If you are looking for one resource to help navigate the sometimes choppy waters of career planning, I would consider putting Richard Bolles’ What Color is Your Parachute at the top of your list. Bolles’ guide, which has been updated every year since its debut in 1970, provides practical and time-tested strategies for everything from initial career exploration through salary negotiation.
One of the things I appreciate most about What Color is Your Parachute is that it reinforces confidence building principles of career planning that underlie many of the current career services we offer to staff at Berkeley (https://uhs.berkeley.edu/staff-career). Specifically, it details clear practices to improve job search skills while fully embracing psychological aspects of resilience that are essential in the career transition process.
Early in What Color is Your Parachute, Bolles’ lays out 18 principles for successful job hunting, or what he calls the Parachute Process. I will expand on three of my favorites below:
Principle 2 Self Inventory: In order to know your direction, you need to know what is important to you in work. Bolles’ has developed a Flower Exercise — with seven petals — to help identify purpose, interests, transferable skills as well as working conditions and responsibilities that are desired. This powerful exercise provides a framework for personal introspection to create focus and clarity for career exploration and planning activities.
Principle 13 Job interviewing: What Color is Your Parachute has many useful tips for interviewing, among them are what Bolles’ identifies as the only questions employers really care about. These 5 basic questions help job seekers manage interview stress by honing in on their strengths with a specific eye toward meeting employer needs.
Principle 17 Rejection in Job Hunting. Bolles’ describes the job search process this way: “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, yes, yes.” By normalizing rejection as part of the job search process, Bolles’ assists career changers in de-personalizing disappointment and focusing on research-based strategies to refine career search skills aligned with the needs of today’s market and workplace. He focuses on process, in other words things we can control, to positively influence career transition.
What Color is Your Parachute has been a valuable guide for job seekers for 46 years and counting. In its most recent editions Bolles has adapted strategies to innovations in technology and social networking that have altered the landscape of career planning and hiring practices. For individuals at any stage of the career development process, What Color is Your Parachute offers concrete advice and numerous exercises to clarify direction and develop job search skills to facilitate successful career transition.
Chris McLean, Ph.D., manages the Career Development Program for Berkeley staff, a collaborative program of Talent and Organizational Performance and University Health Services.
A copy of the 2016 What Color is Your Parachute is available for review in the Career Counseling Library, the resource library in the courtyard in front of the Tang Center