Advice to Coaches and Counselors

Are You A Parachute Counselor?

Author: Dick Bolles

Many counselors say they teach the principles of my book.   I read over their lists of what they think "the principles of Parachute" are.   Sometimes they are dead right.  Other times, not so much.   So, I thought I would give you a list of:

    The 25 Key Ideas In The Book 10,000,000 People Have Bought

Idea #1 in What Color Is Your Parachute: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career- changers 2015 Resumes Are Not the Best Way To Go About Finding A Job. “Resumes are people in the form of paper.” (Proprietary phrase) An employer typically looks through a pile of resumes, in print or online, to see which ones to eliminate, so as to get the stack down to a manageable size for interviewing. Resumes therefore have an atrocious success record (only 1 out of 270 results in landing a job). (On the other hand, some employers do search for key words; and a resume can be a good way for you to gather and organize information about yourself.)

Idea #2: Google Is Your New Resume.“ (Proprietary phrase) You actually have two resumes: the one you compose, and Google. Google is your new resume. Most employers search on the name of any job-hunter they decide to interview.

Idea #3: The “System” is Broken. The idea that the U.S. has a “job-hunting system” is a myth. Employers as well as job-hunters can’t find what they are looking for. There is a shortage of jobs; but vacancies go unfilled at the end of each month because job-hunters are using outmoded ways of trying to find them. There are dozens of ways to look for or find a job; they are not organized into anything like a coherent system.

Idea #4: There Are More Vacancies Than You Think. The number of job vacancies in the U.S. is not to be guessed by the monthly unemployment report (typically issued the first Friday of each month by the U.S. government), but by the JOLT Monthly Report (Job Openings & Labor Turnover), also issued by the government, which reports the number of vacancies still unfilled at the end of a previous month (typically runs 3,000,000 or more, per month).

Idea #5: Job-Hunters And Employers Go Looking For Each Other In Exactly Opposite Ways. (Proprietary diagram) The job-hunter’s favorite way is the employer’s least favorite way, and vice versa. This is a proprietary diagram illustrating how the order of methods a job-hunter prefers to use to seek employers is the exact reverse of the order of methods that an employer prefers to use to seek employees.

Idea #6: The Five Best Ways and Five Worst Ways to Hunt for a Job.” (Proprietary concept) There are twelve ways job-hunters can search for those jobs that are out there. The question is: which methods have the highest success rate, which ones have the lowest? This is rarely ever talked about. Scientific studies are impossible to come by. But a number of articles, surveys, etc. over the past 40 years have suggested that the five methods with the highest success rate are: 1. Beginning with a self-inventory (this apparently works 12 times better than resumes); 2. Joining a job-club with a step-by- step program (10 times the success rate of resumes); 3. Using the Yellow pages of your phone book (9 times the success rate of resumes); 4. Knocking on the door of any employer, preferably those with 50 or less employees (7 times the success rate of resumes); 5. Asking everyone you know for job leads (5 times the success rate of resumes). As for the methods that have the lowest success rates, these are—starting with the lowest—1. Looking for employer vacancies (“job-postings”) on the Internet (4% success rate); 2. Posting or sending your resume to employers (7% success rate);  3. Answering ads in professional journals or websites (7% success rate); 4. Going to state or federal employment agencies (14% success rate); and 5. Going to places where employers pick up workers (22% success rate).

Idea #7: The Importance of a Self-Inventory. The most successful job-hunting begins with your doing research on yourself (“the Flower Exercise” (Proprietary diagram)), rather than beginning with research on the job-market (what are the jobs in demand, the “hot” jobs, etc.). Beginning with yourself results in successful job- hunting 84% of the time; when you begin with the job-market, this results in finding a job only 4% to 50% of the time, at best.

Idea #8: The Limitation of Tests. “Tests” (like the Myers-Briggs, the Strong, etc.) cannot tell you what job to choose; they can only tell you what jobs were chosen by the people-who-answered-the-test-the-same-way-you-did. Tests are about families (of similar people); they can tell you what family you belong to, but you may be a maverick in that family.

