Thursday, June 26, 2014

Book review: What Color Is Your Parachute?

In the early 1970s, Richard Bolles was an ordained minister who found himself without a placement. He began to find his own way (eventually leaving the ministry), but in the process realized that there were a number of other pastors who were in the same situation and didn't know how to find the next job, or make an effective career change. Over time, the book What Color Is Your Parachute? was the result of his thought and work in seeking to help these, and others, with career decisions.

Interestingly, Bolles couldn't find a publisher for his book, so he self-published (which, in the 70s, was stigmatized with the reputation of amateurism and poor quality, if not pure arrogance—that's why they used to call self-publishing companies "vanity presses"). Today, I'm sure he is glad that he did: without a doubt, the industry and brand that has grown up with What Color Is Your Parachute? (which Bolles has updated and re-released on an annual basis) has done quite well for him.

When I first began to learn about things like temperament and what professor (and Doulos Resources board member) Phil Douglass calls "discovering your Divine Design," I found it to be both fascinating and incredibly useful for pastoral transition. Richard Bolles was a pioneer in that category (though he doesn't rely heavily on temperament as Douglass's system does), and the book is chock-full of diagnostic exercises that will help anyone—pastor or otherwise—in discerning nuances and details about what sort of job(s) would fit them the best.

Bolles walks the reader through a process of self-discovery that is not only revealing, but immensely encouraging to the reader. His former profession as a pastor comes through in his writing, and it is clear that he is aware (probably all too aware, both from his personal experiences in the 70s as well as from countless encounters with others since then) of how challenging a season of job transition is. Hardly a page can be turned before he is building the reader up with hope and anticipation about their next job opportunity.

This can have a downside, as well: in today's job climate (very different from the context in which Bolles originally wrote in the early 70s), it is possible to over-encourage, to the point of building someone's hopes up in an unreasonable way. Good self-discovery and awareness of job fitness will not guarantee anyone a placement.

But they will take you further than an absence of them will—and that ultimately is Bolles's point and goal in writing. If you take the time to work through What Color Is Your Parachute? and complete the exercises within it, you will have a clearer sense of who you are and what you bring to a job, as well as where your weaknesses lie and how you can work around them.

Buy a copy of What Color Is Your Parachute? from Amazon.

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