2016 POPSUGAR Challenge · Book Review

Book Review: What Color is Your Parachute?

Overview

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What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles is an annual guide to job-hunting and figuring out what career path is right for you. I picked up this book because I’ve been feeling lost in my career path since…well…my whole life. I decided to go into teaching because, having spent twenty-two years of my life in classrooms as a student, so that’s the career I knew the most about. I didn’t have experience in anything else besides retail and customer service, which I hated. The only other careers I’d seen growing up were my parents’ careers, which didn’t appeal to me. Teaching it was! I always liked school (the learning aspect, not the social aspect) and thought it wouldn’t be too hard. I’d seen teachers in action for nearly twenty years and they all seemed to have comfortable lives. I didn’t understand why people used to warn me about teacher salaries. All my teachers owned homes, went on vacations, had nice things…people were exaggerating!

I came to find very quickly that they were not lying. Unless you have a spouse who makes good money, it’s difficult to maintain a comfortable standard of living as a teacher in most areas. The workload is enormous and never-ending; you have to deal with a constantly changing flux of trends and laws dealing with education, and difficult parents/students/coworkers/administrators. When you get home after pulling an eleven to fourteen hour day, only being paid for eight of those hours, you have a pile of grading to do or lesson plans to work on or more e-mails to respond to within twenty-four hours. When you find a moment to yourself, you think of the million things you SHOULD be doing instead of relaxing. All those weeklong breaks and summer vacation? You spend most of that time preparing materials for when you return to work! It’s exhausting. I like being an aide because I get to work in the field I am certified in and have the most experience in, but I get to come in and leave at my prescribed hours, I don’t bring any work home, and I don’t have to deal with parents and e-mails and getting observed. The pay, however, is crap and most schools don’t offer benefits, so it’s not a long-term career. It’s super frustrating when you planned your whole life on a specific career that’s not working out for you. I sit here on the brink of thirty, wondering what the hell I can do with my life to gain financial independence.

My college’s Career Resources webpage recommended What Color Is Your Parachute? for undeclared undergrads and alumni looking for a career change. I tried to read it last year but wasn’t able to due to the immensity of my workload, so I decided to try it again this year. The book offers tips on job-hunting (most of the traditional job-hunting practices are moot in today’s internet-based world), interviewing, and salary-negotiation. The big sell for this book, however, is the collection of activities and exercises to help you evaluate your strengths, skills, and desires in order to narrow down your search for the perfect job. You analyze what you have to offer and how those skills can lead to employment. You think about what type of environment you’d like to work in (both the job site itself and the areas you’re willing to move to in order to gain employment) and the salary you’d like to earn. Bolles gives advice to help with any weaknesses you think may be holding you back as well as how to conduct informational interviews with people in industries you’re interested in. Advice is given in how to use what you already know to transition into a new career and how to start a business.

The back of the book is known as the “Pink Pages” because they’re pink. Pretty self-explanatory. This section is optional to read as it deals with religion, specifically Judeo-Christian God and how to align your job-hunting/life mission with God’s teachings. I skimmed Appendix A of this section because I don’t subscribe to Abrahamic religion. People of any religion (or non-religion) can take some of the advice, but Bolles kept linking things back to God’s plan and it felt exclusionary to those who aren’t religious. Bolles prefaced this section saying he gets both complaints and praise about this section, but he feels it’s important to him and his faith so he includes it. That’s fine with me and it can be easily skipped.

Appendix B, however, had some great tips for people dealing with unemployment that I would definitely recommend. Being unemployed is demoralizing, especially when you’re busting your butt sending out resumés and trying to make connections to no avail. Bolles offers ways to spend your days productively and positively instead of burying yourself into a hole of despair, which is one of my favorite pastimes. Appendixes C and D focus on choosing a career counselor and provides a list of counselors by U.S. state, Canadian province, and by country.

My Thoughts

I borrowed this book from the library primarily to try to discover my options for a career change, so the beginning chapters on job-hunting and interviewing were not my concern. I skimmed through them because how am I supposed to worry about applying and interviewing for jobs when I don’t even have the foggiest idea of what TYPE of job to apply for? Chapter 7 is where the advice I was looking for kicked in. I would recommend finding the companion book, Job Hunter’s Workbook, which has full-sized copies of the graphic organizers used in the book for each activity. I made photocopies of the worksheets so I could use them multiple times if I want to.
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The worksheets help you complete the Flower worksheet, which looks at seven “Petals” that describe what you and what you’re looking for. In order to fill these petals out, you use charts, grids, and checklists to narrow down the information you need. The petals help you determine:

  1. What you’re interested in
  2. The kind of people you want to work with
  3. Transferable skills you have
  4. Conditions you prefer to work in
  5. Your preferred salary range
  6. Where you’d prefer to live
  7. Your goal/purpose/mission in life

I love the worksheets and activities because they help you prioritize and sort all the stuff floating around in your head when it comes to figuring out what you want in life. When you’re trying to figure out a career to pursue, your mind is overwhelmed with information, and I found this method helped me a lot. When you’re done with each worksheet, you transfer the final information on to the corresponding petal of your flower so when you finish you have one graphic organizer with the information you need to take the next steps in following your path.

Once your flower is completed, you analyze it further by getting advice from friends/family/anyone about careers that correspond to the information on your flower and begin to research those careers. When you find some that interest you, the next step is conducting informational interviews with people in those fields. The book gives you advice on how to network and what to ask in these interviews, which is advice I’ve been looking for. I’m planning to purchase the 2016 copy of the book so I can continue to reference all the great advice in this book.

Whether you’re still in school or looking for a career change, I would recommend you pick up this book or one of its incarnations (there is a teen version as well). I wish I had given more thought to careers instead of arbitrarily choosing to follow the career I knew the most about. If you’re still in school or fresh out of high school, take advantage of the opportunities available to you! Volunteer, take side jobs, do internships, take random electives, network! Once you reach a certain age, it becomes much more difficult to sow your career oats. Figure out what you want from life as early as you can, or at least experiment with different interests. Use this book to take inventory of the skills you already have and decide which skills you want to keep enriching. I hope the information I’ve garnered from this book will help me figure out my next steps.

Rating: 4 out of 5 jobs growing on jobbies

2016 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge Category:  A Self-Help Book

I’m linking to the newest edition of the book rather than the 2014 edition I reviewed because the newest version will obviously have the most up-to-date information:
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