known as “The GPS Girl” and the most downloadable voice in the world, is HPU’s newest Global Artist in Residence. Through an ongoing partnership, Jacobsen will connect with HPU students and faculty for experiential learning opportunities. Below, learn more about about Jacobsen, her career and her advice to current college students.
Q: How does it feel to be an innovator in residence at HPU alongside people like Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple?
A: To be in a role in line with someone of that stature, who has made such a deeply pivotal impact on humanity, and on the human the experience is very exciting and moving. And it’s also really fun, because my speaking voice has been in so many devices, many of which would not exist without his vision and his brilliance. So there’s a really beautiful synergy there. I’m like the result of the product.
Q: How did you decide on a voice career?
A: When I was a little 7-year-old girl, I was growing up in my hometown of Mackay, Australia and on TV came Olivia Newton-John. Here’s this blonde Australian singer who came to America and was a successful singer. So that began the guiding light and inspiration of coming to America
Q: After recognizing your voice, do strangers ever treat you like an intimate friend? They spend a lot of time with you in their cars and on the phone – so they might feel like they know you.
A: Sometimes they will recognize me, and other times they will find out one way or another and then, yes, they will treat me like an intimate friends. They will want to tell me about all of the intimate trips we’ve taken together. It’s happened all over the world and it’s very heartening. I had a child write a song about me, and a 12-year-old girl wrote me a letter about how my voice had guided her family through trips. And then, sometimes, people want to apologize for yelling at me.
Q: You say that you wanted to become a singer, but your career took a turn when you began doing GPS voice work. Was it a tough decision to “recalculate” and follow a path that separated you from singing?
A: By that point I had seen that I had an interest in many aspects of the entertainment business. When an opportunity arose to be in the studio – I was already in the studio often singing jingles and doing advertising campaigns – I saw it as another great opportunity in entertainment. It was definitely a moment to be flexible, which is what recalculating all about. The theme of recalculation has been present in my whole life. Doing GPS voice work was not something I had previously thought about or expected. It has turned out to be a key and incredible piece of my story.
Q: Any advice to incoming HPU freshman for recalculating from high school to college?
A: For someone just beginning their college experience, I would say to remember that this is one of the most major transitions of your entire life and it’s okay to feel uncomfortable. It’s actually normal to feel uncomfortable, and being uncomfortable is a good thing because it means your growing. Personally, this was one of the most challenging years of my entire life, and I remember it clearly.
It’s never too late to recalculate. So, if something isn’t going the way you want it to, you can call someone, talk to a friend, talk to your freshman success coach, but there is no need to silently suffer through a big change. It’s a tremendously exciting time, but I know from my own experience that nobody really likes to feel like the new person, completely out of our own comfort zone. But just remember that you are the person that has the choice to either feel stuck when something is challenging or to do something about it. The ability to recalculate, to keep going forward, to have grit, to have perseverance, even in the face of disappointment or hardship, that’s true leadership. And it’s not always comfortable. I’ve seen and experienced that you can build the ability to do these things. It can be your skill set to have grit and it gets easier and easier. The most successful have had more rejection, and that’s why they become successful.
Q: College is a time to figure out where you want to go, what you want to do and who you want to be. What would you say to students who are unsure or anxious about their future? How can they create a path to happiness and success in college?
A: The thing I’d love to say to any student anxious about the direction they’re headed and whether their able to find happiness is to CUT IT OUT! Let me just clarify. My directions to someone wondering if they can find happiness is to make a deal with themselves to never wonder if they’re able to find happiness. You have absolute control over whether or not you find happiness, and you have the power to create a happy life. That may sound very foreign, but I know it to be true. When I discovered this, it blew my mind. I used to think that life was something that happens to us and we have no say, but we do have control. The one thing we do have control over is our experience. You can make a choice to worry about being happy, or you can make a choice that happiness is your divine right.
And how do you create happy moments? You choose that your life is going to unfold in the context of happiness. Know that HPU is an environment that supports happiness. The scholars and students at HPU are already placed in an environment that supports a thriving and happy life. You’ve arrived at your happy destination. About the anxiety of not knowing – it’s okay to not know what your destination is or what your ultimate choice is going to be. But if you spend your days doing what you love doing, you don’t need to worry about that. It will become clear. You have the answer inside of you. Trust that. It will be apparent.