What Color is Your Parachute? Interview with Career Guru Richard Bolles

richard bolles 'What Color is Your Parachute?', by Richard N. Bolles, is the best-selling job-hunting book in the world with over 10 million copies sold to date. Bolles has often been called a career guru, and his book -- first commercially published in 1972 -- is considered the job hunter's bible. He coined the terms "informational interviewing" and "transferable skills."

'What Color is Your Parachute?' is still going strong; the 2011 revised edition of the book was recently released. AOL was fortunate enough to interview Bolles to learn more about his personal career journey, his career wisdom, and the incredible success of his book.

What was the original inspiration for 'What Color Is Your Parachute?'

Many years ago (40 to be exact) I was let go from my position as canon pastor at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco due to a budget-crunch at the cathedral. (I was an ordained Episcopal minister at the time). I quickly found another position within the Episcopal church where I was in charge of visiting Episcopal ministers doing ministry on any college or university campus in the nine western states. As I went from campus to campus, I discovered that the budget-crunch was nationwide, and they were, one by one, losing their jobs as well. They assumed I would have some advice on what they should do next. I didn't have a clue. But I did have a generous travel budget, and moreover, how I spent my time was entirely up to me. So I criss-crossed the country, asking two questions of everyone whose name was given to me as an expert: "How do you change careers, without necessarily having to go back to college?" and "How did you find a job, if the traditional methods -- resumes, employment agencies, and classified newspaper ads -- don't turn up anything?" Eventually I added a third question, "If you don't know, who do you think would know?"

what color is your parachuteThis search led me eventually to two men, Richard Lathrop (author of a periodical for the military entitled 'Who's Hiring Who?') and John Crystal, a private career counselor in McLean, Va. John had been a spy during the second World War, and had a degree in finance from Columbia University in New York. John had kept a voluminous clipping service of sorts, for years, of every article he came across about clever ways to job hunt or change careers, plus his own writings on these subjects for The Air Force Times. He shipped all the clippings to me, day and day, week after week. From these, and Richard Lathrop's writings, I finally had the answers I was looking for so I typed out a 128-page book which I titled 'What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers.' The parachute metaphor was a play on the words people used in those days to announce they were changing jobs or careers -- they would say, "I've decided to bail out..."

The book was self-published Dec. 1, 1970. Two years later a publisher named Phil Wood approached me about publishing the book commercially. He wanted to publish it "as is," clearly for campus ministers, but I wanted to broaden the book to be for the general public and he agreed we could do so. The first commercial edition was published in 1972 and it soon hit every best-seller there was, staying for five years on The New York Times Best Seller list. I wanted to revise and update the book every year if it became popular enough, and within two years Phil agreed to that plan. The rest is history. Ten million copies have sold thus far, it exists in 22 languages, and is used in 26 countries around the world.

What career lessons remain the same as they were 40 years ago when the book was first published? What lessons have changed?

That's easy. Job-hunting is a repetitive activity in the life of each individual. No one is coming to "save you." You are the one who is in charge of your job hunt, with whatever allies you may enlist to help you. You must take yourself as "the given" and find work that matches you -- your gifts and passions, not (as is commonly done) taking the job market as "the given" and trying to contort yourself to fit. And you must ask yourself not what do you do well, but what do you most love to do, because love gives birth to passion, passion gives birth to enthusiasm, and enthusiasm gives birth to energy. Every employer is trying to hire focused, committed energy, regardless of the field or job.

Hence, your job hunt or career choice must begin with homework on yourself:

  • what do you most love to do,
  • where would you most love to do it, and
  • how do you find such a job and persuade those employers to hire you.

None of that has changed. What has changed, over the past almost 40 years, is the fact that job hunting has become a survival skill and most people's job-hunting skills are rather elementary -- good enough to find work when times are good, but failing woefully when times are bad. A recession may be best thought of as a time when people's job-hunting skills prove to be elementary and need urgent upgrading. Marshall Goldsmith has a wonderful book title, 'What Got Your Here, Won't Get You There.'

What are your top three career tips for people just starting their careers?

It's the same advice I give everyone.

  1. You have to work smarter at your job hunt. A lot of research has been done about the job hunt; you need to know everything you can about what works and what doesn't. Just setting out blindly, without knowing the research, is going to cost you time, energy, and money.
  2. You have to work harder at your job hunt. Research was done this past year on college graduates who were having difficulty finding work and so went back to live with their parents for a time. The question: "how much time do you spend on your job hunt?" The answer was on average, one hour a week. (Oh, come on! You couldn't even find a lost dog if you devoted only one hour a week to the task.)
  3. You have to work longer at your job hunt. It may take you half a year to find a job. You've got to understand you're going to face a lot of rejection before you finally hear that "Yes, we want you." And your corresponding "Yes I'd really like to work here." When you start your job hunt, you must settle in for the long haul.

