March 6, 1995 in Features

Bolles Updates ‘Job-Hunter’s Bible’ Yearly

Tom Knappenberger Special To In Life

Once a traveling campus minister, Richard Nelson Bolles has spent the past two decades tending a larger flock - the world’s unemployed. From his Walnut Creek, Calif., home, the 67-year-old author churns out annual editions of his famous job-hunting book “What Color is Your Parachute?” Called “the job-hunter’s bible” by many reviewers, “Parachute” is a unique labor of love. Appropriately, its author is an Episcopalian priest turned job counselor.

“If you see yourself as I do, put on earth to help people, then I find the book is being helpful,” Bolles said in a phone interview from his home. “But I can always find ways to make it more helpful; obviously, it’s become an obsession to make it more helpful.”

Thus the annual updates since 1976. Marketed mainly through word of mouth, “Parachute” has been on the New York Times’ paperback best-seller list for 288 weeks and has sold 5.2 million copies in seven languages. But in the beginning, it had a humble birth.

Fired for budgetary reasons from his pastoral duties at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco, Bolles endured six months of unemployment before taking a job working with college ministers in nine Western states. Because college ministries usually feel the budget ax first, they often asked Bolles how to go about finding new jobs. It was the beginning of his obsession.

While traveling 68,000 miles on business, Bolles “snooped around” the job-hunting business, picking up advice wherever he could.

“I’d read every book on job hunting there was, and there were only 10,” Bolles recalled. “I was hoping to find some book that’s really good. I had no intention of writing.”

All the books said the same thing: Send off resumes by the bushel, take the resulting interviews and eventually a job will come along, Bolles said.

“I got a B minus in logic at Harvard,” Bolles said, “but the gap in logic there was the size of the Grand Canyon.”

Bolles said he “reluctantly realized” he would have to write what he envisioned to be a 32-page jobhunting pamphlet for ministers. Instead, it turned out to be a 162-page book. The first edition was selfpublished in 1970 - Bolles printed 100 at a time and staggered to the post office to mail dozens of orders. He soon had a following on campuses and even at the Pentagon. By 1972, a Berkeley publisher was interested and Bolles revised the text for a wider audience.

The distinctive name came from a discussion among ministers about “bailing out” of their profession. “It just came to me,” Bolles said. “It was nonsense.” In the early days, Bolles would find his work misfiled in bookstores in the sports section by employees who thought it was about skydiving.

Those days are long gone. Although the 1995 edition is on bookshelves, the thesis has not changed: Always have alternative ways of seeking work, Bolles advises, even alternatives to “Parachute.” And don’t cut corners.

“The thesis hasn’t changed over 20 years because job hunting is still the same,” Bolles said. “It’s two people meeting to fill their respective needs.”

xxxx Bolles’ top 10 job-hunting tips Here are Richard Nelson Bolles’ secrets of job hunting success, from the 1994 edition of his best-seller “What Color is Your Parachute?” (Ten Speed Press): 1. Be prepared for a long job hunt - on average, it takes eight to 23 weeks. Too many people set an artificial deadline, then give up when it’s not met. 2. Spend at least 20 hours per week on your job hunt. There is a direct correlation between time spent looking for a job and finally finding one. 3. Visit the places you would like to work. Go “face to face” with employers - those who have the power to hire you. Avoid personnel departments. 4. Go after small companies. Since 1970, two out of every three new jobs have been created by firms with 100 or fewer employees. They are generally easier to approach, and most of them are growing, not shrinking. 5. Plan to see at least two employers a day, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, every weekday for as many months as your job hunt lasts. 6. Tell everyone you know you are job hunting. And be specific about what you are looking for. 7. Have plan B. Don’t expect to find the same kind of work you did before. Take off the job label and think of yourself in terms of the skills you possess. 8. Settle on more than one target. Decide on at least five organizations or companies where you’d like to work. 9. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings and to seek advice. Get help from your spouse, relatives and friends, job-hunting groups. 10. Use as many job-hunting methods as you can, including those listed above and others such as using your school’s job-placement service, talking to former professors, and using a union hiring hall.

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