Advice on how to bring home happiness, not just a paycheck
By Stacia Nash
Nearly 40 years ago, ordained minister Richard Nelson Bolles dealt with the loss of a job by helping others negotiate the same predicament. Revised annually in 22 languages and in 26 countries, Bolles’ What Color is Your Parachute has become the quintessential Bible for those seeking true professional fulfillment.
Renew: What is the meaning behind the title of your book?
Richard Nelson Bolles: I slapped a silly title on it, a play on the common statement in those days, “Well, I’m going to have to bail [out],” to which I would playfully respond, “What color is your parachute?” It was just a joke, but it appealed to everyone.
Renew: You advocate a methodical, step-by-step strategy to finding a career versus just finding a job. How has the strategy changed over the years?
RNB: Job hunting is most like dating: Two people meet, size each other up and try to decide if they want to go steady. It’s a hit-and-miss affair. In dating, it often ends in marriage, then divorce. In hiring, it often turns out to be an equally bad guess. My recommendation 40 years ago, “Research a company to death before you approach it,” is unchanged. However, there have been dramatic changes in the form of the job hunt. We used to talk about written resumes, now we say that Google is your new resume. We used to talk about classified ads in newspapers, now we talk about job postings on the internet. We used to talk about personal contacts, now we talk about bridge persons you find by using LinkedIn or similar sites on the web.
Renew: How has the use of the internet changed the way we find careers?
RNB: For job-hunters, the internet is both a blessing and a curse. It has helped job-hunters find jobs, which they otherwise wouldn’t have. And it has caused job-hunters to lose jobs, which they otherwise wouldn’t have. A would-be employer can find every photo, tweet or personal writings posted on the internet from yesterday to long ago, by you or your friends, on Facebook, blogs and anywhere else in cyberspace and decide not to hire you on account of that.
The internet is a great timesaver, and a great time waster. You can fruitlessly while away the hours that you should be spending on your job hunt or career change by being an information-sponge and just roaming the cloud. If you use the internet in your job hunt, you must define exactly what you’re looking for, limit the time each day that you are on the web and get out and meet people face to face.
Renew: What are the most important tools in an individual’s job-hunting strategy?
RNB: Self-esteem. Hope. Alternative ways of approaching any task or step in the job hunt. Familiarizing yourself with all the research about job-hunting so you know where to put your energies. Studying successful job-hunters or career-changers to find out what they did. Working on your job hunt at least four hours a day, every weekday, no matter how long your job hunt lasts. Faith. Praying as though everything depended on God, and then working as though everything depended on you.
Renew: What is your advice, in particular, for individuals in recovery who are looking to find a new career?
RNB: The essence of finding a job with meaning is to discover a life with meaning. You were put here on this earth for a reason. You get clues about what that is by doing a thorough inventory on yourself, of what your gifts, talents, skills, interests, instincts and experiences are that you have to offer to the world. My advice is simple: You must do a step-by-step self-inventory. You need to know and catalog all your excellencies before going out searching. Don’t tell me you already know what they are, so you don’t have to do the inventory. That self-delusion has kept people in limbo for a long time when they could have been moving forward. None of us knows ourselves as well as we need to to recover. There is no way to avoid this hard work of self-examination.
Renew: What do you believe is the biggest thing standing in the way of an individual finding true bliss?
RNB: An unwillingness to work hard, work smart, work long at the job hunt. They did a survey last year of college grads who couldn’t immediately find work and went back to live with their parents. They asked them how much time they were now devoting to their job hunt. The depressing average answer: one hour a week. You couldn’t even find a lost dog if that were all the time you were willing to devote to the task! Finding your bliss is much harder and requires many more hours. This is not just true for college grads; it is true for everyone.