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In What Color is Your Parachute?, career expert Richard Nelson Bolles (1927-2017) shares insights from over 40 years working in the career development field.
In recent years, many aspects of the job-hunt have changed —jobs take longer to find, don’t last as long, and increasingly involve technology. However, certain aspects of the job-hunt haven’t changed. There are still plenty of jobs available and job-hunting is still fundamentally about compatibility between an applicant and an employer. Both parties have to like each other.
What Job Should You Try For?
The first step to finding a job is to focus on yourself—what do you want to do? You can research career options online and take assessments and tests, but the most effective way to find out what kind of job you’d like is to self-reflect using the flower exercise featured in the book
The flower exercise involves looking at yourself from seven different angles: compatibility with people, workplace conditions, skills, purpose, knowledge, money, and location. In the exercise, each angle will be visually represented by a flower petal. When you’ve finished the exercise, you’ll end up with a one-page diagram of your flower that contains a visual summary of your personality as it relates to your career:
The goal of this petal is to figure out what kind of conditions and locations you most prefer working in. The entries on this petal will be a list of descriptions of your surroundings.
To create this list, make a list of all the jobs you’ve had and then a list of all the working conditions you didn’t like in that job in priority order. Then, write the opposites of the unlikable conditions on your flower.
An example petal might read: somewhere with lots of natural light, flexible hours, standing desks, a short commute, air conditioning.
The goal of this petal is to figure out what your favorite skills are.
The entries on this petal will be a list of functional skills (verbs), optionally accompanied by adverbs or objects. Don’t include nouns (like “psychology”)—nouns are knowledges and will be addressed on Petal #5.
• To create the list of skills, write seven stories about seven different moments in your life. The stories should be brief moments you enjoyed and they should include a goal, obstacle, how you overcame the obstacle, and the outcome. When choosing, consider, for example, stories that: aren’t work-related, demonstrate you acting differently than you normally would or are difficult, exciting, unusual, or fun. Then, look through the stories for patterns. The skills and traits that keep coming up are likely your favorite. Write the top ten on your petal in
order of priority.
• An example petal might read: write convincingly, mentor, accurately organize documents, teach adults, speak, analyze, coach children, edit, typeset, research.
The goal of this petal is to figure out the mission or purpose of your life.
The entries on this petal will be a description of what facets of the world you want to improve and some details or a philosophy of life.
To find out which facets you most care about, consider which of the following speaks to you the most: beauty, physical health, resources, morality, love, entertainment, environment, spirituality, or knowledge. Write what you want to do within these facets on your petal.
To write a philosophy of life, write what you think the meaning of life is. Why do humans exist and why do you personally exist?
An example petal might read: improve the lives of children living in unsafe homes.
The goal of this petal is to figure out what knowledge you currently have that most excites you.
The entries on this petal will be a list of nouns.
To create the list, make a list of what you know and enjoy from jobs and outside work and a list of what you don’t know but that interests you. Compare the lists, focusing on the intersection of what you both know and like. Write the top five things you both know about and like on your petal.
An example petal might read: how to change a tire, Japanese language, gardening, psychology, beekeeping.