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After months of unsuccessful job applications, my father-in-law bought me What Colour is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job Hunters and Career Changers. “Someone recommended it to me recently,” he said. “They told me it was the best Career book they’d ever read!” While I was sceptical, and dreaded reading a book that was probably about as easily digested as an oxycodone pill, what did I have to lose? Nonfiction is not my usual choice, so I only wanted to read this one career book, if possible. Does it cover all bases? Here’s my honest review so you know what to expect, and I explain whether the commonly dubbed “job hunter’s Bible” is a worthwhile label for What Colour is Your Parachute? Grab a cuppa and get comfy. It’s about to get interesting!
What Colour is Your Parachute? was written by Richard N. Bolles, a former Harvard physics major, minister and career counsellor. It was named “one of the all-time 100 best nonfiction books” by TIME magazine and is arguably the best-selling job hunting book in the world. The focus of the text is Careers – specifically, how to change jobs and transition into a new career – but it’s also about understanding yourself and personal growth, figuring out who you are and identifying what impact you want to make on the world.
Since 2008, 39% of all unemployed people in the U.S. are spending between 3 and 12 months looking for work. This shocking statistic was released by the Bureau of Labour Statistics in April 2017. If that isn’t worrying enough, 17-30% of the unemployed now spend more than a year job hunting! If you do the Maths, that means it currently takes about 69% of people 3-12+ months to find a new job. This is far higher than the roughly 50% who found work within five weeks from 1994 to 2008. In summary, hardly anyone finds work within the first three months these days! So why am I telling you this? It’s harder than ever to find a new position and change careers. What can you do about it? What Colour is Your Parachute? aims to give you the practical advice you need to succeed.
Is this book for me?
Good question. The very first page answers this:
I thought the inclusion of this list was a nice touch! If you fall under any of these categories, this book is for you. To be honest, it would probably be easier to outline who this book is not targeted towards: aliens. There’s something in here for every adult living on planet Earth.
The content within can be broken down into the following sections:
- Chapter 1: Background and summary of how to be successful in finding a job.
- Chapter 2: Using Google to improve your employability, how to set up a LinkedIn profile and how to write a good resume and cover letter.
- Chapter 3: The 5 principles of job hunting.
- Chapters 4 & 5: Interviews and salary negotiation.
- Chapter 6: What to do when the job hunt isn’t working.
- Chapter 7 & 8: Self-inventory exercises – discovering who you are and what you love to do in order to find a job you are passionate about.
- Chapter 9 & 11: Making a career change.
- Chapter 10: Dealing with a handicap.
- Chapter 12: How to start a business.
- Extras: The Blue Pages section at the back provides inspiration on finding your mission, dealing with the emotions that accompany unemployment, information on coaching and provides resources such as a list of coaches in your country.
Curious about anything included in the list above? If you’re not, I’d be surprised! I also can’t think of anything career-related that this book doesn’t cover at some point! All in all, What Colour is Your Parachute? really does seem to be an extensive guide to Careers.
It turns out that my hesitation to read this book was completely unfounded. (I blame Uni textbooks.) Bolles’ writing is very easy to read. He sounds like a friend who wants to give you the facts, but also make you laugh and, where possible, inspire you so you don’t feel too down about the reality of today’s job market. There’s no jargon that you’d need a PhD to understand. (Always an advantage.) There’s also such a wealth of insight, from how employers prefer to fill a vacancy, to how to answer those tricky interview questions like “Tell me about yourself.” Now you actually know what they want to hear! The interview section alone is worth the cost of this book. Oh, and Bolles also includes lots of diagrams, images and helpful websites to enrich what he is saying. E.g. Ever wonder how much you would earn in a particular industry? Bolles dedicates a whole page to this, including websites such as www.JobStar.org and www.Salary.com Brilliant!
What Colour is Your Parachute? is so darn relatable that a loved one/friend/stranger may throw a cushion at you or kindly tell you to “shut up” because you keep uttering, “So true” in the first chapter alone! Or, if you are one of those people who nod a lot, you may get repetitive strain injury. (You have been warned.) While not necessarily a bad thing, the time you will need to invest in reading this book may also be seen as a negative. There is a lot of information packed into these 354 pages. (Don’t worry, some of this is optional reading.) It would be pointless to rush through it though, so if you really want to get the most out of this book, particularly the self-inventory sections, you will need to invest a few weeks in it.
I promised an honest review. Initially, I did not expect to enjoy this book, however, I found it extremely interesting and packed full of helpful tips. The strategies were also game-changing for me. Prepare to have your mind blown! Bolles really pushes a well-rounded approach, which I find quite unique. Where other career counsellors might get you to focus in on what you’re good at and pick a career from there, Bolles wants you to think about what skills you’re good at and love to use! Imagine actually pursuing a career that you love and could make a difference doing! If you want to hear more of this, check out my previous article, 5 Career Talks That Will Inspire You. I was also surprised to see some extracts from readers who had written to the author. It’s nice to see what happens when the theory is applied, and quite motivating too when it works out!
Does it do what it says on the tin?
Yes! The blurb promises “essential tips for writing impressive resumes and cover letters, networking effectively, interviewing with confidence, and negotiating the best salary possible. It also goes beyond that by helping you to zero in on your ideal job – and life – with its classic Flower Exercise.” I’d say that’s a pretty apt summary. The title also labels it “a practical manual for job hunters and career changers.” It’s definitely practical and it covers everything a job hunter or career changer needs to know. Plus, it has been updated by the author every year since 1975, so it’s completely relevant! I haven’t heard of many other nonfiction authors who do this.
Cool, but is it actually worth purchasing?
Sure, you could Google everything from resume samples to interview tips, but why waste your time on possibly inaccurate information or unreliable sources? Bolles has over 40 years of career counselling experience and does the research every year to understand the current job market and identify what works and what doesn’t. You can buy the current edition of What Colour is Your Parachute? at a reasonable price on Amazon. (Link included.) With everything you need to know packed into over 300 pages, why wouldn’t you purchase it? You’re disadvantaging yourself if you don’t! Additionally, there are no glaring omissions and no questions that come to mind upon completing this reading. What Colour is Your Parachute? tells you everything you need to know. Yes, for more specific information like how to set up a Virtual Assistant freelancing company, you will need to read additional texts, but for most of you, this book will be the only Career book you will need to read!
If you’re still unsure whether you should purchase this book, check out the author’s website. The tabs at the top of the webpage may be of interest, or you can find career articles written by Bolles.
What would you rate it?
What Colour is Your Parachute was an engaging read with lots of practical information. I’d give it a hearty 4.5 stars!
In summary, if you only read one career book in your life, make it this one! It’s considered the “Job Hunters Bible” because it sets the foundation for everything else (career-related), and for the most part, it covers everything you need to know – at least everything you need to know about job hunting or changing careers. For an up-to-date insight into the current job market, practical strategies for a successful career/job transition and for effective self-inventory exercises, look no further than What Colour is Your Parachute? It may just have changed my mind about nonfiction.
As a job hunter, you need all the help you can get, so if you know anyone who would benefit from this article, share it! Or even better, buy them a copy of the book!
Have you read any life-changing nonfiction books recently? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love some recommendations! For more advice and recommendations, follow me on Instagram and Pinterest or subscribe to empoweredmillennialgirl.com to receive new posts every week by email.
Have a great day!