'What color is your parachute?' -- 40 years later

Tess Vigeland: When we talk about successfully landing that job, modern technology is one of the best tools to use. From social networking to Internet career sites. But one tool that's decidedly analog is widely considered the granddaddy of them all: A book called "What Color is Your Parachute?" Richard Bolles wrote it 40 years ago and it's now considered a job-hunting bible.

Mr. Bolles joins us to mark this big anniversary.

Richard Bolles: Thank you.

Vigeland: Let's start with the question that you've probably heard every year for the past 40 years. What is so different about the job market now than the last time you updated the book?

Bolles: Well, for one thing people have much more lost hope this time out. You go to job clubs where you used to see dozens and dozens of people who would gather once a week. And now often times, you go back to those same places and you discover there's just a skeleton crew left and you wonder, "Does this mean they all found jobs?" And you inquire, and they say, No no, they just gave up.

Vigeland: Well, you say pretty early on in your book, it's not a "job-hunting" book. That it is a book about LIFE (in big letters) and work (in small letters) designing. So LIFE-work deigning. What does that mean?

Bolles: It means that when you try to figure out what kind of work you're going to be able to find, there are two routes you can possibly go. The first route is you can settle for whatever's available. You can ask what are the hot jobs. That's one route.

The other route is you can say, I'm not likely to find exactly what it is I'm looking for, but there should be a great overlap between my vision and the reality. And therefore, I'm going to start with a large vision of what it is I'm trying to find as my life's work. And this involves sitting down and figuring out what you want your life to count for, what you want to be able to say you were able to do when you come near the end of your life. It's not just a matter of figuring out what are the best job-hunting methods or that sort of thing. It's a matter of sitting down and doing some hard thinking about who you are, what it is you have to offer to the world and what kinds of passions you bring to the world.

Vigeland: Your book at a higher level is about much more than making yourself able to be hired. It's about, as you say, what color is your parachute? What is your life's calling? And I think over the last three years, a lot of people who have been thrown out of work have tried to ask themselves that question. Am I in the right line of work, 'cause there's something else that I would rather do? But at the same time, they are also fighting pretty steep emotional curves, just dealing with the fact of unemployment. What's your advice there.

Bolles: Well, the first thing is, nobody should be job hunting by themselves. If at all possible, they should be linked to some other person who is in a similar situation. Or they should be in a job support group. There's a lovely list of those at a job site called job-hunt.org. You can help get yourself through the almost-inevitable kind of depression -- whether it's a big depression or it's a "I'm feeling really blue this morning" kind of depression. By yourself, you brood, you obsess, you get worried about not sleeping well and all kinds of mischief creeps in.

Vigeland: Are times like these a time to reconsider what your passion is and what the color of your parachute is? Or is this a time where you're gonna be lucky to kinda get a job, period?

Bolles: Unfortunately, there's no one answer to that question and it's a very good question, of course. The problem is this: When people sit down in this kind of a time, they have that choice. Do I just settle for what it is I can find out there by doing the simplest kind of a job search? Or do I sit down and try to get a vision clear in my head, in great detail of what it is that I really wanna do with my life? Because if I had that kind of a vision, it'll give me the energy to persist and keep at this, even if at the end, I only find something that overlaps it to some degree.

As a first step after you get out of unemployment, you have to be realistic. I may not find exactly what I'm looking for, but I will find a piece of it. So you need to start with a large enough vision to begin with, that a piece of it means something that you're really still are quite excited about. And that'll give you the energy to persist with the job hunt, no matter how long it lasts.

Vigeland: Richard Bolles is the author of the book "What Color is Your Parachute?" It is now in its 40th edition. He joined us from San Francisco. Thank you so much sir.

Bolles: You're very welcome.

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.

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