It was a little like Big Foot, or the Loch Ness Monster.
I had heard about it for years. BIG Tales: Amazing! Powerful! Transformative!!
But I had never happened to see it. (And it sounded just the tiniest bit unreal.)
Still, when a friend got laid off from her job, I suggested that she take a look at it. I spilled all the BIG Tales I had heard over the years, along with a “Can’t hurt, anyway”. I also figured I ought to take a look at it, if I was going to be recommending it to people.
It was the book What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles. And boy were the BIG Tales justified! I was so impressed.
Fast forward to the day I found out my job was definitely going to disappear: walked out to my car, drove to the bookstore, and bought the latest version of Parachute ¹.
And if I’m going to have a Retrenchment Observed series in a blog about seeking out a more abundant and grace-filled life, I had better include some resources for those in the middle of just such a situation, no?
WHERE better to start than Parachute ?!?!?
Reasons I love this book (a highly abridged list.)
1) It deals with your LIFE, not just your last job, or your next job, or the current crisis that is having no job.
This is HUGE!
For example, one of the key job search strategies is getting regular exercise. Parachute has all manner of real-world input that increases your chance of getting through a job loss and a job search without becoming a basket case.
And it’s not just for those of us who’ve lost our jobs; but equally valuable for people actively seeking a change. So much of this information is just about being in the best place possible in your work life, that I had taken to using it for many processes even before I lost my job.
2) It deals with your LIFE, version 2.
I have had lots of really cool jobs, that somehow did quite feel ‘right’ for me. No crazy boss, draconian policies, or evil coworkers, just … not the best fit. It wasn’t until I read Parachute that ever considered that work style and work environment were relevant to your enjoyment of your job.
Now, I’ve demonstrated that I can make a fine living, do good work, and have a good life even in jobs that I just don’t love – lots of us have.
But after starting to look at the BIG PICTURE that Parachute points to, I realized why past jobs hadn’t been ideal, and what to seek in new jobs that really WORKED.
That was better!
Parachute is also about looking at your options while you have a job, transforming the job you’re in, thinking about starting a business of your own – it’s a ‘job seekers manual’ that can influence many types of searches.
3) Based on what WORKS.
Shouldn’t be radical, right? Yet it is amazing how many of us exclusively seek a new job by strategies that have something like 3 – 15% success rates. Then ‘miraculously’ find one through a friend.
Make no mistake, the Parachute method is scarier, at least for me, than the random-shots-until-something-works method I’d used in the past, but it also runs in the area of 80% effective. That, too, is BETTER!
One benefit I got from my own lay-off was some fabulous, wildly expensive career coaching. Could never have afforded it on my own, and I am very grateful for it.
But you know what? Their method is pretty much the same things Parachute has been preaching since that very first edition I looked at, and presumably since the first edition to roll off the presses.
4) Updated each year.
Frankly, if I were Richard Bolles, you’d maybe get a new edition every 3-5 years.
I am amazed that he updates the thing ANNUALLY. At first I thought this was serious overkill. But, even though the methodology, and the advice, remain largely the same, if you buy this year’s edition you know that you’re not missing any of the latest tactics or technology info. And scary as it is to me, technology really can utterly transform in a year.
5) Just plain cool.
I have no idea if I would like Richard Bolles in person; but I LOVE Richard Bolles in print! The tone of Parachute is so calm, reassuring, enthusiastic, and practical, that I can’t think of a better guide for this dark, scary path of unemployment.
My favourite part of the book is the pink pages. Here Richard Bolles talks about life purpose, finding meaning, and his perspective on God, the Universe, and Everything. I understand that this used to run through the book as a whole, but eventually he condensed it to the pink pages to allow those intimidated by such discussions to still find value in the book. I LOVE THAT.
Truth is though, you still find a lot of the ‘pink’ material in the text. Not a discussion of God, perhaps, but a crystal clear picture of Richard Bolles’ purpose in life being lived out, and a sincere passion for everyone embracing their own lives fully.
6) Pleasantly quirky.
Sure, this is a subset of just plain cool, but it deserves a space of its own.
Richard Bolles starts the book by stating that he uses commas the way he likes to use commas and he doesn’t need any more letters complaining about his commas.
This is his approach to all of the book – funny, unique, and open. His tone is extremely positive and encouraging, but without a hint of fluff, or Pollyanna tripe. He talks about the hard stuff, gives gritty, practical advice for the worst case, and pulls no punches. But he manages to say it all in a way that implies he knows you can do it, and he’s on your side.
7) GREAT cartoons
Parachute is illustrated with (among many other things) a series of cartoons by the brilliant Sidney Harris, one of my favourite cartoonists EVER. Geek-humor heaven!
¹’Parachute’ is my pet name for it. It’s also a lot easier to write multiple times. I hope it’s not some horrific violation of copyright, but that is one I’ve never looked up. I’ll change it immediately, Mr. Bolles, or Ten-Speed Press, if it offends you!