It’s the question on everyone’s mind post-graduation: “What’s next?” These 6 books for recent college graduates will help you answer this, and build the life you want.

You just spent a number of years grinding and finally you’ve reached the summit, snatching up your degree and then riding off into a smooth life of calm and certainty — you’re not buying this for a second, are you? No, you can probably already feel the pressure of “what’s next.”

These six books will help you answer all of your post-graduation “what’s next” questions, from what to do financially, to how to navigate relationships, to those existential “what is my purpose?” ones.

1. Qualified by Amanda Nachman: Stop telling yourself you’re not qualified for your dream job. Just go and get it.

#Qualified by Amanda Nachman

First things first on the list of things you absolutely need as a newly minted college graduate: a job. 

When you’re just getting out of school, it’s pretty likely that you feel very underqualified for most of the jobs you even remotely want. This feeling is normal, but not exactly true, according to Amanda Nachman, CEO and publisher of College Magazine.

In her book, #Qualified, she lays out a step-by-step framework for how to: 

  • nail interviews
  • build a “#qualified” resume
  • grow your network (most people feel awkward doing this, but Amanda makes the process much less painful) 
  • build your personal brand, which is a huge asset in today’s brand-centric world

But most importantly, she helps young professionals unlearn the stories they tell themselves about how unqualified they are for their dream jobs. Through real stories of her own post-college path, stories from students she has helped, interviews with job experts, and thorough research into the 2020 job market, Amanda Nachman provides you with a step-by-step guide for how to land your dream job.

2. The Whole Method by Rhonda Smith: Make decisions based on what you want, not anyone else around you.

The Whole Method by Rhonda Smith

After college (and in college) students are often told what they could do, what they should do, and what everyone else is doing. Your parents might have a job in mind for you. Your friends might go traveling. Your peers might be starting graduate school. And as you’re graduating, you — like many others — may be comparing your path to others, trying to mimic them, or feel overwhelmed with options in general.

But The Whole Method author Rhonda Smith asks: “What if you listened only to yourself? What if you followed your own path, not the one others have already walked?”

The Whole Method is an epic tale of one woman’s journey back to herself. The book speaks candidly on the journey towards self growth, and at the same time, it shines a light on the paradoxes riddled in many of today’s self help ideologies. If you find yourself hearing nothing but a babbling brook of outside information, The Whole Method can help you quiet the noise and listen to what your inner self wants out of life.

3. Redefining Work-Life Balance by Jim Bird: Work-Life balance is a skill you need for the rest of your life

When you were in school, you got this really nice, predefined slot of time known as a break. But when you’re an adult in the working world (working your dream job, if #Qualified is on your bookshelf), the line between your work and your life is not so neatly drawn.

It’s up to you to create work-life balance. And while you’re not being assigned literal “homework”, this balance is a precarious one — especially as many employers are turning toward hiring remote workers in 2021. Fortunately, Redefining Work-Life Balance is a four part guide on how to:

  • understand what work-life balance actually means
  • avoid saying “I’ll do this thing I want to do, as soon as…” and just start doing the things you want to be doing with your life
  • establish the way you want to be living every single day, without compromises
  • finish your work faster and with less stress
  • cultivate more value and balance in all your relationships
  • create a personal emotional management tool, so you can link your emotions to your decisions and make the choices that feel right for you

Each part of the guide offers readers two tools that can be used in minutes, every day. Combine all of these tools, and you will live a more enjoyable, productive, balanced life. College graduates: don’t waste any of your personal or professional life by spending too much time on one or the other. Create the good habits and the good life you want now.

4. The Wealth Coach by Bradley J. Sugars: Achieve financial freedom early in life (despite the loans.)

As soon as you graduate, you are probably broke — or, at least, not making a whole lot of your own money. (If you are, that’s very impressive.) You’re sort of at Square One, because you’re in a new period of your life. You might also be saddled with loans, and are farther back than that, financially speaking. It’s very normal.

This is also where Kim Peters and her two teenage twins start out in The Wealth Coach, a fictional story with real financial lessons and nuggets of wisdom. On a holiday, they find out that they’re flat broke. But they also meet a personal wealth coach, who takes them on a journey towards financial freedom. This story is fictionalized, in part because these characters could be anyone. It’s also because reading a narrative is more interesting than a stale, done-to-death self-help style book.

In this engaging, easy-to-read book, you will learn about: 

  • basic investing in savings accounts
  • business leadership and ownership
  • franchising
  • property investment
  • stock trading

…and every other form of building wealth sustainably, over time. The Wealth Coach, written by Bradley J. Sugars, award winning author, entrepreneur, and business coach, is not a cheesy, get-rich-quick scheme, nor a seemingly unattainable account of someone’s mega-successful life. Rather, it’s an entertaining but educational read, designed for people who are starting from scratch.

5. The Defining Decade by Meg Jay, PhD: Your twenties are weird. Here’s how to live with (and make the most of) it.

For a long time now, your life has been wrapped up in schedules and syllabi and lists: you know exactly where to go, what to do, and what to strive for because someone else decided these things for you. You were always waiting for something, too: waiting to get that homework back, for grades to be posted, to graduate. 

But now you’re here, and…what are you supposed to do with the rest of your life? You’re not waiting on something the same way you were before. You didn’t have the same restraints that you did before. You’re kind of floating around and the relative lack of structure or guidance or purpose can be daunting.

Psychologist Meg Jay, PhD, aims to tackle this fear and aimlessness and help all twenty-something-year-olds with her bestseller The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Them Now. Leaning on her scientific backgrounds and the honest, gritty stories of people in their twenties she’s helped over the past two decades, Meg teaches you how to:

  • build your identity through a collection of meaningful skills and experiences, not just in your job but in every aspect in your life
  • build more diverse relationships with others, rather than befriending only people who are like you
  • get rid of the “should” mentality and examine only your unique, viable options
  • how to navigate intimate relationships, especially before committing to them long-term (there are many chapters on this subject)
  • how to move from a fixed-mindset, where everything is static and laid out for you, to a growth-mindset, where every experience is an opportunity for growth

If you didn’t know by now that your twenties — all of them — are going to be weird, then you’re going to need to strap yourself in extra tight. This time in your life is going to be a fast ride, to say the least. With The Defining Decade in the passenger seat, though, you’ll not only survive but thrive in this period of your life.

6. Now What?!: Conversations about College, Graduation, and the Next Step: For college graduates of all ages trying to figure out what exactly to do next.

When you worry about the future, you can always find someone to tell you that “you’ll figure it out,” or that “it’ll all work itself out,” right? But how much does this really help? Wouldn’t you prefer to just see how it could all work out?

Well, you can. Now What?! is a book of over sixty interviews from recent grads and influential members of society all based around the theme of what it means to “have it all figured out.”

Part guide, part reference book, and part support system, Ari King brings us stories that are funny, motivational, and enlightening. They show recent graduates (and everyone, really) just how people got where they are, and offer advice on how to get there. But most importantly, this book tells you that:

  • It’s okay not to know what you’re doing right now.
  • Success means different things to different people. Don’t let someone else’s idea of success rule your own.
  • Your journey is not over. It’s only just begun.

Honestly, every college graduate, and every person who’s questioning what they’re doing with their lives, should pick up this book.

Congrats on graduation! But you’re not done learning.

Seriously — congratulations. Graduating college is a big deal, and you’ve earned a (short) break. Take that time to read a good book, one that will have a real positive impact on your future. (You should read a steamy romance novel or the new release of your favorite fantasy series or whatever you’re into right now, as well. You earned it.)