btripp_books (btripp_books) wrote,

What do YOU want?

I know I've mentioned getting review copies of assorted books over the past year or so (this one courtesy of the fine folks at TenSpeed Press), but I wanted to note that it's never been a “firehose” of material, maybe one or two things a month, most of which just show up, unsolicited. Sometimes these grab me immediately and I'm eager to get into them, and other times, not so much. This is an example of one of the ones that ended up in the “whenever” pile, but came in handy.

The title of the moment is Richard N. Bolles' What Color Is Your Parachute? Job-Hunter's Workbook, a “companion piece” to his classic job-search book which is in its bazillionth edition at this point. I read that three or four job searches back and recalled that I was unthrilled with it at the time, being one of those guys who doesn't fit in the easy-to-define slots, and it seemed to me that books like WCIYP primarily exist to figure out what type of a gear you are so you can be in the right bin when a company comes looking for a very specific replacement part for their machine. Given my lack of enthusiasm for its “parent work”, I didn't have particularly high expectations going into this, but I'd had another author ask me the favor of holding off reviewing his book until the week of its (still upcoming) release, so I was looking for something that I could quickly slot in to feature in my Monday The Job Stalker blog post. I noticed that this was fairly short (all of 64 pages), and figured I could get it read and reviewed in plenty of time to make that switch.

Needless to say, this means that I haven't done any of the exercises outlined in What Color Is Your Parachute? Job-Hunter's Workbook, but I have given it a fair mental walk-through. To those familiar with the “technologies” of the job search, much of what Bolles pulls together here will be quite familiar, as, to a large extent this is simply assembling elements of various assessment devices and coordinating them into his “flower” model. This involves a graphic of 7 circles, a center one with six “petals” around it, each of these with information derived from a series of exercises.

The seven parts of the flower are Skills, Values/Goals/Purposes, Special Knowledges, People-Environments, Working Conditions, Level of Responsibility & Salary, and Geography. Each of these has its own section for determining what you “really want”. The first, Skills, is probably the most involved, as he has readers write a series of stories of things they'd done in their lives which they enjoyed or had success at. Out of these one is to extract goals, obstacles, step-by-step activities, results, and any quantifiable/measurable data. Each of these stories is then analyzed according to a grid of specifics reflecting Physical Skills, Mental Skills, and Interpersonal Skills. These various assessments are then subjected to “prioritization grids” where everything is systematically subjected to A-B testing to determine a rank.

Similar exercises are given for the rest. Values takes your top 10 out of a list of 32 statements, and ends up determining your top 6 (I don't know about you, but I need more degrees of expression of values than is encompassed in 30-some prepackaged sentiments) which then go on the “flower”. The “special knowledges” section has you list things “you know something about” sorted out by if you learned them in school, on the job, conferences and workshops, home study, or via volunteering and hobbies. This gets sorted via the same A-B testing grids, and then you're looking at “people” with a list of 24 activities that “you'd like to help people with” (again, this presupposes you want to help people, and are interested in any of Bolles' two dozen categories), this then also gets filtered into a prioritized list, before moving on to “things”. This is the most out-of-touch part of this whole book, as it requires you to obtain a phone book, specifically a yellow pages (and he even says if you're planning on re-location to get one from your target area). I wonder what percentage of homes even get yellow pages these days? It's been years since we've had one actually at our door (there's a place in the service area in our building where one can grab one if so inclined), and it boggles the mind that a significant chunk of one of Bolles' steps here is based on finding one! Anyway, the third part of this is to go though the index of the yellow pages and highlight products or services that interest you. Once this is done, you take this list with the previous two, merge them together and do the A-B testing to come up with a list of the top five for that “petal”.

The next “People-Environment” part is basically a way to come up with a Holland Code and Hexagon without actually taking the assessment … Bolles has a “party” exercise that he claims maps with a 93% accuracy to these results, and that's what your doing here, eventually filling in a Holland Hexagram with your top 3 of the Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional types.

For the “Working Conditions” petal of the flower, he has you list all the places you've worked, and noting what was “most distasteful” at each of those, ranking those, then turning each of those into a positive statement (i.e., “windowless cubicle” re-imaged as “office with a view”), and doing the A-B sorting on the positive list, the top five of which goes on the flower diagram.

The next one, Responsibility & Salary, is probably the biggest hassle, as Bolles asks the user to do a total financial analysis of their current condition to determine a “minimum” salary. I know there is no chance in Hell that I'd do that for this. Anyway, there's a brief assessment for responsibility level, the salary thing (a minimum and a “blue sky” target figure), and then a gesture towards “other rewards” (which I've seen done far more systematically in other books), in order to come up with four factors for the diagram. Finally, there's “Geography”, with an assessment similar to that of the “Working Conditions” section, except that it has an extension to includes one's spouse/partner's data to come up with a consensus of 3 locations.

What are you supposed to do once you get Bolles' “Flower” filled out? Well, nothing really. You either get “a lightbulb moment” of clarity or you don't ... he has some coaching (on one page) on what to do in either of these cases, but it's not exactly a plan.

Again, I've processed so much of this sort of material over the various major job searches that I've been in over the past decade, that I have a hard time getting excited about anything in What Color Is Your Parachute? Job-Hunter's Workbook … to be honest, the most useful things for me to “take away” from this would be the prioritizing grids, as they present a solid system of figuring out one's preferences out of a wide field of options, which is certainly one of my main challenges.

This is brand new as of the end of 2010 (again, amazing it has that “yellow pages” thing in it!), so it should be available in book stores that carry job-search/career titles. It's not very expensive (as one would expect for a 64-pager), and Amazon has it for nearly half off, so this might be one of those to keep at the ready to push up a sub-$25 order into the free shipping zone. This is not a bad tool, and somebody coming new to the job search might well find its organization and compartmentalization of assessment elements a godsend, but in almost every aspect here it was “been there, done that” (heck, I was just looking at my Holland Hexagram this afternoon) for me.


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