Figure Out What's Next

Richard Bolles' Five Essential Career Change Strategies

amy bernstein career change Oct 25, 2011
strategy chess

by Amy Bernstein

photo via pixabay

The author of What Color Is Your Parachute provides insight and advice for making a successful midlife career change 

Richard Bolles’ perennial bestseller, What Color Is Your Parachute is the bible when it comes to practical advice on how to find a new job or start a new career.  In his newly revised edition of his book he lays out five straightforward but essential strategies on starting a new career.

Learn Survival Skills.

First, Bolles describes the three attitudes necessary for survival and how to overcome your real or perceived handicaps in the job market:

  • You should find whatever is in your power to change in your particular situation and throw yourself into it.
  • Look forward, not backward and rethink and revisit all the strategies you have been using up until now.
  • Try to believe that everything that happens to you has a meaning, which gives you a real advantage over others who are looking for a career change or a new job.

Bolles suggests several ways to overcome real or perceived handicaps that are creating roadblocks to looking for a new career. Things that may be impeding your search can range from poor self-image, to a prison record, to being over or under-qualified, to being too young or too old or to having an illness or physical handicap. Bolles then makes a distinction between an employer’s prejudices and your  perceived disability or disadvantage. He says that you can overcome your disability with most employers if you demonstrate confidence and energy.  If you are  an older job applicant, he says, it is important to describe yourself in terms of what skills you have that would be useful in that particular job precisely because you are older. He provides a list of 246 skills and challenges you can use to describe yourself and suggest sorting the terms into a “can do” or “can’t do” column.

Develop job-hunting strategies.

Bolles teaches what he calls advanced job-finding techniques, and describes the best and worst ways to look for a job.  He gives advice on how to size up an employer, how to improve your profile and network using social media sites as well as the dangers inherent in their use, how to write a more informative and selling resume and how to make sure it gets read, some alternatives to a classic resume, and sixteen tips on how to perform well in a job interview. If you succeed in getting an offer, Bolles suggests some strategies for successfully negotiating a salary appropriate to your responsibilities.

Take the initiative.

In the current job market it may be necessary to create your own business or begin a new career.  One of the ways to start a business is to buy a franchise or start a home business, or one outside the home.  Bolles describes the virtues and pitfalls of each entrepreneurial venture, providing a list of resources and advice on how to get started.  In order to be successful in starting a new business, he stresses the importance of stringent research and preparation before getting started, giving a detailed description of what that means.  Bolles goes on to talk about changing careers to an entirely new field.  One of the tools by which to assess your skills to see where your abilities lie is the career aptitude test.  Bolles helps you choose which career aptitude tests are right for you.

Know your strengths.

An essential part of approaching the business of job-hunting is to decide what you want to do and to figure out what knowledge and skills you bring to the table to accomplish your mission.  Bolles outlines how to do a self-inventory that will fit on one piece of paper and which will serve as a roadmap for future reference.  

Lead a purpose-driven life.

Bolles believes that we are all put  on earth to find a mission in life, so we can live with purpose.  For him, a belief in God is an important part of the search for finding our true vocation.  He says that a period of unemployment offers the opportunity to step back and reflect on what should be our true calling in life.


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