Warning: This post is LONG and includes highlights from my personal job search. If you’re just here to see if you should get the book, I’ll save you some time: Buy. It. Now.
This story begins in late September 2020. I had just left a really great company for what I thought was a dream come true: new industry, new career path, fully remote, fresh start. But a month or two later, my excitement segued into burnout.
Ight, Imma Head Out
I was hired as a project manager to add structure to the company and develop a department from the ground up. I won’t divulge all the details, but it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t a good fit for the environment or the position. After exhausting every possibility to change my situation, I decided the best course of action was to leave.
No Strategy, No Options
I started looking for a new job back in November 2020, just two months after I started. I didn’t have a job search strategy, I was just applying anywhere I could to get out of my current position. Obviously, that’s not the way to do it, but at the time, I felt desperate. That lack of strategy got me absolutely nowhere.
When I wasn’t sending out my resume to every employer in the tri-state area, I was spending every spare minute of my time reading blogs, watching videos, and studying up on the interview process. This was probably the only thing I did right at the time – even though I didn’t have any prospects, I was 110% ready for the interview I was hoping to land.
Fast forward a few months and in March, a recruiter from an insurance company in NYC reached out via LinkedIn. They were hiring for a marketing project lead and thought I’d be a good fit. I did too, so I eagerly submitted an application. A few days later, I landed a phone screening, which just happened to be during a cross-country trip I took with my husband. The call took place just outside Yellowstone National Park at the first place that had service. About an hour before, we packed up our campsite, frantically searched for a signal, and pulled off the road into a deserted parking lot. While I casually chatted with my phone balancing on the dashboard, my husband walked around the lot trying to stay warm as he gave me a little privacy.
The phone screening went well – thank God! – and I was invited back for a Zoom interview. This one happened when we were in Colorado Springs. It was supposed to wrap up the minute we needed to check out of the hotel. At one point, I was in mid-sentence when the crappy hotel wi-fi went out and I had to switch to my cell phone. My husband stood outside the door while I finished my call. We cut it close but made it happen.
When I returned home, I was happy to learn that I made it to the final stage of the interview process: meeting with the hiring manager. I was so nervous, but at that point, I was also hopeful that all of my accommodations would put me ahead of the competition. Plus, I was home, so there wouldn’t be any connection issues. But, unfortunately, the interview wasn’t great and my candidacy was rejected for my “lack of problem-solving skills.” Oh, the irony.
What Color Is Your Parachute?
Author: Richard N. Bolles
Rating: A Must-Buy
Page Count: 343
Published: Original 1970; Latest 2020
That last rejection really pushed me over the edge. At that point, I felt like there was no way out of a job I hated.
After turning to the Internet for help (as one does in 2021), I was led to the book What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles. It was first published in 1970 and has been updated almost every year since. In fact, the copy I purchased is the 50th Anniversary edition. If I’m honest, I never picked this book up before because I thought I knew what I wanted to do career-wise: write and market for a company I like.
What Color Is Your Parachute? is famous for its Flower Exercise, which will help you get clear on seven important factors that I’ll describe below. Each chapter will guide you to understanding what makes you happy and fulfilled and what to look for in a company when you’re searching for a new role. Figuring this out was my Eureka moment. It helped me understand what I wanted and needed, and it helped me land my next job.
- Favorite People Environment – This was an easy one for me. I love working with like-minded individuals who collaborate well and are not just coworkers, but genuine friends.
- Favorite Working Conditions – After spending over a year at home, I can officially say that I don’t enjoy being full-time remote. There’s nothing like poping into someone’s office to say hello, having office parties and celebrations, and being surrounded by the people described above.
- Favorite Skills/Abilities/Talents – I got clear on what skills I have and what I actually like doing: teaching, problem-solving, team-building, writing, developing, editing, innovating, and so much more.
- Knowledge/Interests – My top three interests are EXACTLY what I was doing at that great company I left in September: marketing, writing, and working with financial products.
- Salary – This is obviously a personal one unique to all of us. For me, the right salary is a reflection of my skills and abilities, with constant room for growth. It allows me to live comfortably, travel to new destinations, and give to charitable organizations. I’m also all about a company with comprehensive and affordable health insurance, retirement plan with a company match, fitness reimbursement, and a healthy bucket of PTO to enjoy life.
- Geographical Location – While I love traveling to the beach and the mountains, the right location for me at this point in time is right in the Hudson Valley where I grew up and my family still lives.
- Purpose in Life – I believe I was put here to help others, and coupled with all of the above, the best job for me would be getting the right financial products to the right people at the right time.
So, you can see that the above is a hell of a lot more specific than “write and market for a company I like.” Once I got this clarity, I was able to be MUCH more strategic with my job search.
Between late March (after my devastating rejection from the insurance company) and early June, I submitted 34 applications, carefully tracked in a “Dream Job Search” Trello board. Each was for a company I’d vetted and a position I thought would be a great fit thanks to What Color Is Your Parachute? And because I did my research, I knew exactly what questions I needed to ask should I land any interviews.
I ended up interviewing with six companies and was able to dodge a few bullets – including one hiring manager who asked if “people my age even know how to talk on the phone these days?” True story.
After doing the Flower Exercise, I realized that my best fit was actually at the company I left in September. Funny how life works out. I’m still grateful I tried something new, even if my tenure only lasted nine months. It was one of the biggest learning experiences of my life.
I’m even more grateful that last month, I had the opportunity to apply for a position in my old department at my old company. Which has now become my new (old) company.
My career journey has literally come full circle. It’s been a long and painful (almost) year, but I’m right where I’m supposed to be and looking forward to all of the great things to come. Now it’s easy to see why those other jobs didn’t work out – they just weren’t meant to be.
Well, friend, if you stuck around to the end, I hope this story was enough inspiration to pick up your own copy of What Color Is Your Parachute? You just might surprise yourself. I know I did!
If you need clarity on what you want to do with the rest of your life, go buy this book right now. There’s a reason why this year’s edition celebrates the 50th anniversary of the book: it works! It also happens to be A LOT cheaper than a career coach. You’re welcome!