Few things are scarier than being a newly-minted college graduate trying to navigate the cash-sucking waters of New York City in the REAL WORLD. And Brooklyn Heights resident Ari King, who graduated from Wesleyan University in the midst of 2009’s awful job market, knows that as well as anyone; after moving to New York right after graduation, he kicked around the city trying to find a gig, sleeping on couches and subsisting on dollar slices, before finally landing some substantial work. But King knew even some of the greats had trouble getting on their feet from the get-go, so he’s penned and self-published a new book with tips from celebs, businessmen and other successful grown-ups to help guide post-grads and others struggling to start-out make it to the top.
King’s book is titled Now What?! Conversations About College, Graduation and the Next Step, and the project was initially inspired by travel guidebooks and online sites that laid out tips for things to do various cities and countries. “I thought about how there should be something similar for when you come out of college,” King said. “There’s a lot of emphasis on when you go in, but there wasn’t much for when you get out.” King had been documenting his own postgrad struggles in a blog—he spent his first year out of school trying to land temp jobs before finding a gig as a concierge and then as a full-time real estate agent—and the concept just went from there. “The blog turned into an idea for a book, and that idea turned into a three year process,” he said.
Initially, King tried to pitch the book the agents. “It just seemed that for someone who didn’t have many credentials, like myself, or much of a pedigree, or perhaps the idea wasn’t that interesting to others, no one really bid on it,” King said. He got a Kickstarter going (which included cool rewards, like a Playbill signed by In The Heights director Tommy Kail) made his goal and went about self-publishing on Amazon. Even better, though, King packed the book with tips from bigwigs like Bradley Whitford (of West Wing fame), Will and Grace creator David Kohan, oncologist and hematologist Mark Berger and AmeriCorps VISTA Leslie Chapman. “There are a lot of entertainment people in it, a lot of people in government, doctors, lawyers,” King said. “There’s quite a variety in there. A lot of people were interested.” He interviewed 62 different people, who provided anecdotes from their first year out of school, and specific tips to help readers get by.
Like any post-grad, King did get snubbed by quite a few people in his quest to get his book published. “I don’t know how many people I emailed, but I would say about a third of them responded,” King said. “It wasn’t necessarily that people didn’t take me seriously, but it was just one of those things. It was just an idea, so it was a little difficult for people to latch on. In 2009, things were in flux.” But many of those who did contribute, particularly people who were successful in their fields, were enthusiastic about the idea, and the book eventually came together, filled with words of wisdom to make lost postgrads feel less alone out there. And though much of it is anecdotal—“There is no one right way to experience college or enter the ‘real world’ after graduating,” Ari says/ “Each person has their own path and with it, their own story to tell.”—he does have a few pieces of advice: “Always carry your drink in your left hand at parties and events; easier to shake people’s hand and not have it be all wet. Try adding something unique under the ‘skills’ part of the resume besides Microsoft PowerPoint and Photoshop. Everyone puts that. And it’s always okay to eat peanut butter straight from the jar. Bradley Whitford did it and he is awesome.”
Now What?! is doing well enough to be currently out of stock on Amazon, but you can still order it and have it shipped to you.