Life After College: Crafting a plan once the plan's no longer crafted for you.

Flashing back to my own post-college graduation days, I just shudder as I reflect on how unorganized, terrified and confused I felt ... for several years.

It was time to be "all grown up," yet I had so many questions about what I should do... what I should focus on... how I should navigate my career, how I should manage money, how I should interact with my family now that I was an adult, how I should get people to take me seriously, where I should live...????

.. And on and on the list went. 

Segue to the amazing Jenny Blake, a twenty-something WONDER who works for Google, blogs at LifeAfterCollege.org and just launched an incredible book, Life After College. This book brilliantly takes these questions, fears and conundrums that most young adults face, lays them out, and then boils them down into organized, thoughtful advice and exercises.

I know I should probably be writing a post about my own about-to-launch book (Monday. Monday's the day!) right now. But I love this book. And I love Jenny Blake, who dedicates her heart and soul to helping young adults focus on the BIG picture of their lives, not just the details.

Jenny shared a few thoughts on her blog, the book and how to make envy work for you (yep, FOR you). And now? I share them with you:

Q: LIFE AFTER COLLEGE started as a blog—did you ever imagine it would become a book?

JB: Not in my wildest dreams! I have wanted to be an author since I was a little girl, but I never thought that starting my blog would lead to a book—at least not so soon. I wrote the book after two years of blogging then got the book deal after three. I’m so thrilled and humbled by how much my blog has grown and the community I’ve been able to create around it. The blog is truly the heart and soul of my operation.

Q: Why did you start Life After College, the website?

JB: During the first quarter of my junior year at UCLA I got the opportunity of a lifetime—I took a leave of absence to help start a company with my professor and mentor.

As much as I loved the confidence I got from working so hard and learning so much every day, at times I felt incredibly lonely and confused. I learned a lot in the year I spent at home, when people wondered if I’d dropped out of school for good, when my friends were still partying and taking finals. I read books, scrounged websites, and sought advice – and then felt compelled to share everything I was finding with other graduates through my blog. I set-up the website in 2005 to provide practical tips about life, work, money, happiness and personal growth; my goal is to help people focus on the BIG picture of their lives, not just the details.

Q: Can you give me the 4-1-1 on the new book?

JB: I wanted to write a book that was punchy and easy-to-read, yet also informative and inspiring. There are tons of books for college graduates already, but most are focused on the basic nuts and bolts (things that people can now easily Google)—or they are limited to just one area, like Career.

The format is what makes it unique. It’s a book written in a format that I (and I think many other 20-something Gen Y’ers) would want to read. It’s not a narrative, but rather a compilation of tips, quotes and exercises trimmed to the essence, divided into chapters to optimize every major life area. Chapter categories include life (values, goals), work, money, organization, home, friends & family, dating & relationships, health, fun & relaxation, and personal growth. Just like my blog helps people focus on the BIG picture, the book does the same but in a Twitter-esque style.

Q: Are all of the tips based on your own experiences or others (friends, clients) as well?

JB: Most of the tips are based on my own experiences, comments from blog readers and observations from working with clients. I have also worked at Google for over five years, which has a huge (and thriving) population of recent college graduates. Through my work on the Training and Career Development teams I’ve been able to really learn a lot from my co-workers as well.

Q: You discuss how a good way to meet new people after college is through volunteering and joining intramural sports teams—did these strategies work for you?

JB: I have been really lucky to meet a lot of people through Google, but it was a lot harder when I worked at the start-up company and was the only employee under 30 years old. Getting involved with groups outside of work definitely helped, as did connecting with like-minded people online, then scheduling time to chat on the phone and meet in person if they were local.

Q: You say “Make Envy Work for You.” Please explain.

JB: This is one of my favorite exercises. We often beat ourselves up for getting jealous of people, but I actually think it can be really informative to look at what we are envious of. Even though I often refer to the saying, “comparison is a losing game,” there is value in making a list of people you admire, then listing what qualities or possessions they have that inform goals you may want to set for yourself in the future. Some items will be more materialistic and others will be more focused on WHO they are—but the sum total of the list can be a great way to brainstorm big goals and set some direction (while still being a first-rate version of yourself, of course). An added bonus of making this list is that many of these people can serve as mentors and role-models (either directly or from a distance). 

Q: What is more ideal in your opinion—a well paying job that you like, or a mediocre paying job that you love?

JB: I personally would choose the mediocre-paying job that I LOVE any day over a high-paying job—especially one where I felt bored or stagnant. I’m all about the side hustle—so  if you can find a mediocre-paying job that you love, you will have more creative energy to pursue projects outside of work that could also bring in additional income. Finally, you never know where that mediocre-paying job will lead—if the learning curve is high and you are lit-up with possibility every day, great things will happen.

Q: What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received?

JB: Take great leaps—from my dad. He’s told me for as long as I can remember the quote that “You can’t cross the Grand Canyon in two small leaps.” And it serves as a reminder for me to take risks and to go after big dreams with all that I’ve got. My personal motto is “Live Big!” which I think encapsulates this mindset well.

You can find Jenny Blake -- who's obsessed with cupcakes, coffee, dogs, yoga and personal development -- over at LifeAfterCollege.org and on Twitter @jenny_blake. The new book, Life After College, is over on Amazon.com.