When Katherine Schwarzenegger graduated from college, she was left feeling how many recent graduates feel: confused, nervous, and insecure about her future. For the first time in her life, she wasn’t prepared for what was coming next.
Katherine decided that the best way to find her footing was by learning about how others had faced this time in their lives.
But she didn’t just want to figure out her own plans; she wanted to help other recent graduates as well.
That’s why she decided to write a book, I Just Graduated… Now What? about different people’s career journeys and the advice they had for recent graduates about this transitional time in life.
The process behind I Just Graduated… Now What?
Katherine wanted the book to appeal to both men and women as well as people of different age groups. She had her own list of people whose stories she was curious to hear but knew she couldn’t leave it at that. In order to make sure the book would be interesting to a larger audience, Katherine asked her brother, sister, and their friends whose career stories they’d be interested in hearing.
Once she was satisfied with the list, she began to reach out to all of the potential interviewees. Although she knew a few personally, for the most part, she was contacting everyone through blind emails. Sometimes she got replies saying that the person would be willing to do an interview with her but other times she would get a “sorry, but so-and-so is not available” message or no response at all.
Katherine found that the people who did respond, and were willing to do interviews, were all people who felt passionately about the topic and wanted to share their stories of post-grad life.
The end result is a book filled with interviews with men and women who have strong stories to tell and who care about helping students and recent graduates find their way.
The challenges Katherine faced while writing this book
One of the biggest challenges that Katherine faced while writing this book was getting people to commit time. Time is a hot commodity. While emailing people, it was often hard to actually lock down a time to do the interview (or to even get a response at all).
Katherine is very level-headed and understands that people are extremely busy. She knows that she’s probably not their top priority. Though it may be frustrating or confusing to never get a response, you can’t let it stop you from continuing to reach out to different people.
Katherine is all about reaching out and following up. She remembers a time when she worried about being too persistent and wondered if she was becoming an annoyance. Her mother reassured her that reaching out and following up was a necessity. People know you are trying to get your work done and most are more understanding than you think.
When someone was willing to do an interview, Katherine was faced with another challenge. The people she was interviewing were all very accomplished and this made conducting the interviews pretty intimidating. But, even though it was a little scary, she didn’t let that stop her from getting their stories.
Katherine offers advice at the end of I Just Graduated… Now What? One of the little nuggets of wisdom is: “Be prepared. If you are well prepared for something, you don’t need to be nervous about messing up.”
This comes directly from her own experience. Preparation is key. Making sure that you’ve done your homework, practiced, and know what you want from the interview can help you to feel a lot less nervous.
The most surprising thing Katherine learned while writing this book
Katherine truly loved every interview she conducted and the stories she was able to learn and share. Not only was it entertaining to hear about where these powerful people started, but it was also extremely helpful. Within each story there was at least one piece of advice that truly made a difference in how Katherine looked at post-grad life.
Because of the “celebrity-ness” of many of the interviewees it’s easy to think (I know I felt this way before reading the book) that they probably had it easy. Instead, each interview introduces the struggles each of these people went through.
Katherine was shocked by how many people told her, “it’s okay to fail. Now is the time to fail—fail and then pick yourself back up.”
From Sara Blakely to Jillian Michaels, their “failed” career attempts were what pushed them in a new direction (a direction that completely revolutionized their lives and brought them to the careers they are passionate about).
This was definitely not what Katherine was expecting to hear. I totally relate when she tells me about growing up with the feeling that she “needed to run from failure.” I think it’s something that many of us feel; failure means we’ve done something wrong.
Hearing these stories and looking at failure from a totally different perspective is surprising and enlightening. Failure is not the end. Failure is an opportunity to become stronger and find a better path.
This advice really helped Katherine. If these amazing people were feeling the same inner turmoil upon graduating (or entering into their twenties), then it was okay that she was too.
Katherine’s own “celebrity-ness”
Like some of the people in her book, Katherine comes from a well-known family and I was curious to hear about how this had affected her—the challenges and privileges it awarded.
