What Color Is Your Parachute is a guidebook to help readers find employment and launch their careers.
The “parachute” way of looking for employment starts by first identifying what jobs suit you best, and then using science and data to apply through the channels with the highest likelihood of getting you hired.
About the Author: Richard Bolles was an American clergyman and career advisor.
The Traditional Approach VS The Parachute Approach
The “traditional approach” might as well be called the “spray and pray”. It consists of scouring the web and mass-sending CVs to any open position.
The “what’s hot approach” instead seeks to look at what the job market requires and then seek employment in one of those professions.
The “parachute approach” instead consists of being deliberate in our search and only aiming at what we truly like and what truly fits us.
The parachute approach begins with ourselves, knowing our strengths and weaknesses, and what we like doing.
Bolles says that to know what’s the best job for you, you should know yourself along seven dimensions:
- Your Knowledges / Fields of Interest
- People You Like Working With
- What You Can Do and Love to Do (Favorite Transferable Skills)
- Favorite Working Conditions;
- Preferred Salary / Level of Responsibility
- Preferred Place to Live;
- Your Goal, Purpose, or Mission in Life.
Bolles has the deepest method for job-introspection I have ever seen, spanning two whole chapters of the book.
The Steps to Choose Your Place to Work
- Find out what career or job are good for you: If possible, you or they must combine two or three of your knowledges (fields) into one specialty: that’s what can make you unique, with very little competition from others.
- Double check the job is good for you: talk to the people who are already working in that position
- Find out which companies have those types of jobs
- Learn as much as you can about those companies
- Find someone who knows both you and the company: if you can get to this step, everything will be easier
Seek Employer the Way Recruiters Prefer (& Avoid Sending CVs)
Employers prefer hiring people in the following order, and you’re better off adapting to their preferences:
- From within: see if you can get hired as a temp
- Using proofs: bring program, photos, case studies, etc.
- Using a best friend or business colleague: find someone who can make an intro
- Agency they trust:
- Using an ad
- Using a resume: if the employer is truly desperate
HR’s Job Is To Eliminate People
On average, interviewers only want to go through 5.4 interviews to fill a role.
Since each recruiter receivers far more candidates than that, the job of HR is to truly eliminate as many candidates as possible, as quickly as possible.
That’s why the author advises that you instead seek to skip HR. And, if you can’t, your task should not to give them any reason to throw you out of the pile so that you can talk to the actual manager.
Go For Smaller Companies
The more difficult is your job search, the more you should for smaller employers.
Smaller employers receive far fewer CVs, so they are much more likely to give you a chance.
How small? Less than 25 employees. 100 employees top, says the author.
Never Badmouth Your Previous Employer
Employers sometimes feel like they are a caste.
If you badmouth previous employers, the current ones might take it personally. And they will wonder if you are going to say the same about them if in the future you’re not going to work for them anymore.
Employers sometimes feel as though they are a fraternity or sorority. During the interview you want to come across as one who displays courtesy toward all members of that fraternity or sorority.
But what to do if your previous employer already knows you don’t get along well?
Then, this is what you say:
I usually get along with everybody; but for some reason, my past employer and I just didn’t get along. Don’t know why. It’s never happened to me before. Hope it never happens again.
Ehehe really good stuff there, great power move to indirectly shift the blame on the previous employer.
Never Get Discouraged
This is how the typical job search looks like:
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO YES YES
Yes, ideally, you get two yeses.
And this is how you use it strategically:
Salary Negotiations: The 6 Secrets
- Do your research as to how much you can expect and how much you’re worth: that will allow you to negotiate with more power, and without making obvious mistakes like asking too little or too much
- Only discuss salary at the end of the interview process, once it’s sure they want you and they’ve extended an offer: that’s when you have the most negotiating power
- The goal of the salary negotiation is to discover the most that the employer is willing to pay you: the closer you get to their bottom line, the better for you
- Don’t mention your salary first: it’s a rule that the person who mentions the salary first, loses. Try to avoid answering that question, and only answer if the interviewer presses you hard. When they do, it might be the case they just want to hire the cheapest worker, and you might not want to work for them (my note: I don’t fully agree here. If you can say a very high initial range, that might help you anchor the negotiation high, and you will come down from a very high number)
- Find out what’s their likely range, and then propose your salary as a range with your bottom near their top: see the figure below
- Close the deal: don’t keep on talking forever. Move to the fringe benefits, and eventually close the deal
That’s how you use “bracketing” for effective negotiation
Once you finish your negotiation, get it all in writing.
