Book Review: What Color is Your Parachute 2018

Parachute 2018Every year, a new edition of What Color is Your Parachute? is published, and every summer, I re-read the book and am inspired an reinvigorated anew.  Additionally, something different jumps out at me every time I make my way through. This year it is  “The Remedy” section, the solutions presented to job-hunters in facing the multifaceted challenges presented by the changing world of work.  For many reasons, I think that it is important to focus on the solutions, and so review them here as a reminder of how the world of work is changing and consequently, how we can be thinking about changing the way we approach our “career orienteering” in turn.

What follows are my “top ten” of the eighteen principles explored in the book.  For the complete list, see Dick Bolles’ website, and the book’s website. Also check out these additional resources, including my previous reviews here on Career Linguist:

My 2017 review of the book, which focused on LinkedIn  

“Bring In”- A Call to Professional Linguists – a response to Roger Shuy’s article “What Color Can Your Parachute Be?”

The 25 Key Ideas from this book a summary written by the author, Dick Bolles

Principle 1: You are the Given

Essentially, start with you and your interests. Find a job that fits YOU, and not the other way around.  Bolles calls this the “creative” as opposed to the “traditional” route.


Principle 2: The Importance of a Self-Inventory

According to Bolles’ research, when you begin your search from a self-inventory, you are looking at a success rate of 84%, as opposed to those searches which begin with researching the job market (asking which jobs are in demand, which are “hot”), which result in only a 4-28% success at best.


Principle 3: Creative Job-Hunting Rests on Your Finding Answers to Three Questions: What? Where? And How?

As the WaLK series on this blog exploring the work interrogatives would suggest, I am delighted to hear this attention to the importance of questions. Simply put, the three central questions Richard Bolles would have you ask are:

  • What are the transferable skills you most love to use?
  • Where would you most love to use these skills?
  • How do you find the name and title of such jobs, places that offer such work, plus the name of the person-who-has-the-power-to-hire-you-for-the-job-you-want?

Watch this space, as I have much MUCH more to say about the role of questions (a new book’s worth in fact), but these three are a wonderful beginning!!!


Principle 4: Search for What you Love, Not Just for What You Can Do

In Bolles’ words: “passion plus competency, not just competency alone, is key to securing employment”


Principle 6: You Must Always Prioritize

Or as I like to say it “you must choose one” – although, in today’s world of work,  increasingly people do often choose more than one job at a time – but bottom line: you can’t do everything, at least not all at once (for more on this idea, see last week’s book review of How to Be Everything). Find strategies for ranking your priorities that will help guide your decision-making. In parachute, it is the “Prioritizing Grid” – in my current work, it is the tool of the work interrogatives (more soon – watch this space!).


Principle 7: Go After Any Organization That Interests You, Whether or Not They are Known to Have a Vacancy

This one kinda speaks for itself


Principle 11: Use Contacts or “Bridge-People” to Get In for an Interview

This is probably the very best way to reach out, and it is predicated on trust. Take time to build trust by being vulnerable yourself, including asking for small things, a practice that honors the ask.


Principle 12: Use Three Different Kinds of Interviews in Your Search:  

It’s not only about the job interview!  Make sure to build your interviewing skills, build your knowledge, and build your network of connections and opportunities by also conducting practice interviews and informational interviews.


Principle 13: Keep in Mind that in an Interview There are Only Five Questions an Employer is Really Concerned About

This all about the job interview now.   The five questions are:

  • Why are you here?
  • What can you do for us?
  • What kind of person are you?
  • What distinguishes you from say the nineteen other people whom we are interviewing for the job?
  • Can we afford you?

Putting yourself on the other side of the desk means owning the perspective that informs these questions, taking it on as if it were your own, or as I call it:  shifting your deictic center.


Principle 17: Remember, Job-Hunting is by Its Very Nature a Long Process of Rejection

I love this one!!!  And it seems like the perfect place to end this post as well.  You can expect that the pattern of your job search will sound something like: “ NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO YES YES” As Bolles puts it: “after each rejection, take comfort in the fact that you are one ‘no’ closer to ‘yes’ (or possibly even two of them).”


He ends the chapter thusly:

”Cheer up!  Yes, it is a brand-new job-hunting world out there. But you are not powerless, up against the vast forces you cannot control. You contrio this one thing above all else: how you search. And that, my friend, is the key to finding not only work, but meaningful work. You were put on this earth for a reason. You need to find it. These are the steps”

(or ten of them at least!)

So remember:

  • THEY need you!
  • And the work you do now now is worth it, so take the time


What are your own sustaining practices, strategies, and lessons learned from the job hunt?  We would love to hear from you!  Share in the comments, on Twitter @careerlinguist, or on LinkedIn.

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