Tag Archives: Richard Bolles

A Dream Job is Not a Luxury

What Color is Your parachute?

What Color is Your parachute?

I was puzzled. I had in my hand one of the first editions of “What Color is Your Parachute” by Richard Bolles, (much like the one at the right) long before it became the best-selling career book in history. Unlike other career guides, it didn’t start off with resume or interview skills. Instead, Bolles asked you to complete a series of exercises that produced “one piece of paper” that succinctly described your dream job. That is where I was puzzled. In his stories it was normal to precisely describe your ideal job and then methodically set out to land precisely that position. That couldn’t have been further from my own experience to that time or that of anyone I knew. In my world “beggars couldn’t be choosers”. Unless you had scarce skills that we were in high demand, you were grateful to be offered any job. If it wasn’t what you wanted, you just adapted.
After I completed the exercises, I had identified 8 characteristics of a dream job. I no longer have that one piece of paper, but I recall one particular requirement that seemed especially unrealistic. I wanted to commute less than 30 minutes of my home, which limited my options to our small city. The kind of job I wanted was typically found in the much larger city an hour away. I filed the little piece of paper and forgot it. After I had been hired, I happened across the list and compared my dream to the present position. To my astonishment, 7 of the 8 desired characteristics had been satisfied, including a 20 minute drive time! Did creating the list help me to get that job? I couldn’t tell you, but I no longer considered Bolles’ promise to be a pipe dream.
What kind of boss do you prefer? Would you rather work alone or as part of a team? You will be asked these questions in a job interview and you may be tempted to provide an evasive response. After all, you reason, you can adapt to whatever circumstances you encounter. In today’s job market it is essential that you credibly and persuasively communicate to an employer that you are already a good fit for that position. It is precisely when there is the glut of applicants for the position that you must distinguish yourself. The question of whether you prefer to work alone or with others is standard. If you haven’t sorted that out in advance you will likely give the unconvincing answer that you imagine the interviewer wants to hear.
So knowing yourself well is not a luxury in a competitive job market. It is more valuable than ever. Thank you, Mr. Bolles.

Why I Distrust First Impressions (Part 1)

What makes you cringe? For some, it is hearing the president of the United States say “gonna”. For me, it is when workshop facilitators advise jobseekers that the impression an applicant makes in the first 5 or 10 seconds seals the fate of the hapless interviewee. A weak handshake is sufficient to end the interview. A broad smile can ensure an immediate offer.

I don’t cringe because that is bad advice; I accept that it is true. I cringe because worthy jobseekers whose strengths can’t be coached are rejected based on criteria that can be easily coached. Now, I have interviewed far fewer applicants than an experienced HR manager, but I learned a long time ago that first impressions are often very misleading. I understand that the emphasis on “fit” provides clear decision rules.

However, the idea that important decisions about people’s lives are made on criteria that can easily be coached seems just seems wrong to me. And, as Richard Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute told us more than 25 years ago, that is a very good argument for directly contacting the hiring manager (yes, networking) instead of emailing hundreds of resumes.
I jumped to instant conclusions just like everyone else until the first night of an evening class 30 years ago. A fellow student I’ll call Jezebel exhibited all the qualities I found most objectionable. When the instructor numbered off people into groups from the front 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on, I hoped (OK, prayed) I would not end up in Jezebel’s group. I actually groaned aloud when I saw that I also would be in group #1. To my great astonishment, I grew to admire and enjoy Jezebel as we worked together on a group project and we formed a friendship that I would not want to have missed. I try to suspend judgment on people until I have some significant need to make a decision. I simply do not trust first impressions.

Mayor Hazel McCallion

Mayor Hazel McCallion

If you are not from Southern Ontario, you may not recognize the lady in the yellow jacket. At age 91, Hazel McCallion is very competently serving as mayor of a city of over 600,000 citizens. Some have been foolish enough to misjudge her based on their first impression. Oops!

So far, I have shared my own thoughts, but in part 2 I will pass on the wisdom of “America’s top jury consultant, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, who can literally read a person like a book”. She doesn’t make important decisions on first impressions. Check in and find out why!