Friday, January 4, 2013

Of Parachutes and Job Hunting Manuals

Job hunting is one of those things that is part of life. For better or worse, we can't pay our bills without an income source, and very few Americans go a full lifetime working for the same employer. That's where Richard Nelson Bolles comes in. Bolles was author of the now classic manual for job hunters and career changers, What Color Is Your Parachute?

I purchased the revised and enlarged 1981 edition featuring "The Quickie Job-Hunting Map" and have recommended it to this day in the same manner I did then as someone once said to me, "You don't have to read the book. Just do the exercises in the appendix." I took that advice and it changed my life, not in a religious conversion type of way but in the sense that I had a greater understanding of who I was an what I wanted in terms of a career.

Actually, I'd first heard about the book from an article in Radix magazine, a radical Christian periodical out of Berkeley. The mag had done a lengthy interview with the unconventional Bolles who had self-published his book to help people in a practical way to get re-connected. In the land of misfit toys, we still need to find our place.

One section in the back is titled What Skills Do You Have and What Do You Enjoy? An exercise called The Party is the first to greet you. Bolles has a side sided room drawn on the page. You are invited to a two-day party there and for some reason people of the same interests have gathered in each of the six corners. In one corner you have people who like to work with people -- to inform, enlighten, help, train, develop, or cure them or are skilled with words. In another you find people with athletic or mechanical ability who prefer to work with machines, objects, tools, plants, or animals or to be outdoors. After reading the six categories of people Bolles asks which corner of the room would you instinctively go to? After 15 minutes where would you go next? Though just an exercise, it helps increase your own self-awareness as regards what kind of career would make you happier or more satisfied.

The most helpful exercise for me was the Functional/Transferable Skills Inventory, which could take you all day or longer to complete, but is worth it because by means of this exercise you see how the things you enjoy and are good at have practical application in other settings. No one is "just a mom." They are involved in time management, project management, nutritional services and all kinds of other things.

Parachute, which Bolles continuously revises and updates, is now in its 13th iteration, I believe. And I'm certain you can find it in any library, though I recommend you just go ahead and purchase it if you're able and in need of sorting things out. Knowing what you want to do and who you are is a major component of finding a place where you can do it.

As a companion volume, job seekers might also want to look at another parachute themed job-hunting manual, Who Packed Your Parachute? The cover seems like a straight take-off on the spoof book-covers Mad magazine did one time in the Sixties. The masthead reads, "From the Two Guys who never read the NATIONAL BEST SELLER What Color Is Your Parachute?  The authors, Tony "X" and Danny "Y" were classmates in college whose unrestrained comic natures led them into a game of one-upmanship as they wrote notes to one another on this theme. First chapter deals with resumes. Their practical advice: "Donating plasma is not really work experience."

Keep in mind Dierckens is one of the pair that wrote The Duct Tape Book, which actually was a best seller. He's funny, and even if you're not job hunting, this book will bring it's share of smiles when you read it.

Tony Dierckens, whom I just met this week for the first time, is from Duluth here and has made a living writing and publishing books in the categories of humor and regional history. With regards to parachute, they cover the gamut of material covered less frivolously in other books. Topics include the cover letter, interview attire, telephone interviews, dealing with personnel managers, follow-up letters and how to interpret rejection letters. Advice: "Changing your address may be the only way to avoid rejection letters."

For the record, Richard Nelson Bolles continues to give seminars and cites Dierckens' book as highly entertaining. I can't promise that this one is in your local library, however.

Enjoy your weekend and make the most of it. There are only 51 left this year after Sunday

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