What are your top three career tips for people older than 50 searching for their next job?

  1. You must decide what work you are passionate about doing, either as a volunteer or as a consultant or full-time worker. Just "settling for" a job and then marking time until you die is foolish. You may live a lot longer and stay a lot healthier than you think. Read 'Learned Optimism' by Martin Seligman. Think of this time in your life as "starting over" or as a second chance to live a meaningful life.
  2. You must keep your brain tremendously active, feed your curiosity daily, and push the horizons of your mind further and further out. Browse a new subject on the Internet every day, read voraciously in newspapers such as The New York Times, listen to informative radio (especially NPR), and watch educational programs on TV, particularly on PBS.
  3. When it's time to go job hunting, do not buy into such myths as "employers don't hire someone my age." There is no such thing as "employers." Every employer is different, and broadly speaking, they divide (for your purposed) into two families or groups -- those who do not want to hire someone your age and those who do because they value your wisdom and experience. Even if the first "family" is larger in numbers, keep going until you find the second. They are most likely to be small employers, those with 50 employees or fewer.

What are the three top things someone thinking about a career change should consider?

  1. Your partner.Your decision will affect their life, as well as yours. Make them a part of the decision team from the get-go. Don't just bring them in when your mind is all make up so all they get is an up or down vote. Take advantage of their two eyes, their two ears, their brain and wisdom from the beginning.
  2. Your God. If you are a person of faith (and a huge percentage of the U.S. population are), your career decision should take into account your deepest values and most cherished goals for your whole life. You don't just want to live a life that keeps you busy; you want a life with purpose and meaning -- and your career decisions need to reflect that.
  3. Yourself. What you want for your life, not just what your parents or friends want for your life, is crucial. Listen to your own inner guidance system, your hunches, your impulses, your intuitions, your wishes. You have but one life to live on this earth and you need to remember this isn't a rehearsal for the life you want to lead; this is opening night.

Do you have any other advice for our readers?

Of course. Just what you'd expect an author to say: Read my book. I've only covered the highlights of what you need to know. Knowledge is power: knowledge first of all about yourself; knowledge secondly about what constitutes advanced job-hunting skills; and knowledge lastly about the job-market. With such knowledge under your belt, you have more control over your life than you imagine.

Next: Publishing a Book is Easier Than You'd Think >>

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Truth is good.

Reply for you below at 10:08. Hope it helps.

October 02 2010 at 10:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Truth is good.

Hey Jeffers. You might not believe this, but I go to a church and the people I have prayed for to get jobs have actually gotten them. You might not believe this either, but many of them are actually trying to learn from God and follow the Bible. That makes them desirable employees. The people who are willing not to rob a business blind in retail (for example) are actually a good catch and God is happy to assist the righteous in finding employment. I do not say this to be disagreeable, but to encourage you to stay opened-minded about God. I wish someone said this to me when I was younger. I wasted too much time being disconnected. The connection, however, is beyond great if you want to pursue God like treasure and He lets you find Him. I challenge you to do something new, pray, read the book of Matthew (or what ever page you open to), visit a few churches, go to some websites and listen to some sermons at home, but pray God's will for your life. Amazing things might unfold. My best to you. Remember Thomas was once a doubter too.

October 02 2010 at 9:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

?? Is this the right place for these comments? This article is about JOB HUNTING. These long posts about politics discourage people who are interested in this topic.

October 02 2010 at 9:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Back when skills were limited and jobs (needs) were plentiful, finding openings and showing up may have been a key to getting a job. NOW we live in a complex global economy. College students are training for jobs they'll hold - which don't even EXIST now. The jobs will change - but YOUR core and interests won't. Doing a good job is more about ATTITUDE, INTEREST & DESIRE than actual functional skills. A job hunt is a high energy competitive task. If you feel ehhh... about a job, your chances aren't good. Someone somewhere wants to do that job badly. Going after what you love will give you energy to keep on and have the right attitude. Luck and timing only works if you are looking for the RIGHT job for YOU. Most people don't know what's right for them.

80% of the job market consists of unadvertised jobs that pass ONLY by word of mouth or referral. I've been studying Richard Nelson Bolles's books since 1976 and attended more than one of his professional career counselor training seminars. No article can do his PROCESS justice any more than the statement "All matter consists of sub-atomic particles." gives you an
understanding of PHYSICS. His overview of the problem, paradigm and solution has made Richard Nelson Bolles revolutionary since 1972! - 40 years You can buy a buggy whip thinking it will help you move faster, because it did when your great grandfather had a mule. But it won't help you NOW, because we use CARS. That tool is as OUTDATED as is browsing job listings and sending out applications willynilly. You DO have to read the book and WORK through his process to get something better for yourself.

