What Color is your Parachute?

If there is such a thing as a “standard” manual for people in career transitions, What Colour is your Parchute? by Richard Nelson Bolles just might be it. It is hard to compete with a book that has sold over 10 million copies since 1970 and has been translated into at least 20 languages.

The 2009 edition is sub-titled Job-Hunting in Hard Times, and opens addressing those who are dealing with ongoing career struggles during the recent down turn in the global economy. The goal is to help people move beyond “rejection shock” and think carefully about what they should do next.  

The best way to find a meaningful career, according to Bolles, is to do, “extensive homework on yourself before you go out there pounding the pavement.” The worst way to go about it, he says, is just to endlessly apply to job postings on the Internet. Running off in a panic and signing up for an expensive and lengthy formal education program is not recommended either.

You will learn about something called “The Parachute Workbook” in chapter eleven. The purpose of this section is to help you identify and then organize key work related information about yourself on one piece of paper. The shape of a flower is suggested as the format around which to organize critical information that you discover about yourself.

The center of the flower is where you record your top transferable skills. And you do have some. Most people, he says, think that they don’t. The petals include information like: desired salary and level of responsibility, favorite areas of knowledge, where you would like to ideally live, the type of people you enjoy working with, your goals and priorities, and the type of working conditions you have in mind.

From there, the idea is to try to identify general job families and then a variety of specific careers that may offer what you are looking for. This amounts to looking for a career that fits who you are and meets your needs, rather than endlessly trying to squeeze yourself into an employer’s mold in order to meet their needs.

A parachute is a device that could save your life in a crisis situation. And this workbook could potentially do the same for those who feel like their career has stalled and they are now in a free fall. The recommended exercises will also, I think, tend to promote a much happier and productive situation at work for everyone involved.

*It is now possible to work through the helpful material in this book via an online course. This course is offered by Capella University and costs $99 (USD).

© Career & Life Direction 2012. All rights reserved.


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