Life After College

The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want


By Jenny Blake

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 25, 2011. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Just graduated? Feeling a little lost? Life After College is like a portable life coach, giving you straightforward guidance on maneuvering the real world–along with tips, inspiration, and exercises for getting you where you want to go.

Congrats, you’ve graduated! You have your whole life ahead of you. Do you feel overwhelmed? Unsure? Deluged with information, but no real plan? Jenny Blake’s Life After College gives you practical, actionable advice, helping you to navigate every area of your life — from work, money, dating, health, family, and personal growth — to help you see the big picture. It will get you focusing on your goals, dreams, and highest aspirations so that you can create the life you really want. Now in a repackaged edition!


Advance Praise for Life After College
College is easy: you get a schedule of classes and a four-year
plan. Life is hard: you have to make the plan yourself. Thankfully,
Jenny's book helps you make the plan, with plenty of time for both
career and life itself. Jenny's great book lives up to its hefty promise—
read it to get what you really want. Don't wait! "
—Chris Guillebeau, Author of The Art of Non-Conformity
"Jenny Blake is an overwhelmingly positive voice for the Millennial generation. Here is someone who is working her way up the ladder at one of the most prestigious companies in the world while pursuing her dream. Read this book, become Jenny's friend, and be privy to all the life skills and knowledge she has learned along the Twitter-sized bites!"
—Alexandra Levit, Author of New Job, New You: A Guide
to Reinventing Yourself in a Bright New Career
"I wish someone had given me this book twenty years ago!
The wisdom and maturity behind the tips and insights in Life After
College are simply mind-boggling coming from a twenty-something
author. Jenny Blake has written a guide to life that would enlighten
and equip anyone, not just college students. What a gift this book will
be to anyone who is lucky enough to read it."
—Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. Wellness expert, coach,
international speaker and author of Live A Life You Love:
7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You
"Jenny was once my coaching client, and now her book is coaching
ME. Yes, even experienced coaches can benefit from the back-to-
basics self-examination that Life After College requires of its readers.
The book is chockablock with tips, exercises, anecdotes and ideas
that can help anyone create an independent, happy, fulfilling life."
—Ruth Ann Harnisch, President of The Harnisch Foundation
and Founder of
"Life After College is less a book than a compass.
It's also an interactive pep talk, a plan of attack
and a treasure trove of razor-sharp advice."
—Phil Villarreal, Author of Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel
"This is your real life–not a practice life. It's important
to stop for a moment to think about what really matters to you,
what lights you up, what you truly want in life–and then to
design a roadmap to that future. Jenny's book is that roadmap.
She helps you explore your unique genius, gives you fast-acting
strategies and innovative exercises and shows you how to make
your personal and professional dreams a reality. Most people
spend more time planning their vacations than planning their
lives. Miracles will happen when you follow the inspiring
and practical advice Jenny offers. Give it as a gift to
everyone you know who wants to get the most out of life."
—Barbara Fittipaldi, CEO of Center for New Futures
"Jenny Blake's Life After College should be called
The Rest of Your Life After College. It's the smart, useful get-up-
and-go guide we all need to not only live big, but to live better."
—Kevin Smokler, co-founder of
"A book that solves all your life's problems
and gives you a big wet kiss afterwards? AWESOME!"
Neil Pasricha, Author of The Book of Awesome

To my family—
thank you for always encouraging me to dream big,
and for helping me believe that I am capable of
anything and everything I set my mind to.

THERE IS NO MANUAL FOR THE REAL WORLD. IN high school and college we have teachers, guidance counselors, and course requirements. But the minute we graduate it seems we are immediately expected to understand where to go, what to do, and how to get wherever we're going next—even when we have no clue where "next" is.
For the first time in many of our lives, we feel paralyzed without a defined road map—or without any clue how to create one.
This book represents the road map I pieced together along my own journey. It is a collection of my personal experiences and tips, helpful exercises and resources, as well as quotes and advice from dozens of college graduates. It is designed to help you focus on the BIG picture of your life—your hopes, dreams, and highest aspirations. It is a jumping-off point to help you start creating the life you really want, and will encourage you to think outside of the box as you also learn practical tools and systems to navigate through your life after college.


