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Book review – Survive & Thrive: A graduate’s guide to life after university

Isobel Lawrance 11th Sep 2023 No Comments

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Book review – Survive & Thrive: A graduate’s guide to life after university 

I graduated three years ago during the first lockdown in 2020. I was totally lost; I felt completely alone and had no idea what to do next. The world was shut down, no businesses were hiring and when I handed my dissertation in, the only way to celebrate was to get a takeaway pizza and enjoy it in my flat alone with a cuppa. 

Graduating is exhilarating, and completing university is one of my greatest achievements. But it’s also terrifying – even without the presence of a pandemic. Navigating adult life is scary. Where do you start? There are loads of things to think about; finding a job, making new friends, finding somewhere to live, organising your money.  

For me, I sort of floated in the ether for a while trying to find my feet. But I would have done anything to have had a book like Survive & Thrive: A graduate’s guide to life after university. I think the transition from student life to the real world would have been smoother for me. 

“From the first page, I felt all my worries, fears, unease and stress of leaving university were understood” 

The aim of the book is as the title states; to guide new graduates through the process of leaving education after 18 or so years. From the first page, I felt all my worries, fears, unease and stress of leaving university were understood. It’s a time of huge change, one I didn’t know would hit me so hard. You are uprooted from the solace of education and shoved into the real world, where you must fend for yourself. 

With each chapter I read, I felt a sense of relief. Relief that other graduates and young people out there have a book like this to guide them through. Having graduated over three years ago now, I’m fairly settled into my post-university life, but still, this book gave me guidance I wish I’d known back in 2020. 

There are 11 chapters in total, with topics including finding work, networking, getting work experience, finances and money, moving home, making friends and, my personal favourite, self-care. 

“I felt like there was an out-stretched, friendly hand, helping the reader through” 

What I enjoyed most about this book was the simplicity of it all. It’s not written in a dry, dull way. You aren’t reading paragraph after paragraph of dull black text on white background. It’s bold and colourful, with pictures, diagrams, drawings and more to aid your reading experience. There are charts, case studies and more and what I really loved is the various planners throughout you can fill in and then duplicate on your own. 

It’s also written in a fun, sort of chatty way. I didn’t feel like I was being spoken to by a condescending adult, telling young people how to live their lives and what to do. I didn’t feel this book dictated to graduates how to live their lives or the path to take. It simply laid out ideas, starting points and tips, allowing the reader to take from it what they want or what they need to move forward. 

Because of this, I didn’t switch off. I wasn’t being lectured by someone, simply given solid, friendly and easy-to-follow advice. This may be due to the duo behind the book – mother and daughter team Julie and Sophie Philipson. The pair founded HelloGrads.com in 2016, when Sophie was beginning to navigate adult life after education. So, having advice from someone who lived through post-uni life (Sophie) and her mother who helped her overcome hurdles and support her (Julie) felt more representative of what young people feel and go through, and throughout the book, I felt like there was an out-stretched, friendly hand, helping the reader through. 

“The authors discuss mental and physical wellbeing in an open, non-condescending way” 

My favourite chapter is titled ‘Take Care of You’. Arguably, the most important chapter for anyone navigating huge amounts of change. I just moved house and that was stressful enough – let alone trying to figure out my career, goals, friends, money and more.  

The chapter includes talk of wellbeing – both physical and mental. It’s split into a few topics and why each is positive: movement (talking about exercise), fuel (eating a good and healthy diet), destress (how to manage stress), mindfulness (how to breathe and meditate), talk (the importance of talking about your problems), sleep (why good sleep is so powerful) and resources (where to find help for mental wellbeing). 

The other chapters are all equally as brilliant, don’t get me wrong. But what is the point of looking for a job, trying to make a new group of friends, or finding independence if you’re not taking care of yourself in the process? 

The authors discuss mental and physical wellbeing in an open, non-condescending way. Diet and nutrition are talked about in a gentle way – a healthy, all-salad diet isn’t shoved down the reader’s throat. There’s also a fab little healthy habits worksheet to fill in and duplicate. 

“It’s a well-rounded, straight-forward guide to money that sets out all you need to kick-start your finances” 

Now, this wouldn’t be a MoneyMagpie book review without discussing money and finances. Chapter 9, ‘Your Money Matters’ talks about all this. From managing your money, finding a good bank account, budgeting and saving money, this chapter is a great tool for all new graduates. It can be easy to splurge when you get your first big paycheck, so this chapter has great advice to keep in mind. 

The chapter is split into five first steps to follow, including getting a graduate bank account, budgeting, spending and savings targets, understanding your student loan and paying off debts. Sandwiched in between these steps are 10 ideas to save and make money. There’s also a great little budget planner to get you started with your super-savvy new outlook on money, and the chapter ends with advice on how to get help with financial problems, understanding payslips and tax, and a great financial jargon buster. 

It’s a well-rounded, straight-forward guide to money that sets out all you need to kick-start your finances. Magpie approved! 

“Truly, this is a must-read” 

One last point on this book, is the final chapter. The last chapter of this book is something I wish I had been able to read when I graduated. It’s about success – but what is it? As Sophie, one of the authors says, she used to think success meant “earning the highest wage, being in a high-profile job and generally winning at all aspects of life”, and I was totally the same.  

As mentioned, I graduated in the first lockdown, when the pandemic was at its worst, when restrictions were tight and businesses were closed, people were working from home or furloughed. I couldn’t find a job for a long time, I struggled to make money and I felt like a failure. Despite the fact I’d just had success graduating – I felt like I’d failed. 

So, this chapter is a must-read for any new graduates – or even just those needing a little support. It contains 12 different accounts of what people think success is – and it makes you realise, having money or the highest profile job in your friendship group doesn’t equate to success. It gives you the boost of confidence you need, and even now, stopped my mind from comparing myself to others. Truly, this is a must-read. 

“I wish I’d had this book when I left uni” 

Overall, this book is one of the best I have read on the topic of university, being a student and graduate life. There are thousands of books on the market about student life and loads about what to do with your money when you have a job. But there is very few about that awkward middle bit. The time when you’re sort of left to fend for yourself, find your way and begin adult life. I wish I’d had this book when I left uni, but even now, this provided some insight and reassurance I didn’t know I needed. 

I recommend this book to those leaving university this year, those who have just left, and even those who graduated within the last few years. Although it is graduate-specific, anyone who has just left any sort of education, or who is looking to move away from home for the first time should read this book. Buy it for yourself, friends and family. You won’t regret buying this. Go forth, survive, and thrive!

You can buy your copy of Survive & Thrive: A graduate’s guide to life after university here.

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Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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