Idea #9: Love vs. Can Do. It is not what skills you can do that matters most; it’s what skills you love to use, among those that you can do. Passion plus competency, not just competency alone, is key to securing employment. Therefore, deciding on your favorite skills should not be an intellectual exercise, just choosing between words, but an emotional exercise, choosing between words-rooted-in-stories. Heart, then intellect; not intellect, then heart. Stories then skills; not skills then stories.

Idea #10: You Are the Given. All job-hunting strategies are a choice between going the traditional route (where it is assumed the job is the given, and you try to shape yourself to fit it) vs. going the creative route (where it is assumed that you are the given, and you try to find a job that fits you).

Idea #11: Breaking Down, then Building Up. In creative job-hunting, you treat every job-hunt as though it were a career change, breaking down your past jobs into their basic building blocks, then rearranging those building blocks in a new way so as to create the same job (now with its factors prioritized) or a new one—your call. (Proprietary diagram)

Idea #12: ”What, Where, How”. (Proprietary concept) Creative job-hunting rests on your finding answers to three questions: what? where? and how?
What are the (transferable) skills you most love to use? using a “Transferable skills List” and a “Special Knowledges Grid.” (Proprietary diagrams) 
Where would you most love to use those skills – in what field, what setting, with what kinds of people? taking into consideration such factors as the place or places where you would most like to live, your preferred working conditions, people environments, values or goals in life, level of responsibility, and salary.
How do you find out the name and title of such jobs, places that offer such work, plus the name of the person-who-has-the-power-to-hire-you-for-the-job-you-want.

Idea #13: “The Prioritizing Grid”. (Proprietary diagram) Mere random lists of assets you have (factors, experiences, skills, knowledges) are useless unless they are prioritized. The real job you find may overlap your dream job only in certain areas; you need to be sure it is your favorites that are in that overlap. I invented a Prioritizing Grid, which allows you to prioritize a multitude of things by comparing them one by one at a time, in pairs.

Idea #14: HR = Eliminate. In approaching an organization, try to avoid the HR (human resources) department, if they have one. HR’s job is primarily to eliminate job-hunters, so the boss only has to interview a few individuals out of the many who apply. If you are interviewed initially by HR, say nothing that will get you eliminated. You want to be talking to the-person-who-actually-has-the-power-to- hire-you-for-the-job-you-want.

Idea #15: Finding Positive Factors by Beginning with Negative Ones. For example, in figuring out your favorite working conditions, you do this three step process:
Listing negative working conditions you’ve endured thus far.
Ranking these negatives from “most disliked” to “least disliked,” using a proprietary “Priority Grid”.
Taking this list of ranked negatives and replacing each term with its positive opposite, or near opposite. Now you have your desired working conditions, in exact order of importance to you.

Idea #16: During Difficult Times, Creative Job-Hunting Turns to Three Kinds of Interviews:
Practice Interviewing, often called “The Practice Field Survey” (Proprietary concept of John C. Crystal), which involves interviewing fellow-enthusiasts, about any enthusiasm a person has (such as movies, skiing, computer games, reading, or any hobby or curiosity). Its purpose is to become comfortable with interviewing people, in a non- stress environment (because a job isn’t being sought at this point).

“Informational Interviewing” (Proprietary phrase) The best and most up-to-date information is not to be found in print or digital; it is to be found in face-to-face conversation with people. I invented the phrase “Informational Interviewing” (sometimes called Information Interviewing). This involves interviewing workers who are doing work a person thinks they might be interested in doing, in order to discover if they are on the right track.

Interviewing for Hire, which involves interviewing employers, single or a group, to discover if they want you and if you want them. When systematized, this is referred to as “The Pie Method” (Proprietary diagram of Daniel Porot).

Idea #17: Go After Any Organization That Interests You, Whether Or Not They Are Known To Have A Vacancy.

Idea #18: Small Companies (With 25, Or 50, Or 100 Employees At Most) Are The Best Ones For A Job-Hunter Or Career-Changer To Approach, especially job- hunters with handicaps, or older job-hunters, or returning vets.

