Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Review of What Color Is Your Parachute? (2013 Ed.)

What Color Is Your Parachute? is a book that attempts to help job seekers learn more about themselves, what type of job they should choose, where to locate jobs, and how to get hired.  Though several different topics are covered, the main part of the book gives information and exercises for finding out more about yourself.

Richard Bolles has been writing this book for forty years.  Sort of.  Each year a new edition comes out.  He claims that "it's morphed into something very different, over time.  The 2012 edition is quite different even from the 2011."  Therefore this review is only for the 2013 edition.  Reviews of other editions may be very different.

Unique is the word that comes to my mind when trying to describe this book.  Though it's a book for people seeking employment, it uses a different approach.  In fact, I doubt that someone who knows with absolute certainty the exact kind of job they want will gain much benefit from the first half of the book.  What Color Is Your Parachute? approaches the job hunting question by first asking you and giving you exercises to help you find out who you are and what jobs would you be interested in and then using this information to help guide you through the rest of the search for employment.

Before reading it, what were your first impressions?

When I finished high school it was not quite clear to me what type of further education or job I should get.  There were lots of fields that seemed interesting, but nothing that stood out.  So I decided to take what I called a gap year to try to discover what I should pursue.  Mom got me several books.  Some of them were about what to do in a gap year.  Others were about jobs.  Among them I found What Color Is Your Parachute?

Interestingly enough, it turned out to be the last book I read.  After quickly glancing at the cover and skimming some pages, I assumed it was a boring book that was basically an index of job after job with description and salary after description and salary.  However, when I finally stopped judging it by its color, I was very surprised.

What's good about it?

If someone is going to do something well, it helps to be passionate about it.  Work can be tough, so it can be tough to maintain a positive attitude.  However, you have one less worry if you're doing something you know you should be doing.  What Color Is Your Parachute? helps readers to understand what it is they're good at, the conditions they enjoy working under, the kinds of people they like working with, and more.  This, in turn, makes everything more exciting.

Simple interactive assignments are quite frequent in the book.  For example, one of the exercises Bolles' has you do is write several short stories in which you accomplished something you're pleased with or overcame some obstacle.  Then he gives a list of skills and asks you to analyze your stories for where these skills may have been used.  You note which skills were used most frequently.  A grid is then given where you can prioritize these skills.  Finally, you note what category they fall into.  For example, I found that, of working with people, ideas, or things, I almost always worked with ideas.

Though a lot of the book seeks to help workers learn what they really want to do, What Color Is Your Parachute? does not neglect the other aspects of job hunting.  Among other things, the current job market, resumes, interviewing, and the impact of social media are discussed in detail.

What Color Is Your Parachute? is easy to read.  The author's writing style is not hard to understand and what is writes seems to flow well.  The organization of the book is also generally good.  Those who love lists will be thrilled with Richard Bolles' frequent usage of them.

How it impacted me:

Besides giving many useful tips on how to land a job, this book helped me better understand who I am, what I'm interested in, and what talents I have.

There are many things that God has used to shape my life, but I think He used this book to connect several of the seemingly unrelated experiences I've gone through, desires I have, and skills He's put in my possession.

Currently I'm very interested in mechanical engineering (or closely related jobs), partly because of this book.  This book helped me realize that I love inventing, improving things, planning, and solving problems; prefer to work alone or with a team of honest people; like working with ideas; and lots of other useful stuff about myself.  Interestingly enough, I knew most or all of this already.  However, pulling all of this information together on one piece of paper made everything so much clearer.  When I researched mechanical engineering and the people who generally do well in it, it became apparent that engineering was something to seriously consider.

Of course, I don't have all the answers.  I could end up doing something totally different.  Yet now I realize that I was interested in investing as a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.  As mentioned, learning how things work has always been something I've been interested in and generally grasp easily. I'm also interested in supporting/doing missions. Engineering could actually work well with that since engineers are needed all over the world and they usually make good money.  How all that will work out I don't know.  Also, I'm definitely not yet committed to engineering.  We'll have to see how God leads.  Nevertheless, it seems clear that I should pursue it for the time being.

Though this discussion could be continued, it seems that it is getting off topic.  Anyway, if you have any thoughts or questions about this please post them here or send them to me privately.  (Proverbs 15:22)

So is there anything bad about it?

Bolles' incorrect grammar may cause dizziness, insanity, and great frustration.  In all seriousness, he does make a lot of inaccuracies.  I'd call them mistakes, but he does them on purpose.  He has a note about this, saying that he uses commas where he'd pause when speaking.  Though technically incorrect, this should not impair the reader's understanding.

What Color Is Your Parachute? has several appendices.  One of them is about religion.  In the beginning of the book Bolles claims to be a devout Christian (and ordained in the Episcopalian church for fifty years) and he again asserts this in this appendix.  However, one of his early comments about "deciding" not to use the universal approach is disturbing from a presuppositional standpoint.  What does it mean if he's the one who decides whether or not to use one religious perspective over another?  Unfortunately, he later shows strong signs of being a universalist when he says that though he will speak from the context of his particular faith, the reader may be able to translate and apply it to theirs.  He continues by saying that he believes that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, but that he also agrees with St. Peter "that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him."  In the context of Bolles' discussion, his reference to the "no partiality" is taken completely out of context.

Finally, the whole idea of learning more about yourself, though possible to be done in a biblical way, can be dangerous.  It's easy to fall into the "I, me, mine, and this is what I want" humanistic mentality.  If a reader is prayerfully seeking God's will, this book could benefit them greatly, but it's vitally important that they don't lose sight of God when examining God's gifts.  We should seek to learn the ways God created us unique, but always remember that He created us unique to reflect His glory, not ours.

What should a reader commit to before reading it?

Doing the exercises, not just skimming over them.  I frequently skip the practical assignments that are mentioned in books, but am very glad that I did the assignments in What Color Is Your Parachute?  Without them, the positive aspects of the book lose almost all their strength.  So invest the time.  Generally, the harder something is, the more rewards that result from it.


Overall, I'm quite pleased with the effect that What Color Is Your Parachute? had on me.  It's not hard to read and it's amazing what some of the tests can do.  Ultimately, if a reader can maintain the right perspective while reading this book, it can be very rewarding.

Oh, if you have any thoughts about my future feel free to share them with me.  If interested, I've always said that there are three downsides to college: time, money, and a bad environment (just look at some statistics).  However, if I want to get into engineering, I'll likely need to invest the time for college.  Assuming certain tests go well, it might be possible to get a scholarship.  Thus, money would be taken care of.  Finally, if I go locally and seek out other believers at the college, I should have plenty of accountability.  Thoughts?

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