Because many executives “forget” what they promised. Or then someone else takes over and said that the previous guy didn’t have the authority.
Yes, it’s low, but some people are low, and you want to protect yourself from these games.
Raise Others to Your Level
The author says that self-esteem is an art. An art of balance.
Think too little of yourself, and you suffer from low self-esteem. Think too highly of yourself, and you have a big ego that’s out of touch with reality.
The author says that it’s OK to think of yourself highly as long as you focus on pulling others at your level.
I quote him:
People from other cultures will tell you about “the tall poppy” theory of life, with its implication that you shouldn’t stand taller than others in your field. That has a lot of truth to it. You can become equal to others not by lowering yourself but by raising them.
I agree with that. Pulling people up instead of pushing down is one of the central tenets of this website.
Just make sure those you are pulling up deserve it, though: it’s not your duty to pull everyone up. And especially not the assholes.
Real Life Applications
- Use good employment agencies: they range from very good to bad to actual scams. As a whole, they are still 4 times more effective than sending your CV
- Avoid sending CV to big companies: unless you’re a high caliber candidate, coming from the right school, it’s most likely wasted time
My favorite quote from “What Color is Your Parachute”
One favor I ask of you: do not write me, telling me how picayune or asinine some of this is. I know that. I’m not reporting the world as it should be, and certainly not as I would like it to be. I’m only reporting what study after study has revealed about the world as it is. And how it affects your chances of getting hired.
On the need to always ask about money and negotiating for your salary:
“How much are they going to pay you?” I asked. She looked startled. “I don’t know,” she said, “I never asked. I just assume they will pay me a fair wage.” Boy! Did she get a rude awakening when she received her first paycheck. It was so miserably low, she couldn’t believe her eyes. And thus did she learn, painfully, what you must learn too: Before accepting a job offer, always ask about salary.
Self-esteem is an art:
But self-esteem is an art. An art of balance. A balance between thinking too little of ourselves, and thinking too much of ourselves.
On praising yourself and others:
Just remember, it’s no sin to praise yourself as long as that heightens your awareness of what there is to praise in others.
- Sometimes could be more cooperative
When am employer is pushing to share your salary expectation, he advises to say:
The Author: Until you’ve decided you definitely want me, and I’ve decided I definitely could help you with your tasks or projects here, I feel any discussion of salary is premature.
I think that might be too harsh.
How I dealt with employers who pushed for a number was different, less “strong” and more collaborative:
Me: I think it’s best to first find out if we like each other. Then, I am sure we can find a way.
Then I stuck to my guns in spite of their repeated attempts.
But since my stance was more collaborative, it was easier to resist pushy recruiters without making it a battle of wills (ie.: “me VS you”).
But then, it also depends on your situation.
Back then I was desperate for employment, so I was doubly careful not to burn any bridges.
I’m glad I did that way though, because it turned out very well.
- It’s tailored to less experienced and tech-savvy folks
This is not necessarily a con, but sometimes I felt the author could have skipped some parts.
For example, when it says “if you have Internet at home, or if you can go to a cafe or library”. Or how he introduces Linkedin and advises people to get on it.
I think most professional folks know Linkedin. And most blue-collar or hard hat job seekers don’t need Linkedin.
- Spelling all URLs on audiobook
I think an audiobook shouldn’t need the spelling of all URLs. It’s distracting. But obviously, this is not a major con.
- Best book to find a job: so far, this is the best book I have read to find a job
- Great tips on negotiation: short and to the point, the section on negotiation contains right on the money, high-quality advice
- Deepest material to “find your best job”: I haven’t delved too much into the self-assessment part of the book since I already have my dream job, so I can’t comment on the quality. The quantity is substantial, though. And from a perfunctory look, it seemed good stuff.
“What Color is Your Parachute” is the best book I have read so far to help you find employment.
It’s based on data on what works, and that already sets it apart from many other books with a similar goal.
And it’s also “power moves approved”.
Only few books are power moves approved.
To get that stamp of approval, books need to provide real-world advice based on how people are, including potential assholes, and not based on “how things should be” or “how the ideal person should behave”.
And that’s exactly what Bolles does.