Idea #19: Resumes Are Just One Way To Get In To See Employers. The chief alternative is to approach an employer in person, using a contact or bridge person if possible, to secure an invitation. (A “bridge person” (Proprietary concept) is someone who knows you well and also knows the organization you are trying to reach, hence can serve as a bridge between you and them, and get you invited in.)

Idea #20: In An Interview There Are Only Five Questions An Employer Is Most Concerned About. Assuming you are interviewing with someone who actually has- the-power-to-hire-you, and not some one further down the food chain whose job is only to eliminate as many candidates as possible, these are the five essential questions they absolutely need answers to—even if they never ask you these, directly:

1. “Why are you here?” This means, “Why are you knocking on our door, rather than someone else’s door? How much do you know about who we are, and what we do here?”

2. “What can you do for us?” This means, “If we were to hire you, will you help us with the tasks and challenges we face here? What are your relevant skills, and give us examples or stories from your past, that demonstrate you have these skills. Tell us about yourself.”

3. “What kind of person are you?” This means, “Will you not only fit in, but actually inspire those around you? Will you be a pleasure to work with or will you be a problem from day one? Do you have the kind of personality that makes it easy for people to work with you, and do you share the values that we have at this place? And by the way, what is your greatest weakness?”

4. “What distinguishes you from, say, nineteen other people whom we are interviewing for this job?” This means, “What about you will give us more value for our money? What makes you unique or at least unusual; do you get more done in a day, or are you better at problem solving than others, do you have better work habits than others, do you show up earlier, stay later, work more thoroughly, work faster, maintain higher standards, go the extra mile, or . . . what? Give us examples or stories from your past, that illustrate any of these claims.”

5. “Can we afford you?” This means, “If we decide we want you here, how much will it take to get you, and are we willing and able to pay that amount—governed, as we are, by our budget, and by our inability to pay you as much as the person who would be next above you, on our organizational chart?”

These are the five main things that are on an employer’s mind during the interview, even if these five are never once mentioned explicitly by the employer. Anything you can do, during the interview, to help the employer answer these five questions, will help make you an outstanding candidate for the job.

Idea #21: Time Is Important to Notice. In an interview for hire, talk half the time, let the employer talk half the time. If you dominate the interview, you come across as self-absorbed; while if you speak too little you come across to an employer as having something to hide. In an interview for hire, let the length of your answer to an employer’s questions be between 20 seconds and 2 minutes at most. (Employers hate job-hunters who drone on and on.)

In an interview for hire, notice the time frame of the questions the employer is asking. If the questions move from the time frame of the distant past (“What school did you go to?”) to the present (“what are you looking for now?”) to the distant future (“where would you like to be in five years”) this means the interview is going very favorably for you.

Idea #22: At the End of All the Interviews At That Place, Ask for the Job.
This concept from “What Color Is Your Parachute?” teaches job-hunters to always ask for the job at the end of an interview, if they decided they want to work there. It can be simply phrased: “Considering all that we have discussed here, can you offer me this job?”

Idea #23: Always Send A Thank You Note The Same Day. This should be sent, without fail, to everyone you talked to at that place, that day, digitally or handwrit/typed, or both. Often this will get you the job. (It need only be two or three sentences.)

Idea #24: Job-Hunting Is By Definition A Long Process of Rejection. The pattern of your job hunt will likely sound like this, after interviewing at a number of places: NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO YES YES......   “After each rejection, take comfort in the fact that you are one NO closer to YES.” (Proprietary concept and diagram of Tom Jackson).

Idea #25: Always Have Alternatives. It is crucial for everyone to have alternatives, at every turn in their job-hunt; which means, more than just one way to go about it, more than just one target, etc. This habit comes more naturally to some people than to others. But keeping your hopes up, depends on this. 

How To Be A Better Counselor

Author: Dick Bolles


This is the closing Keynote/ Fireside Chat i gave at the Mid-Atlantic Career Counselors Assn annual meeting in Lancaster Pennsylvania December 4, 2014.  As I sprained my back while abroad, and so could not attend in person, I was asked if I could at least do a Skype interview, with Debra Stark, that they could play at the Conference. Which I did. And then they did. For those interested, here it is.