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"What Color Is Your Parachute?" Author Richard N. Bolles Spots Job Hunt Mistakes

Top Job Hunt Mistake Is Giving Up Too Soon


Book image courtesy of Ten Speed Press

Who better to spot job hunt mistakes than Richard N. Bolles, author of "What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers?" The iconic career book has sold 10 million copies and been published in 20 different languages. In an exclusive interview, Bolles pinpoints job hunt mistakes and discusses work-life balance for parents. In a continuation of this interview, he compares the job market today with when he first wrote the book.

What are the biggest job hunt mistakes?

Oh, there are so many. But I think the biggest job hunt mistake is concluding after one month, "Well, there are no jobs out there," and giving up. ... In this recession when the unemployed go looking for work there are less jobs to find. And what jobs there are, are sometimes really hard to uncover. So, it's easy to conclude: there are no jobs out there.

But wait: 143 million people, or whatever, still do have jobs, and among them vacancies will inevitably occur: some will move, some will get promoted, some will become very sick, some will retire, some will die, each month. How many vacancies thus get created, all told? Well, according to a study done by Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Fed, there were about one and a quarter million vacancies each month, on average throughout the last ten years.

So jobs do open up, jobs do fall vacant -- maybe not in your (former) specialty, maybe not even in your geographical area, but nonetheless there are jobs out there, even during hard times. It just takes greater job hunting skills to find them. Knowing this can give you the most precious thing that job hunters need: hope.

What are the primary challenges people will face in job hunting?

Keeping at it. Successful job hunting, particularly during hard times, is hard work. Most of us are not prepared to work that hard when we are unemployed. "Keeping at it" is directly related to how many different methods you use to try to locate those job vacancies that are out there.

There are 16 different job hunting methods in this country. Researchers discovered some years ago that out of every 100 job hunters who use only one method to hunt for a job -- say, sending out resumes -- 51 of them abandon their job search by the second month. On the other hand, out of every 100 job hunters who use several different ways of looking for a job, up to 4 in number, typically only 31 of them abandoned their job search by the second month.

What are the best ways to network your way to a new job?

Well, it isn't just a matter of listing as many names as possible, of family, friends, former business acquaintances, etc., and then calling them all up. Before lists must come homework. Homework on yourself. Your family, friends, and acquaintances will be able to work much more effectively on your behalf if they know just exactly what kind of work, or what kind of a position, you are looking for.

If you simply say to your network list, "Uh, I'm out of work; let me know if you hear of anything, would you?" you are essentially asking them to do some hard thinking about where you would be most effective before they open their ears and eyes. Most won't do that hard thinking. That's your job.

Do you have advice for working parents about balancing careers and home?

Yes, I do. There are two imbalances that may occur for working parents: one is where family or personal time doesn't leave you enough time to do your job (well). This typically arises when you work out of your home, and have very small children. The other is where your job doesn't leave you enough time to spend with your family and personal life. This typically happens when you go to a place of work outside the home, but need to work late, or on weekends, or just bring work home, in order to keep up.

How do you go about addressing these imbalances? I suggest you begin by keeping exact records daily for two weeks, as to how you spend your time. At the end of the two weeks, total up how many hours for work, how many hours for home, family or personal life.

Now, look at your list for the arena that is getting too much of your time (this will usually be work) and make a list of all the tasks you have to do there. Prioritize this list putting the most important tasks at the top, the least important at the bottom. Then do some soul-searching. Ask yourself if the least important tasks in that column have to be done by you, or could they be done by someone else? And if you conclude that some could be delegated, then delegate them, or bargain with someone to take them over, thus freeing up more of your time for the other arena (usually your personal life) that was getting "short-shrift."

What about moms who quit their jobs to raise a family? How do you get back into the labor force?

If working moms want back in to the work force, the first thing you should do is an inventory of the skills you have manifested and the experiences you have had while raising your family. This can be difficult but to make it easier there is an inventory, called The Flower Exercise, in the back of my book that can be done in a weekend. This will at the same time point you toward jobs or careers you are qualified to do.

Determine what skills or experiences such jobs require. Then compare it to your own list. Now when you see what skills you are missing, either go to a nearby adult education center or a nearby community college to get those skills (for example, expertise with a computer keyboard) that you don't have yet -- but will need.

Alternatively, before you go fully out looking for work, volunteer at some organization in your community that is doing work related to the work you will be seeking. That gives you valuable recent experience you can then cite on your resume.

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