What Color is Your Parachute

“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” – Franklin Roosevelt

Lessons learnt: Searching for a job has changed dramatically over the last decades. The core to a successful approach has not – first map yourself, and then look a job that best fits you. The technique is more demanding of you (it takes time and effort) but will pay off handsomely by providing you with a ‘fit’ with your employer, knowledge of your values, skills, interests (and more) and possibly a job that was created especially for you.


Many people are looking for jobs – recent graduates, career changers, people in their 50’s, and the list goes on. Some people hop right over to Monsterboard or LinkedIn – they are successful sometimes. Other people join groups and follow an intensive course in which they learn about writing your resume and look for jobs from 9 to 5 – they are successful a bit more often. And other people introspect before looking at the job market, they look at the qualities they have, the work they would like to do, the people to do it with, and only then start looking for the perfect job – they are successful the most often. This is what What Color is Your Parachute? (Parachute) by Richard Bolles is all about.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” – Reinhold Niebuhr

The introduction of Parachute is used to shed light on the current job hunting environment. Bolles gives insight into how employers are hiring (they want a familiar face) and how many jobs are actually out there (seven million this month in the US alone). Tips are provided on two topics of interest to everyone; 1) interviewing for a job, and 2) salary negotiation. After that, he introduces the concept of the creative job-hunt. Crucial here are three questions:

  1. What are your skills that you most love to use?
  2. Where would you most love to use these skills?
  3. How do you go about finding such places?

The first two are answered by filling in your own ‘Flower Diagram’. This tackles seven different aspects of you – all of them definable with the exercises provided in the book. The ‘petals’ are concerned with the following areas:

  1. My favourite knowledges or fields of interest
  2. My preferred kinds of people to work with
  3. What I can do and love to do – my favourite transferable skills
  4. My favourite working conditions
  5. My preferred salary and level of responsibility
  6. My preferred place(s) to live
  7. My goal, purpose, or mission in life

Some of these things you may know by heart and have a clear vision about. Others you might want to research and ask friends about. Altogether it will take you no less than 20 hours to read the book and complete the exercises. This maybe sounds like a long time, but if you put it in the perspective of working weeks, it is barely half a week of work (and that to find your dream job).

In the final chapters, Bolles explains how you should go and make a list, ask friends about jobs that might suit your skills/interests/working conditions/etc. and start doing informational interviews. This means you have to find people that work there and figure out if you would want to work there (not if they would like you). After that, you can start filtering your list and apply for your dream job.

For 40 years Parachute has been edited to stay up-to-date. It has not lost its touch and Bolles has a very pleasant way of writing. Although many things have changed over the years, the basic principles still hold strong.