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CareerOwl Book Review

What Color is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters & Career Changers
2002 Edition
Richard N. Bolles
Roughly 400 pages

The Good

  • fantastic for those still trying to discover themselves
  • very good at motivating, while still telling you some sobering facts
  • effective and varied job search strategies

The Bad

  • almost no resume or cover letter advice
  • ignores importance of market factors of supply and demand in labour market

The Bottom Line

  • an excellent book that stands the test of time

What Color is Your Parachute is arguably the most well-known job hunting book in the world. Each year Richard Bolles comes out with a new edition, and each year people snap it up. But does Parachute live up to the hype?

The Good, Upon Closer Inspection

First of all, Parachute is best for people who are looking for a career change or aren't sure about their direction in life. There are many general tips on job search which all readers will find useful, but the above listed categories of jobseekers will probably get the most out of this book.

There are several exercises for readers to help you decide on a career. These exercises are a little time-consuming, but I found them to be very helpful for visualizing what sort of job would match my qualifications. There is not, unfortunately, a large list of occupations to help you get your brain going, but to his credit, Bolles does give a list of online resources for finding this information.

Parachute is very optimistic. This may not seem significant at first, but this book goes into detail about the psychology behind the job hunt. Many people expect to achieve results after a short amount of time. When this doesn't happen, they become dismayed and confused. Bolles has gone to great lengths to show that this is natural, and show how to conquer these feelings.

Bolles also has several strategies to share with you to help you find your "perfect" job. These techniques involve a lot of elbow grease, but Parachute is good at motivating the reader. For some readers, Parachute may significantly change their attitude toward job search.

This book also has very good sections on Interviews and Salary Negotiations, with solid advice that seems congruent with most of what I've seen, heard, and used.

Finally, Parachute is a very enjoyable read. There are amusing illustrations scattered throughout the book, and Bolles adds a refreshing dash of humour. You probably won't be putting down the book due to boredom.

The Bad, in Gory Detail

Parachute does not cover some crucial job search topics. There is almost no resume or cover letter writing advice. You will be hard pressed to find even a handful of useful pages that cover these topics.

This year's edition also has a short chapter devoted to job-hunting on the Internet, and suggests a few sites to visit for online job opportunities. You won't find more than a handful of sites however. There is little information on how to use these job sites or optimize your use of time at these sites. For the most part, this section feels like it was thrown together. Bolles does cover the weaknesses of the Internet as a job search tool well, but fails to offer advice on how to use online job sites to best advantage.

Parachute also pays inadequate attention to the state of the job market. Bolles nearly ignores the reality that often there is competition for the jobs we are interested in--lots of it. His suggestion is to beat the competition through hard work and clever tactics, which may be overly optimistic. In some cases, it may be necessary to change objectives to find work, and important to recognize job finding problems rooted in a tough job market in order to avoid undeserved feelings of failure.

There is also a great deal of spiritualism in this book, concentrated in a few small sections. Bolles has made an effort to tone this down and keep it non-offensive and non-denominational in the 2002 edition, but depending on your sensibilities you might roll your eyes at some of his passages on religion and becoming a better human being.

As with most job hunting books, this book is US-centric. Statistics and web sites listed are usually more pertinent for Americans, so be prepared to take the findings with a grain of salt.

The Bottom Line

Parachute's good reputation is well-deserved. This book, by itself, does not cover everything you need to know about getting a job. However, for those looking for some direction in their lives and some good job search strategies to boot, you can't go wrong with reading Parachute.

You can find this book here, at Amazon.

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