Career Report
December, 2010 — Issue 130


Insights from Author Richard Bolles

If you’re planning to buy a holiday gift for a family member or friend who is out of work or is contemplating changing jobs, you might want to consider the 2011 edition of What Color Is Your Parachute?, the classic book by Richard Bolles. First published in 1972 and revised annually, the book has sold over 10 million copies and is thought of as the job-hunting bible for everyone from college graduates entering the workforce to mid-career professionals pondering job changes. In an article published by, featuring an interview with Bolles, the author explained the original inspiration for the book and offered key insights on job-searching and career-building. Here are some excerpts:

Q. What was the original inspiration for your book, “What Color Is Your Parachute?”

Bolles: Many years ago I was let go from my position as a canon pastor due to a budget-crunch. (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 ministers doing ministry at college or university campuses. I discovered that the budget-crunch was nationwide, and [there] were [other ministers] losing their jobs as well.

They assumed I would have advice on what they should do, but I didn’t have a clue. I did have a travel budget, 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 and classified ads didn’t turn up anything? Eventually I added a third, “If you don’t know, who do you think would know?

The search led me to two men: Richard Lathop, an author of a periodical called, ‘Who’s Hiring Who?” and John Crystal, a private career counselor. John had a voluminous clipping file of sorts of every article he came across about clever ways to job hunt or change careers. From these and from Lathop’s writings, I finally had the answers I was looking for, so I typed out a 128-page book 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 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 approached me about publishing the book commercially. The first commercial edition was published in 1972 and it soon hit every best-seller list there was, staying for five years on The New York Times best seller list. The rest is history.

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

Bolles: 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, 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 committed energy, regardless of the field or job.

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

Bolles: It’s the same advice I give everyone.

You have to work smarter at your job hunt–you need to know everything you can about what works and what doesn’t. You have to work harder at your job hunt. And you have to work longer at your job hunt. You’ve got to understand you’re going to face a lot of rejection before you finally hear that “Yes, we want you.”

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

Bolles: You must decide what work you are passionate about doing, weather as a volunteer or as a consultant or full-time worker.

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.

And when it’s time to go job hunting, do not buy into such myths as “employers don’t hire someone my age.” Every employer is different, and (for your purposes) divide 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.

Q. Do you have any other advice?

Bolles: 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 is 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.


A Thanksgiving Message from Bob Larson

During the recent Thanksgiving Holiday I was reminded of the 17 – 20 million good folks who continue to be adversely affected by our high unemployment numbers.

Over the past several years the personal painful histories that I have witnessed, due to no job or lack of meaningful work, continues to be heart wrenching for all of us in the employment profession.

As president of our organization I assure you that we will continue our free community out-reach programs to assist all “job-seekers” with their efforts to gain solid employment. Since beginning this program 24 months ago over 35,000 individuals have participated. My wish is by Thanksgiving 2011 our webinar attendance will decrease to zero.

During this time of thanks, I encourage each of you as professionals to lend a hand, take a phone call, review a resume, coach an interview or pass on some advice to a challenged “job-seeker”.

We at Berman Larson Kane continue to thank each of you for your business support during our thirty-one year history. Have a wonderful holiday and take a moment to please be thankful for your job and remember those who continue to seek employment.


News from BLK

We are pleased to announce that Joanne Ehlermann, PHR has earned her CTS certification by passing a rigid examination of employment laws issued by the National Association of Personal Services. Bob Larson , CPC commented, “We at Berman Larson Kane are very proud of Joanne’s achievement, this will greatly add to her ability to guide our client base.”

The next webinar in the Berman Larson Kane FREE Job Seeker Webinar Series, is scheduled for Wednesday, January 5th at 12 noon, EST. Click here to join the many thousands of job seekers who have already benefited from this program.

Bob Larson, CPC is looking forward to presenting a lecture on new business development to the NJCU Entrepreneur Alumni and Student Association on December 4th. “This is a wonderful group with wonderful ideas and I often benefit from the new business suggestions of the students”, commented Bob Larson.

Berman Larson Kane continues to host the MIS Network meetings on Tuesday evenings. This is a wonderful organization that has helped so many talented professionals in transition over the past 20 plus years. It is our pleasure to contribute in any small way.