My life after college started early—one quarter into my junior year at UCLA—when I got the opportunity of a lifetime. I took a leave of absence from school to help start an online survey research company with my political science professor and mentor, along with four other college professors. I was the youngest employee (by at least 15 years) with very little work experience, save for a few internships I had in college.
I had tremendous responsibilities at the start-up—from office manager to webmaster to marketing assistant—and l loved the confidence I got from working hard and learning so much every day. But there were also many times I felt isolated, lonely, and lost. While I was struggling to understand health insurance, my 401(k), and how to be a good employee, my friends were still partying and taking finals. I got pangs of jealousy when I heard about how much fun they were having, and questioned whether I had made the right decision (even though I knew deep down that I had).
So I read, I researched, and I set goals for myself. I became a student of personal finance, time management, organization, productivity, business, leadership, personal growth, goal-setting, health, and happiness. I read more than 150 development-related books and took courses in all of the above.
During my second year at the start-up, I returned to UCLA for one last quarter to finish school and graduate with my class in the Spring of 2005. At that point, I felt compelled to share the many resources and tips I had accumulated with others who might be as lost as I was, so I started a website ( that I turned into a blog two years later.
A shining success story, right? Except that I was about to be blindsided by my very own quarter-life crisis.

Motivated by achievement—a blessing and a curse.

I have been motivated by achievement my entire life. And for the most part, it has worked very well for me. I started working full-time at the start-up company when I was 20 years old. I finished my degree from UCLA in three years with a double major and college honors.
By the time I turned 25, I had moved up the ladder at Google, completed training to be a life coach, become a manager, and tackled some of my biggest personal life goals, including running a marathon and buying a house, all while building and growing side projects like my blog and this book. And if this seems like a ridiculous list of achievements that only the foolhardy would attempt in this short period of time, you would be right. I hit—no, slammed into—a wall... hard.
The quarter-life crisis knocked me off my turbospeed treadmill right on cue. As soon as I turned 25, I realized I was utterly exhausted. I didn't know how to maintain the same cycle of achievement, and I became incredibly sad and tired. I knew I couldn't maintain that frenzied pace for the rest of my life, but when I thought about stepping off the fast-track, I panicked. It absolutely terrified me because achievement was all I had ever known.

Awareness: planting seeds for my "ah-ha" moment.

At first I felt spoiled and absurd for feeling so unhappy, so I tried to ignore the fact that something was wrong. But pretty soon, red flags started popping up. I became an emotional wreck. I was tired and stressed. Much to my humiliation, I cried more times than I would like to admit. At work. In meetings. Each time became the new lowest moment in my career.
I knew that something needed to change after the fifth, sixth, and seventh red flag smacked me in the face. They say that what we resist persists—in this case, my body and mind continued sounding alarms until I finally listened and took steps to figure out what I truly wanted, and who I really was underneath the shiny veneer of achievement.

From a spark to a brush fire.

In 2007 I received a coaching session that changed my life. My coach asked me what I felt I was born to do, and I stuttered and stumbled through my reply. No one had ever asked me that before, but I knew the answer was that I wanted to help other young people who were lost. I wanted to help people live happy, balanced lives through practical tips and tools.
After attending my first coach training class, I turned that spark of inspiration, that clarity of my purpose, into a brush fire. I took coaching classes on my free weekends. I coached clients at night and in the early morning. I worked on projects related to coaching and development at work. I did not ask for permission to help people. I just did. And by exercising my passion, my skills grew naturally. They had room to breathe.
Finally, after countless nights spent stumbling through and exploring my life after college, I finally found my way to my dream job as a career development program manager at Google. It felt like the job was created just for me.

You are not alone in this journey.

I hope that no matter what position you are in or how many years it has been since you graduated, you will realize you are not alone out there. Change is constant, and only one thing is certain: life after college is a series of ups and downs, full of personal exploration and opportunities for growth.
Beyond the everyday aspects of adjusting to life on your own, starting a career, figuring out how to manage your money and maintaining your relationships, life after college is about realizing that you are in the driver's seat, and that you have full responsibility for your life from here on out. My hope is that this book will help you feel empowered and inspired to create the life you really want. I know you can do it, and I'll be right here to help in every way that I can.

This book is not a narrative; it is a compilation of tips, quotes, and exercises trimmed to the essence, divided into chapters for every major life area, including: Life: Your Big Picture, Work, Money, Home, Organization, Friends & Family, Dating & Relationships, Health, Fun & Relaxation, and Personal Growth.
This book will help you create a plan;
however, it is not meant to be an
all-inclusive how-to guide.
I trust that you know how to use Google and that you are creative, intelligent, and resourceful. If you want specific details about apartment hunting, setting up your 401(k), or filing taxes, this book may not be for you. (I list a number of books at the end of each chapter for this purpose.)
You do not need to read the chapters in chronological order. Skip to sections that interest you, or flip to a random page every day for thought-starters, exercises, and ideas.
Please don't feel like you have to agree with every point or listen to every piece of advice—take what is helpful to you and throw out the rest. Experiment with ideas that you are curious about, take time to do the exercises (which is by far the best way to get your money's worth from this book), and feel free to correct me where you think I'm wrong!