She remembers a time in high school when she would question her success and wonder if it should be attributed to her work or her last name.
She no longer has those fears and recalls a piece of advice her mother (who knows what it’s like to come from a well-known family) once told her.
She said that sometimes doors are opened for you (no matter who you are) but that doesn’t mean those doors are going to stay open. They can easily be closed in your face. It’s up to you to work hard and prove yourself to keep those doors open and to open others.
In some ways, you almost have to work twice as hard to prove yourself.
Katherine was the one who came up with the idea for the book and the one who pitched it. She was the one who contacted the interviewees and conducted the interviews. This book was her responsibility to execute and make into something that would help recent graduates and that they would want to read.
How writing has helped Katherine
Katherine has written two books and both have helped her through different stages in her life.
She wrote her first book, Rock What You’ve Got: Secrets to Loving Your Inner and Outer Beauty from Someone Who’s Been There and Back, while still in college. The topic of the book, dealing with the pressures of society and finding love for your body as it is, was something that Katherine was personally dealing with at the time. Writing down her thoughts and feelings about what she was going through helped her to find her way through it.
I Just Graduated… Now What? was also written as a reflection of Katherine’s own experiences. She laughingly refers to her writing process as “a therapy session.” Writing I Just Graduated… Now What? forced her to take a closer look at her feelings about leaving college, being unsure about the future, and finding her career path.
Each person’s career story was completely different, but they could all be related to her own. After each interview she would reflect on what she would have done in that person’s shoes and how to apply what they learned to her own situation.
She was also inspired her to start her lifestyle website: Katherineschwarzenegger.com.
One common piece of advice that seemed to make its way into each interview was that you should find what you’re passionate about and work hard to make it a part of your life. Your first job out of college probably won’t be your dream job, but you should always be working toward finding out what that is and working to get there.
Katherine took this piece of advice to heart. She began to pay attention to what caught her interest and found that she was drawn to everything that fit under the umbrella of “lifestyle.” Every day she was going on lifestyle websites and hopping back and forth to find different articles and ideas that spoke to her.
After exploring these sites, she realized that she wanted to create one of her own: a website where you could find anything from the latest fashion trends to different ways to create inexpensive (but still totally delicious) meals. But she didn’t want it to just feature her voice. She wanted to create a community in which many people could contribute ideas and projects.
Now, the website is almost a year old and she’s excited about how far it’s come and is also looking forward to where it will go. She is always interested in meeting different people with strong passions or interests who want to contribute.
She mentions meeting a young woman at SXSW and being thrilled to hear her interest in contributing to the site.
What else is Katherine working on?
At the moment Katherine is focused on the book tour for I Just Graduated… Now What? and getting the book to as many recent graduates as she can.
She is also working to keep her blog up-to-date.
But she doesn’t stop there. Passionate about “defending the millennial generation” and helping twentysomethings make their way in the world, she is constantly “hustling” and finding other opportunities to talk with and about her generation.
She’s found that the more she puts herself out there and is seen as a voice, the more opportunities come her way. One thing she learned from writing this book is to be open to all opportunities, even if you don’t necessarily think it’s something you want to do. You never know what something really is or what it could turn into until you do it.
Katherine’s advice for students who want to follow a similar path to hers
She advises students and recent graduates to take every day as it comes; don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
If you are focused on one path, don’t freak out if something takes you in a different direction along the way. Sometimes things don’t go as you planned, and that’s okay. It might even work out for the better (you won’t believe how many times that happened to the interviewees in her book).
Homework time! If you haven’t yet, read I Just Graduated… Now What? Then, conduct a few informational interviews of your own. Follow in Katherine’s footsteps and take notes about other people’s career stories and then see how they relate to your own life. Even if you’re not working at your dream job after college, work on your self-awareness and try to notice what you get excited about. Then figure out how you can incorporate that into your life.