ORIGINALLY POSTED JUNE 2017
Are you one of 10 million people who bought a copy of the job hunting classic “What Color Is Your Parachute?” I am.
In fact, I just read reread this book for the first time in more than 30 years. I was 23 years old when I first read “Parachute.” At the time I was the classic case of a young person who graduated from college and then realized that what I had just majored in – electronic media – wasn’t really something I wanted to do as a career. I was a young married man with a child so I really needed to work. I had a job at a conference center using some of my media skills but doing a job that didn’t really require my BA degree. More importantly, it had no future for me. I stepped back, looked through my career fog, and knew I had to completely re-start my career journey.
I really didn’t know where to start, but fortunately my wife Lisa had met an interesting author a couple of years earlier when she interned at a local daily news-lifestyle show. His name was Richard Bolles and he was the author of the “Parachute” job-hunting book. She told me about it, so I found a copy of the Parachute at the local bookstore and started devouring it.
I was a highly motivated reader and the concepts I discovered really transformed my thinking and understanding about how to develop a career and how to find a job. At the time, the most revolutionary idea was the concept of “informational interviewing” – the idea of reaching out to professionals, not to ask about a job opportunity, but to learn about what they did for a living, and explore whether it might be a good fit for me. In the process, I started to build a network of new relationships, and develop confidence and conversational skills that paid off later in the job search process.
Another important concept was taking a self-inventory of the skills that I had already developed, and thinking about my interests and aptitudes. I didn’t use any formal assessments to do this; just a simple pen, paper, self-reflection, and talking to my wife and some close friends. This led to my growing understanding that a career in public policy was probably going to be a good fit. Over the next few years, as I entered into this career, I later found an even better fit in education policy and practice.
Over the last week, I just re-read the 2012 edition, and at the end of the text, Bolles listed 47 principles that he had explained during the course of the book.
Here are 10 of those 47 Principal Ideas that really stand out to me:
#5. Job-hunting has become a survival skill.
#6. Every job is temporary. By their very nature, jobs are mortal; they get born, grow, prosper, decline, die. Jobs and job-titles are endlessly being born, and then dying.
#9. Even when you feel utterly powerless, you must work on what is within your control, even if it’s only 2 percent.
#12. The business world is like a foreign country; if you visit it, you must learn its language, and how employers think.
#13. You must learn that employers hunt for employees in exactly the opposite way that job-hunters search for employers.
#18. Your self-inventory must be a search for what you did right, not for what you did wrong.
#20. There are three key elements to a self-inventory; your answers to three questions, WHAT, WHERE, and HOW. WHAT skills do you most enjoy using; WHERE do you most want to use those skills; and HOW do you find the person who has the power to hire you for such a job.
#23. Your uniqueness does not consist in any one subject that you know, but in how you combine two or three different fields that you know.
#26. In job-hunting, don’t wait until a place has declared it has a vacancy; explore any company that interests you, whether it has a vacancy or not.
#38. In the employment interview, answer each of the employer’s questions no shorter than 20 seconds, no longer than 2 minutes, at a time.
So, if you’re looking for a great gift for any young person who perhaps is finishing high school or has just finished college and is floundering, this is it. Get a copy and share it (the most recent edition is 2017). You can also learn more at Bolles website.
P.S. I also discovered that Richard Bolles just passed away in March of this year at the age of 90. I never met the man, but his work and passion touched me very personally; I am very grateful for the legacy he left!
Hans Meeder is President of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions (www.nc3t.com). NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.