The information within each section is labeled to make navigating easier. Here is a legend for the types of information you'll find:
Jenny's Tips
Best practices for life after college.
Advice from College Graduates
Interviews conducted with people of all ages.
Coaching Exercises
Questions to get you thinking. Grab a pen or notebook
to get the most out of these.
Deep Dives
An in-depth look at selected key topics.
Notable Quotes
Inspirational quotes from public figures.
Two Cents from Twitter
Crowd-sourced wisdom from college graduates in 140
characters or less.
Recommended Reading
Suggested books for each topic.

It does not need to be handled with care. This is your book,
ready for your thoughts, notes, and highlights.

1. Life: Your Big Picture
"When you get to a fork in the road, take it."
—Yogi Berra
BEFORE JUMPING INTO AREAS SUCH AS WORK, money, and relationships, let's take a look at the big picture of your life. Clarifying your values and goals will give you an anchor for everything you do—the compass that will help you make big decisions and find your footing when you feel unsatisfied, unfulfilled, or lost.
This chapter is about figuring out who you are, what makes you happy, and what you want for yourself. It is also about making smart decisions while taking risks; planning for the future without worrying too much about it. Finally, life is about figuring out where you fit within your broader community and leveraging your unique vision to make the world a better place.
This chapter covers:
• Setting the "big picture" vision for your entire life
• Identifying your core values
• Brainstorming short- and long-term goals


"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Do you want to know how great things happen? Life achievements and big scary dreams? Buying a house, living a healthy lifestyle, making it to your 60th wedding anniversary (like my grandparents), or sticking to your New Year's resolutions?
I'll tell you how. One day at a time. Let me say it again: ONE. DAY. AT. A. TIME. Sure, tomorrow is a new year, but today is a new day. Make the most of it. Take a baby step toward a goal. Give a new habit one more chance to stick. Climb one step higher up the mountain even if you are afraid of heights.
Life gets too overwhelming for me when I think about committing to something like good health, a relationship, or a house for the rest of my life. I don't know about you, but I find thoughts like that paralyzing; an open invitation for my saboteur to swoop in and show me all the ways I'll screw it up. So stop scaring yourself out of big things. You don't have to do great things all at once, for the rest of eternity. You just have to give it your best shot on any given day. And that day is today.
"Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again."
—Chinese inscription cited by Henry David Thoreau in Walden
Whether it's a new job, a big dream, or some other scary endeavor that leaves you feeling vulnerable, uncertain, or insecure—the only way you will succeed is by trusting your gut and taking baby steps. If something scares you, that just means the opportunity is big enough. And that's a great thing.
Stress is caused by regrets about the past or worries about the future. Focus on today, and trust that just for today you can honor yourself and what you really want in this life. And if you stumble? Get back up the next day and keep going. ONE. DAY. AT. A. TIME.
Just do me one favor: please remember to laugh and love yourself along the way.


Spend some time reflecting on life's big questions:

• What is your life purpose? What is your unique gift to this planet? Tough questions, but once you start to figure these out, the smaller details of your life will fall into place.
• You can start to think about your life purpose in terms of what impact you want to have on other people. If you could wave a magic wand to change them in some way, how would you want them to feel? What are some of your unique gifts to facilitate that change?
For example, I believe my life purpose is to inspire others to live their best lives; to help people focus on the big picture of their lives through simple, practical exercises and tips.
• Set time aside to think about who you want to become in the next year. What do you want to change about yourself? What strengths do you want to develop? What do you believe in? What do you want your life to stand for? What do you want to be remembered by? (There are some exercises at the end of this chapter that will help you brainstorm answers to these questions.)

Find out what success means to YOU.

• There are two types of success: internal and external. Allow yourself to define success on your own terms—what makes you feel great. Don't wait for the external world to validate or define what success is for you.
• Try to keep your focus inward and don't compare yourself to others. You are exactly where you should be. As the saying goes, "Comparison is a losing game."
• The popular saying by Judy Garland also holds true: "Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else."

Explore your personal values; use them as a compass.

• Spend some time reflecting on your values (see the values exercise later in this chapter for a head start). Values are the core operating principles by which you live your life. Your values are usually not something you choose; they reflect who you already are and what makes you feel most fulfilled.
• Notice areas where you feel stuck, conflicted, or unhappy. It is usually a sure sign that one (or more) of your values are at risk or are being stepped on.

Set specific goals and write them down.

