The Best Job Hunting Book Ever: What Color Is Your Parachute?

According to this 2014 Forbes article more than half of all Americans are unhappy at work. The Gallup organizations 2017 study on the American workforce pretty much verified the same thing, that more than half of all workers are disengaged, resulting in massive productivity losses. This Gallup study goes on to say that as a result of job dissatisfaction more than half are actively looking for other work, which is why Richard Nelson Bolles’ What Color Is Your Parachute? has continued to be so relevant. It’s not simply for the unemployed looking for a job. It’s also for the underemployed and mis-employed, that is, people who are not in positions that align with who they are. In short, the potential audience is vast, and the book has a message that addresses the fundamental core of the issue.

Who am I? Why am I here? What do I really want to do?

From his earliest versions of this now classic job-hunt manual, Bolles identified one of the key issues job-seekers have. They do not know themselves as well as they ought. Any reader who frequents Quora will come across people who ask questions that only they can answer, like this one: “I want to start a blog. What should I write about?”

RNB’s response goes like this: “The key to a happy and fulfilling future is knowing yourself. This self-knowledge is the most important component of finding the right career.” He addresses this matter by offering an array of exercises and tools designed to help readers discover who they are and what really motivates them. In the early editions these exercises were contained in an appendix titled The Quick Job-Hunting Map.

What Bolles does in this job hunt manual that literally changed my life many decades ago was this. He provides tools to help us do a self-inventory so that we better understand who we are, what makes us tick (our values), the kinds of situations that turn us on, and what our strengths are. The exercises in this book, when we invest time in doing them, can open our eyes to our personal DNA and strengthen our resolve as we begin to recognize our superpowers. Like The Incredibles we each have different skillsets or powers that enable us to make contributions to the companies and communities we serve

For years I used to tell people who were looking for work to find a copy of this book and read the appendix. That is, I thought the whole point of this book was to get people to do the exercises in the back of the book. Not having read the book in more more than 30 years myself, I was describing what to do based on my 1981 version of the book. What I didn’t realize was how much each new editions of Parachute had been updated and upgraded. At a certain point in time some of those exercises, became more integrated into the content of the book. (I just went to Amazon and discovered the Quick Job-Hunting Map is itself now available as a separate book altogether.) Since his mission has been that of helping people in this specific point of need, he made plenty of his wisdom and insight available at a website Be sure to click on the eParachute link in the lower right.

Among its many accolades Time magazine calls it “One of the All-Time 100 Best Nonfiction Books.” Its subtitle is A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career Changers. And since one’s career is such a central part of one’s life on earth, it seems a worthy objective to try to get it right.

Though the best time to do this is when we’re young, with our careers ahead of us, the old adage remains true, “Better late than never.” In fact, he has also produced a What Color Is Your Parachute for Retirement.

Bolles passed away last year at age 90, and I get the impression he never retired from doing what he loved, which was helping people.

Originally published at

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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