- Published on Monday, 07 May 2012 03:34
- By Richard Nelson Bolles
New and Timeless Wisdom from the Classic Job-Hunting Guide Helps the Long-Term Unemployed Find Hope in a Seemingly “Hopeless” Job Market
Editor’s Note: For 40 years, job seekers around the world have turned to Richard N. Bolles’ classic What Color Is Your Parachute? for job
strategy advice, making it the best-selling job-hunting book of all time. Now, its advice and resources have been updated in a new 40th anniversary edition, given new currency in what is certainly one of the worst job markets in the last four decades. Bolles particularly reaches out to those job seekers – millions of them – who now face long-term joblessness and stand on the verge of giving up. He offers not just idle encouragement, but prescribes a clear-eyed way of transforming mountains of bad employment news and job search results into the renewed motivation to dig out of a bad situation using practical strategies and considerations
Survival Skills You Most Need in Today’s World
Maybe you’re not unemployed. Maybe you’re just adrift, or bored, or puzzled about where to go next, with your life. You’re at some crossroads in your life: you can’t stand your job anymore, or you have a new handicap you’re trying to adjust to, or you’re just out of the military, or just out of prison, or just out of college, or just out of a divorce, or you’ve just lost an important person in your life. Or you’ve just found the most important person in your life, and you’re ready to look for some deeper purpose for your remaining time here on Earth.
Well, that’s why this isn’t just a book about job-hunting.
It’s about something larger, which we may call life/work planning, or (as I think is much more realistic) life/work designing.
Designing is more appropriate because you can’t possibly predict what is going to happen to you, even next week, much less plan for it. Planning your life is becoming increasingly unreliable in today’s world. On the other hand, when you design something, it’s like setting out on a journey: you assemble all the elements necessary, even if you aren’t sure which particular elements you will actually need, when the time comes. You pack with all conceivable scenarios in mind. You may need this or that. You may not. That’s designing.
Now, the fact that “work” was written as a subscript, above, is also significant. It conveys the point that our general subject is life planning or life designing, but there is a doorway into the whole subject, which it is important for us to use. As the subscript suggests, that doorway is our work. Or, to be more specific, our survival in the world of work. It’s the doorway, because it is the most difficult to solve; therefore, you begin with that. The other parts of life, learning, and leisure, are relatively easy to figure out, once you’ve solved the arena of work.
Okay, so that’s the major subject of this manual. Of course, you may say that survival in the world of work isn’t your big issue right now. You’re working on one of the other three great issues in the Pyramid of Life1—figuring out what’s going on, or what your mission on this Earth is, or how well you’re achieving it:
Well, that’s great! But stop for a moment. Think.
Imagine your life here on Earth as being like a journey in a boat down a long and winding river. For now, the journey may be going smoothly. But you are wise, and you think ahead; so you knew enough, before launching, to put certain supplies in that boat. One of which, I’ll bet, was a life jacket or life preserver.
You know you’ll probably never need it, but on the other hand, what if you do? What if you run into some huge rocks, or capsize, or develop a leak in the bottom of the boat, or head into a heavy storm that swamps your boat? You’ll need that life preserver or life jacket.
The moral of this allegory? Designing! A survival skill! You’ve got to always assemble ahead of time what you might need, to survive, should outrageous and unanticipated circumstances suddenly arise.
ESSENTIAL SURVIVAL SKILLS
Okay, so what do we need to assemble ahead of time in order to survive? What skills must we learn and master?
A human’s first necessary survival skill: the skill to communicate with others, and form a community. We need to be able to tell others what we need, and learn to hear what they need. Left alone, we would perish early; every baby knows that. From the beginning of our life, we need care, help in time of need, and of course, love. Others will need this also from us.
A human’s second necessary survival skill: the skill to protect ourselves, either as an individual or as a community, from anything out there that might hurt or kill us.
A human’s third necessary survival skill: the skill to keep ourselves healthy. We can be attacked from within as well as from without, by a virus, bacteria, or disease. We need healing skills, as well as the healing skills of others, to maintain a strong immune system.