• Less is more; it will allow you to focus on what is most important. Choose 2 or 3 major goals to focus on at any given time and tackle those first. Once you achieve them, you can always set new ones.
• Allow yourself to dream big. When you get inspired by a new idea, don't let yourself get bogged down in the "tyranny of the hows." Focus on building out the "what" of your vision before getting into the details.
• When someone tells you "no" about something that you really want, use it as an opportunity to prove to yourself (and that person) how much it actually means to you. "No" is often an opportunity to make a stronger case for "yes" or to ask in a different way.
• Motivation will inevitably dip during the pursuit of any big goal. Make a point not to get discouraged, and refocus on your vision of the best possible outcome—the reason you set the goal in the first place. Celebrate your dips as part of reaching an important milestone in the pursuit of your goal.
• Be aware that sharing your dreams with others will not always yield an enthusiastic response. You might hear things like "Are you sure?" "Is it practical?" or "That won't work." Don't let others' limited views of your possibilities discourage you. It is your unique vision or dream, and it is perfectly fine if they can't see it yet.

Be proactive about your own happiness and do your best to enjoy the journey.

• You own your life; you are responsible for it. If you aren't happy, don't just complain—focus on what you are going to do about it.
• Don't delay being happy until the future. What can you do to be happy today? Right now?
• Make a point every day to be patient, forgiving, grateful, and compassionate.
• Joy is always there if you look for it. Notice and emphasize positive feelings when they arise—stop for a moment and give those moments your full enthusiasm and awareness.

See problems and challenges as opportunities. Know that lows just mean bigger and better things are on the horizon.

• Life is what you make of it—be proactive. Be curious about the world and take every experience as a learning opportunity.
• "Problems" are actually gifts we are given to help us learn, evolve, adapt, and grow. Without challenges there would be no triumphs; without valleys there would be no peaks. Take a moment to celebrate and embrace the challenges you are facing in your life at the moment.
• Sometimes we expect life to be easy, and we get upset when it becomes hard. Life is not meant to be easy. There will always be cycles of ups and downs; life is about enjoying and appreciating the ups while learning and growing from the downs.
• Everything happens for a reason. Live your life without spending too much time questioning why things have happened to you. Look instead for how that experience might help you in the future.
• When you are ready to explode, cry, scream, yell, or bang your head against the wall, remember to BREATHE. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. While it can be hard to remember to do this in the moment, you will be amazed at how much it helps.
• There is a saying that "what you resist persists." Sometimes giving yourself permission to feel hard and/or painful feelings allows you to work through them more quickly.
• Try approaching tough situations with the mantra "there is nothing I can't handle, even this." If that saying doesn't work for you, make up your own.
• In awareness you have a choice. Instead of mindlessly moving through life, become aware of your behavior in the moment—notice and make a conscious choice about whether to continue destructive thoughts or behavior. When it comes to limitations we create for ourselves, being aware is the first step to getting out of our own way.

Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.

• Listen to your gut and trust your intuition. Sometimes your gut knows things your brain hasn't figured out yet.
• Make big decisions using your gut. Just because 10, 1,000, or 1 million people believe something doesn't make it true, or right for you. Learn to question assumptions and reach your own conclusions about your life.
• Trusting your gut is like building a muscle. You may have to take a few risks based on gut instinct and blind faith; then as you watch those risks and decisions pay off you will start learning to trust yourself even more in the future.
• Get clear and be specific about what you really want and great opportunities will be infinitely more likely to happen.

Have fun!

• Don't forget your sense of humor! Laugh, smile, and try to have fun no matter what you are doing.
• Make sure you celebrate your successes. Many people have a hard time celebrating their accomplishments. Before you move on to striving for the next big thing, take time to truly appreciate and honor how far you've come. You've earned it, and you deserve to celebrate.
• Expand your joy—stretch it out. When we are blessed with happy moments, it is a great gift to focus on soaking them up and enjoying every possible second that we can.


Laugh. A lot. Keep the faith, no matter how tough it gets. I look at life
like a stock market curve—no matter how low it dips, it always re-
bounds. Don't rush. This life IS short, so enjoy each present moment of
your life. Be loyal and true to yourself and those you hold most dear.
—Tara C., California State University, Sacramento
The "real world" does not open its arms to you and provide you what-
ever you want after graduating. It actually does take hard work and
persistence to create your ideal life. After graduating, the possibilities
are infinite, but they are a lot harder to obtain and you don't always
end up where you thought you would be. That's also what is so exciting.
—Kristi R., St. Edwards University
Don't get so overwhelmed about your choices that you become paralyzed.


On Sale
Oct 25, 2011
Page Count
300 pages
Running Press

Jenny Blake

About the Author

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 in New York City. She is also the author of a second book, Pivot: The Only Move that Matters is Your Next One, which won praise from Daniel H. Pink and Seth Godin.

Learn more about this author