Knowing the RULES of football won't help you PLAY football well. Playing well takes practice too. Dick Bolles explains the rules of job hunt reality, and gives you practice in the process. Most people don't know the rules. The only PRACTICE they get is rejection, rejection, rejection. If you want a better result, you need a better method. Tips and job listings is not a METHOD.

October 02 2010 at 8:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i had this book back in the 80s, and i can't tell you how much it helped. the advice is very good. i am planning to buy the newest edition soon. not everything in the book may fit a person, but you can take what works for you.

October 02 2010 at 7:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ciara13b's comment
Steve R

everywhere you go these days looking for work the attitude is "you're not what we're looking for so eat shit and die" No book's going to help you. You can no longer pick a career you want. You have to take whatevers left which is close to nothing. Almost every Goddamn job has been outsourced and employeres know it so they can pick and choose not the job seeker.

This used to be greatest country on Earth, now it's nothing but a steaming pile of cow shit,

No more Godbless America Land of the free

Our new slogan is Goddamn America, Land of the Greed

October 02 2010 at 8:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You are so right, Tommt.

There is no greater evil than to sell out your own country for what can only be short term wealth of an individual. It reminds me of a phrase or question I heard once ~ "Who $#*+s in their own nest?!?"

However, I leave you with this>>> My God is Jehovah Jirah, my Provider. God is able in a good economy, He is able in a bad economy!

So you had better be under His protection.

October 02 2010 at 7:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Steve R

Obama isn't really the problem, atleast he's trying to help although he's getting nothing done. It's the entire governmnet that's just so corrupt, Especially congree and the Senate. They ALL need to be removed from office, beaten and imprisioned for selling us out to the Goddamn filthy rich corporations.

October 02 2010 at 6:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Steve R


The outsourcing (offshoring)of our jobs is exactly like a disease that will eventually destroy our once great nation if it is not stopped immediately. Not only have the production of all consumer and industrial products been outsourced, but now all types of services are being outsourced such as engineering, writing, administration, accounting, marketing, financing, teaching, design, sales, word-processing, programming, tech support, etc.

Many companies including the government are sending personal information including your bank info, social security numbers, and more to foreign nations without you knowing it. You only find out later after they have stolen your identity. The people who steal it have nothing to worry about because they’re in another country and our government can’t touch them. Our government says” so your credit and your life get destroyed, it’s a small price to pay to help the filthy rich get richer”

Our rotten careless government doesn’t give a Goddamn. They know their enormous pay and million dollar pensions are guaranteed. Instead of controlling inflation, They kick back and do nothing as prices skyrocket ( Food, Utilities, Healthcare, Rent,Taxes. Etc) All they do is laugh and vote themselves BIG pay raises instead of dealing with the problem. They don’t care about the deficit, they’ll just continue to borrow money from other countries like communist China .

Face the facts, the main reason we have gone into a recession is because so many people are losing there jobs due to the outsourcing. Even people who haven’t lost there jobs yet see the jobs disappearing at a alarming rate and a worthless, lazy, corrupt, evil government who instead of stopping it instead encourages it. The piece of shit government just kicked back a laughed as ALL the large businesses and corporations shipped most of our jobs overseas so they can make a bigger profit. Not only did our government not do their job and stop it, our evil corrupt government gave tax breaks to these multi-million dollar companies .And as I mentioned above, a lot of cities are outsourcing government jobs (including our personal info) to save money instead of giving them to American workers who need them. This is Fucking insane!

There’s is ONLY one way to stop the recession. Reverse the outsourcing and bring the jobs back. All the government has to do is increase taxes on companies that outsource and lower or eliminate taxes on companies that don’t. Level the playing field. Double, triple, or even quad triple the taxes on the companies that outsource. Tax them to a level that forces them to return the jobs to this country. It’s simple as that.

Why doesn’t the government do this. It’s because outsourcing helps the filthy rich get richer and that’s all our government cares about. And of course they are now completely controlled by Big Business through bribes via corporate lobbyists. The government says” we are all rich, our friends and family are all rich, all we care about is the rich. The rest of the country can die in the streets for all we care.” Our government wants a recession so that they can turn us into helpless slaves.