A human’s fourth necessary survival skill: the skill to find shelter. Even if we are by nature nomads, we still need some kind of shelter, portable or not, to protect us against the elements. We must build or fashion it ourselves, or buy it from someone.
A human’s fifth necessary survival skill: the skill to clothe ourselves. Either we must know how to make it ourselves, or else know where to buy it from others.
A human’s sixth necessary survival skill: the skill to find food. Again we must either grow it, or fish it, or slay it, ourselves, or else buy it from others.
Those were the traditional six survival skills that we as humans need. But now a seventh has been added, due to this time in which we now live. And that is job-hunting and job-creation skills.
Oh, those skills have been around for a long time, but for many they were kind of optional, since many of us never had any particular difficulty in finding work. Only recently has job-hunting become elevated to the rank of a survival skill, right up there with the other six.
In part, this is because the national imperative for nation after nation is increasingly going to be: enact reforms, cut spending, take wage cuts, cut benefits too, endure austerity, reform the tax system, produce revenue, require people to work longer and retire later—as more than one expert has been predicting.2
As a consequence of all this, more and more people are in danger of losing their jobs, and becoming what the media are prematurely calling “a lost generation”: people out of work, and unable to find any. In Britain, for example, it is predicted that 300,000 will lose their jobs as a consequence of current budget-cutting there.3 A similar fate potentially awaits other nations around the world, and some are already in trouble financially, such as Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and yes, even the United States.
Therefore, the maxim of this twenty-first century is: it’s up to you; you’re not likely to be rescued by someone else, anymore. You’ve got to become better at hunting for a job, now, yourself, or perish! Job-hunting has become a survival skill; else, if you’re out of work for any great length of time, you are in danger of becoming a member of what economists are calling “the lost generation.”
ASSUME OUR JOB-HUNTING SKILLS ARE NOW OUTDATED IN THESE NEW HARD TIMES
In light of the peculiar challenges that we face this decade (2011–2020), we must start with fresh thinking. Fresh thinking, and fresh honesty.
Let’s start with honesty: it is fair to say that many if not most of us have job-hunting skills that are comparatively elementary.
Elementary? Yes, because in job-training program after job-training program, in support groups, and even in books, we have only been taught three most basic job-hunting skills: how to write a resume, how to search for vacancies on the Internet using social media, and how to conduct a job interview.
What’s wrong with these elementary job-hunting skills? Well, nothing. And everything. It all works rather well . . . if times are good. It’s only when times turn hard, like now, that our elementary job-hunting skills suddenly don’t work. What a shock! They turn up nothing in spite of the fact that there are millions of vacancies every month, in good times and bad, as we have seen.
It’s tempting to blame it on the economy, but it is wise to preserve the possibility in the back of our mind that maybe the techniques we are using work well in good times but don’t work well in hard times.
Therefore, times such as these require that we upgrade our job-hunting skills. We must learn what advanced job-hunting skills look like, and then master them in practice, in our own life. This is necessary to guarantee our survival, economically, physically, mentally, and spiritually, in times like these. Job-hunting has become essential to our survival.
Survival job-hunting has five essential parts; here they are, with the reason why we need them:
Sometimes the thing that is holding us back is we are approaching our crisis with the wrong attitudes. So, the first essential part of Survival Job-Hunting is to work on our:
1. Attitudes. Attitude is everything. But periodically attitudes need to be re-examined, and rethought. In this case, we must learn what attitudes are necessary for survival in this new world. Basically, they are: learning that what got you here, won’t necessarily get you there; learning to focus on what is within your power, not what is not; learning to always seek alternatives, for everything you do; learning to pay more attention to the world around you and the world within you; learning to be inventive even in everyday tasks; learning to seek out a supportive community while job-hunting; and learning there is meaning to everything.
