What I Learned about job-hunting by reading What Color is Your Parachute

The last time I was unsure about what I wanted to do with my career, I grabbed coffee with someone I met at a networking event and she recommended that I read What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles. She mentioned that she read it years ago and that it helped her to find a career that was more fulfilling. I picked up a copy that afternoon.

With over 10,000,000 copies sold, What Color is Your Parachute is the most popular job-hunting book. My favorite thing about this book is that it is rewritten and updated every year so, as long as you are purchasing the book for the current year, you can be sure that the tips are up-to-date.

Here are five things I learned about the job hunting process by reading What Color is Your Parachute.

Employers are most worried about risk

During an interview, I was asked, “When was the last time you said you knew how to do something but didn’t?” Questions like this are tough because they tend to be lose-lose situations. I can say, “I try not to do that” with the intention to show trustworthiness but come off as someone who doesn’t take initiative. Or I can share an instance where this happened with the intention to show that I am a problem-solver but come off as untrustworthy.

Because I’ve been exposed to environments where it was more rewarding to say yes and figure it out later, I went with the latter. But had I read What Color is Your Parachute prior to this interview, I would’ve chosen to go with the first answer.

What this means for job hunters:

When answering interview questions, do your best to portray to the employers that you are a low-risk hire.

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The way job hunters find jobs is the opposite of how employers want to fill positions

This was probably the most shocking thing I learned. But it makes a lot of sense. Job hunters are trying to get the most eyes on their resumes so the logical thing to do is apply to a ton of jobs through job postings. While employers are trying to lower the risk of a bad hire so the logical thing to do is hire from within or someone with a proven track record. Which is hard because both require having a job or previous job experience. And not many recent graduates have either of those.

What this means for job hunters:

Apply for internships at companies you would like to work at (just be sure they use internships as a way to test the waters with a potential employee and not just to get free labor). Or create a portfolio that demonstrates your capabilities and submit it with your application.

Creating a resume isn’t the first step in the job-hunting process.

what i learned about job hunting by reading what color is your parachute

You read that right. I used to think that you create a resume and start applying. Nope! There’s more to it.

You have to get to know yourself first. The way Richard Bolles helps readers with self-discovery is with a process called the Flower Exercise. The Flower Exercise is a 6-part self-discovery journey that helps you determine your dream job. The six flower petals are:

  • Your preferred kinds of people to work with
  • You favorite working conditions
  • What you can do and love to do
  • Your goal, purpose, or mission in life
  • You favorite knowledges or fields of interest
  • Your preferred salary and level of responsibility
  • Your preferred location

What this means for job hunters:

Spend time during your job hunt trying to figure out what you enjoy and what talents you have. Once you have taken the time to get to know yourself, it’s time to connect the dots between who you and a career you can pursue.

Pro tip: Download the free Productive Job-Hunting Game Plan to be sure you aren’t going in circles.

You don’t have to agree with everything in the book

Just because you read a book and like it, doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything in it. For example, Richard Bolles’s stance on discussing pay is something I disagree with.

He believes that interviewees should never be the first to say a number and, when asked, should redirect the question back to the interviewer. He even provides responses that interviewees can use to avoid being the first to say a number.

The main reason I disagree with this is that I think avoiding the question can:

  • Frustrate the interviewer
  • Make an applicant come off as sketchy

Although I do prefer it when I am not the first to say a number, I think it’s best to come always come prepared with a salary range based on your experience, city, and job title and answer the question. (Website like Payscale or Glassdoor can help)

What this means for job hunters:

Take what resonates with you, leave the rest, and continue to further your education on the job-hunting process.

Next Steps

Now that you have some of what you can learn from reading What Color is Your Parachute, it’s time to adjust your job-hunting strategy:

  • Download the free Produtive Job-Hunting Game Plan to be sure you are on track and moving through the job-searching process efficiently.
  • Take time to discover your talents, interests, and hobbies
  • Find a job that requires the talents, interests, and hobbies you have
  • Put together a portfolio
  • Go into interviews with the mindset to show an employer that you are a low-risk hire
  • Pick up a copy of What Color is Your Parachute so you can learn more about what you can do to improve your job search

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