Book Review: What Color Is Your Parachute?

Parachute Cover

As a child back in the early ‘70s, I can still remember my father coming home with a book one day whose title jumped out at me. It was a title that seemed silly and compelling all at the same time. “What Color Is Your Parachute?” I’d never been interested in one of my Dad’s books before. But this one caught my attention… Did the color of parachutes mean something? Was there some great mystery that would be revealed as the final pages of this book were read? I have to admit, I didn’t find out the answer to that question until much later…

I recently had the opportunity to review the 40th anniversary edition of “What Color Is Your Parachute?” by Richard N. Bolles, and decided to follow up on that missed opportunity from decades ago. And am I glad that I did!

Dick Bolles has revised and updated his book almost every year since it was first released, ensuring that it remains current and relevant to today’s job seeker. But this book is also a book for truth seekers, which is why my Dad had first picked it up. He was employed, and wasn’t looking for a new job. But he recognized that his young life hadn’t gone exactly as he’d hoped thus far, and he wanted to figure out the reasons why.

As Dick Bolles walks you through the things you need to know as part of a modern-day job search, he also provides exercises that help you to know yourself more, and in so doing, to find that job that is ideally suited to you. He covers how to find hope, deal with depression, and survival skills you need in today’s world, how to deal with handicaps (real or imagined), how to find job vacancies, whether or not resumes are still relevant, how to network using social media and in real life, tips for interviewing and salary negotiation, what you need to know before you start your own business, why being inventive is key to survival, and how to choose a new career. Exercises help you to look closely at the skills that you enjoy using the most, finding your mission in life and coming to know yourself better, and then figure out how to transfer those skills into a career. But it doesn’t stop there, because then you need to teach someone else how to do the same.

One of many statements that jumped out at me was that the key to hope is that, in every situation, we have to have at least two alternatives. So long as two alternatives exist, there’s always a reason to hope. The greatest thing about that is that hope gives you wings, persistence and energy to face whatever challenge you may find before you.

After reading this book, I can understand why my father turned to it when he was trying to figure his own life out. We all go through periods of doubt where we wonder why our lives didn’t turn out the way we’d planned on, and how to get back on track to living a fulfilling, meaningful life. While Dick’s book is specifically geared towards the job seeker, the same principles can be used by the entrepreneur, the student working on college entrance applications, the retiree, and anyone else interested in discovering a more satisfying life.



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  2. Brad Hohiudden says

    Thanks for sharing your experience here. I really like it.

  3. There are many books of a similar kind that appear dated such as “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill and “How to Make Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. None of them mention modern, late 20th century and early 21st century developments for obvious reasons but their content and ideas have a contemporary relevance.. “What Color” falls into that category. I have the 2003 edition and its still worth dipping into for inspiration.

    • Tara Alemany says

      Agreed, Dean! I see “What Color” as the reference that prepares the mindset of the job seeker, not the “how to” manual for conducting the job search. “Think and Grow Rich,” ” How to Make Friends and Influence People” and “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen all focus on preparing the mindset of the reader, which is a huge thing to do! After all, many of the obstacles we face in life begin with our own thoughts. Learning to control and direct the way you think about a given thing has a direct impact on how successful you are at it and, more importantly, what satisfaction you take out of doing it.

  4. Family Vacation Ideas says

    Thanks a ton for stating your opinions. Being a writer, I am always in need of unique and different solutions to think about a topic. I actually uncover fantastic creativity in doing this. Many thanks

  5. good post, added you to my RSS reader.

  6. Tara, this is a favorite book of mine too. It’s probably been 15 years since I read it, but I still remember the exercise he gave about writing stories about events in your life and using the action verbs to help identify transferrable skills. Great book and highly recommended!


    • Tara Alemany says

      Thanks, Mike! My favorite part was where had addressed the various “handicaps” we each think we have, whether real or imagined, and how to work around those so that they are shown in a positive light, rather than a negative one. People may see their age, income bracket, weight, gender, background, experience, etc. as a handicap to the position they want, but each of those things can be turned around to be displayed positively. With age comes experience and (many times) greater dependability and fewer training requirements, etc.

      Anyway, thanks for commenting!

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  8. Richard Kirby says

    The idea that this book has been revised and updated every year since it was published is a superficial view of what these words mean. It is woefully out of date, despite having a new cover each year. Were you aware that over the past 20+ years the book has not been expanded at all? Little coverage of networking, even thought 75% of jobs are found through networking? Social media treated superficially, with little actionable information? Come on. Get real.

    • Tara Alemany says

      Hi, Richard. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I haven’t compared this edition with any of the earlier ones to know how it’s been expanded or updated. However, the focus of the book is on figuring out “where I go from here with my life.” I agree with you that it’s not an exhaustive manual. It doesn’t cover how to post your profile on LinkedIn, or what to do with business cards you’ve collected at networking meetings. To cover all of that, the book would have to be huge! Instead, it points the reader in the right direction to explore what it is that they need to consider and learn more about.

      In the chapter on the “5 Best Ways to Look for a Job,” the author lists the internet and networking as items 2 and 3 in a list of 18 things you can turn to for help in finding the right work for you. LinkedIn is referenced frequently throughout the book, although you’re right in that specific strategies for how to use LinkedIn are lacking.

      But, I think if you keep in mind that the book is intended to help the reader select and pursue a career path that satisfies them, it’s worth the read! I do agree though that it would need to be supplemented with other, more detailed works on how to do specific things like networking properly, internet searches, using social media, etc. As I recall, there’s no mention of Twitter or #HireFriday and similar resources that are available to job seekers. However, the point here is to help the reader chart a course, and I think it does that well.

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