Sometimes there are job vacancies out there that we would want to apply for, if we could find them; but we can’t, because we’re using the wrong methods. So, the second essential part of Survival Job-Hunting is we need to master more:
2. Advanced job-finding techniques. As we have seen, there are always job vacancies out there. Maybe it will turn out that, even so, there are no jobs in our specialty or at the salary we need, in our geographic area; but we need to be sure of that, before we move on to the next step in survival job-hunting. There are more effective and advanced ways to find vacancies than we are commonly taught. We must move beyond relying just on resumes, job-postings, agencies, and the Internet. If they turn up nothing, then it’s time to discover new and more advanced ways to find those vacancies that are out there.
Sometimes there simply are no job vacancies that appeal to us, so we must know how to create jobs. Therefore, the third essential part of Survival Job-Hunting is we need to master:
3. Advanced job-creation techniques. Yes, suppose we can’t find any job vacancies in our area, in our specialty, then what? Well, if we can’t find any vacancies, then we must learn how to create jobs; learning not only how to found our own business, but also how to speed up the job-creation process as done by employers around the country. And we must learn how to make a career-change, when we are puzzled about where to go from here with our life, and we hate our old job, or are simply bored, and want to do something new and different with our lives, or we want to find some deeper sense of mission or purpose for our life. It is worth noting that when we create new work for ourselves, we often help create new jobs for others.4
Sometimes the problem is we do not realize all the richness of what we have to offer to the World. So, the fourth essential part of Survival Job-Hunting is:
4. Inventory. We must go back and inventory what we have to offer the world: what transferable skills, what knowledges, what experience, what values. The purpose of this research is to discover alternative ways of describing who you are. You can no longer restrict your definition of yourself to just your old job-title. No longer:
“I am a construction worker (or whatever),” but “I am a person who . . .” Maybe, after all this, you will decide you can put together a new career with what you already know. Or maybe you’ll want to go train for a whole new career. Maybe. But first, you should inventory what you already have. It’s broader, deeper, richer, than you think.
These new tools should be taught to everyone, but we don’t have enough teachers or trainers to do that. Therefore, an essential part of Survival Job-Hunting is that once we have learned these life-saving skills for ourselves, we turn outward from ourselves and share what we have with the rest of the world; each one of us must commit to go teach at least one other person. So, the fifth (and final) essential part of Survival Job-Hunting is:
5. Each one teach one. It would be nice if we had enough trainers to teach this to the whole world, in time. But we don’t. The famous literacy pioneer, Frank Laubach, said that when you don’t have enough trainers to train everyone who needs it, the fastest way to spread a survival skill is to mandate that each person, once trained, makes a commitment to go teach at least one other person. We cannot let millions suffer because they do not know what to do in this new economy. If we gain the knowledge, it is our responsibility to turn around and share it.
Our pathway from here, is clear: we will proceed, step by step, through these five essential parts of Survival Job-Hunting, in the following order:
III. Job-creation and career change
IV. Inventory of what we each have to offer to the world
V. Teaching others through “each one teach one”
Job-hunter: It doesn’t feel to me like we’re in a survival mode in this country. Plenty of people have jobs. I think this country is still very prosperous.
Career-counselor: Well, you’re right. To be exact, 139 million people have jobs in this country. But any of us can be thrown out of work any time, without warning. And we aren’t spending time thinking about that possibility ahead of time, are we?
Job-hunter: No, we aren’t. I mean, I can’t speak for others, but it never occurred to me that I might be unemployed. And unemployed for this long.
Career-counselor: Well, that’s why we call this a survival mode, in this country; and in other countries around the world. Let me give you an analogy. You see a swimmer in danger of drowning. Can’t swim very well. Has no life jacket. Is about to go under the water for the third time. His arms are flailing the water desperately. Get the picture?
Job-hunter: Sure. He’s in trouble.
Career-counselor: Yes, but he’s in trouble because he didn’t put on a life jacket before he ever went out into the water. If he knew he might have trouble surviving out there, he would have put on that life jacket.
Job-hunter: So, you’re saying . . .
Career-counselor: I’m saying, you prepare now, if you want to survive later.
“Reprinted with permission from What Color Is Your Parachute? 2012: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers. Copyright © 2012 by Richard Nelson Bolles. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA.”