Goddamnit, almost all the decent jobs have been outsourced thanks to the lazy, corrupt evil, rotten government we have. The mortgage crisis, energy crisis and healthcare crisis would not have happened if the government didn’t have their heads up their asses. They let these businesses do want ever they want no matter how corrupt, dishonest and harmful it is to the nation. They don’t want to interfere with these multi-million dollar companies and corporations yet they want to control what we do in our personal lives. It’s OK to be hungry, sick, suffering and even homeless because there’s no more jobs available (mainly due to outsourcing and illegal immigration) but if you smoke pot, the government will send the cops over to bash your head and throw you in jail. How fucked is that….

People, unless we stop supporting this reckless, careless, corrupt beyond belief government we are all going to be up shit creek without a paddle with our hands tied behind our backs and the government pushing us under. It will be even worse for our children who will forced to live a life of violence and poverty when all the jobs are gone. If you don’t want this to happen then join the battle. We need to band together and stop supporting this Goddamn fucked up pile of shit governmentâ€&b

October 02 2010 at 6:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Steve R's comment
Truth is good.

Tommt Truth. Interesting name. The truth part. Do you really care about truth? It is not so easy to see. We can all blame, and everyone is doing it, but how about seeing more than that? Have you ever read in the Bible about blessings and curses based on obedience to God? Because it seems like you are expecting an unrighteous people to be rewarded for unrighteousness. Never going to happen. If you really want truth, get a Bible and dig in. It might not come easily, but if you persevere you might get an understanding about why we are sinking like dead weight. Take care Tommt. Peace and blessings to you.

October 02 2010 at 7:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Steve R


On the front page of the Daily News awhile back, I read that 50% of the children in America are now on food stamps. Even more stunning is 90% of African American kids are now on food stamps.

Why, two reasons:. First massive unemployment and a worthless government that doesn’t give a damn about anything except helping the filthy rich get richer so that they can get their bribes and kickbacks.

Now that Global Big business completely controls our government through bribes via corporate lobbyists, they don’t want any more jobs created in this country because it would compete with all the foreign markets. Global Big Business says “screw the American people, we plan to offshore every damn American job and there is nothing the American people can do about it because we now completely control the US federal government so ha ha”

Second, many people that have jobs can’t afford to feed their children because the cost of living in this country is so ridiculously high. This is due to all the constant inflation caused by our lazy worthless government constantly increasing the nation debt with wasteful spending and bullshit give a ways. The higher it gets, the higher inflation gets as the dollar is then worth less.

Our government says they would rather pay the entire country food stamps, welfare , government housing, unemployment rather than create jobs or help keep the jobs from being offshored. Why, because that’s what Global Big Business wants and they control our government now so get it through your thick heads. Most of corrupt government leaders don’t really care how high the national debt gets as long as they get their 6 digit salaries, 6 digit pensions plus their bribes and kick backs from Global Big Business and the Global banks that actually want the national to go up so they can get more interest and eventually own the US (and everything that we own)

This may be the richest country in the world but we have one of the most corrupt governments’ in the world. After many years the politicians (many started off as lawyers) were able to change and create laws and a system in which the filthy rich would be able to eventually own everything (power and wealth) and continue to get richer by making the poor poorer That’s why 1% of the country owns 98% of the wealth

Face the facts, there is only one solution. We need to get together and start a revolution , try and hang every politician from congress to the assembly and replace them with people who won’t sell us out.

We need to start Now if we want to save our country………..

October 02 2010 at 6:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Steve R


First, the population is expanding (births and immigration) so logically you will need more jobs.

Second, a massive, and I mean MASSIVE campaign by big business to offshore every American job that's humanly possible. And now with the internet, they have been able to offshore almost everything and watch it from here. Automation or Outsource is the main goal of BIG BUSINESS which now completely controls our government.

And thanks to our worthless, greedy, corrupt beyond belief government, they have succeeded in offshoring more than 40 million American jobs over the last 25years. Thanks to all the bribes and favors our politicians received, deals by dick head Bill Clinton and AssWipes George Bush JR and Senior, the outsourcing overseas and to Mexico has snowballed.

Even if you stop the outsourcing, we would still have a shortage of jobs because the population is growing fast however when you combine this with massive offshoring of jobs you eventually end up with massive unemployment.

It’s simple mathematics.
Population expanding + massive offshoring = massive unemployment

Until we revolt and take back the government from Global Big Business and punish all the politicians that sold us out ( most of them) things will only get worse. People must understand that the Filthy Rich which includes Global Big Business and the Banks now completely control the government and they have found a way to suck up all the money leaving the country ready to collapse from major debt. And our economy will totally collapse unless we revolt and save it.

October 02 2010 at 6:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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