Career Exploration

REVIEW| What Color is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard N. Bolles

Probably the most popular job searching book ever written, What Color is Your Parachute? provides thoughtful and practical career advice for all steps of the job search process. The book is updated each year and offers current information about using the Internet and social media in your job search, while maintaining the chapters on career self-exploration and skill identification.

Using conversational, folksy language, Bolles offers timely advice on how to “Think like an employer” and how to expand your job searching strategy beyond looking for job ads. He encourages readers to use a “Parachute Approach” to job searching that begins with clarifying who you are and what kind of work you want to do, and then using networking methods to build connections with people and organizations.

This book is especially useful for workers who have already started their career paths and want or need to find a new job. Workers who have been laid off due to COVID-19 and will need to conduct a potentially long-term job search will benefit from the Parachute Approach. Readers who are willing to invest the time to complete the writing-intensive exercises in the book will benefit the most. (If you do not enjoy writing or find it hard to take the time by yourself to explore your career identity, consider working with a career counselor to guide and motivate you through the job searching process.)

Those looking for quick, clear steps for creating resumes, networking, interviewing, and negotiating salary, such as Generation Z college and high school graduates looking for their first professional jobs, may might find the library of career advice articles on Indeed.com and CareerOneStop more helpful. Workers looking to make a big change in their career paths can benefit from the self-exploration exercises in Parachute but should check out Switchers by Dr. Dawn Graham for specific steps to navigating major career shifts.

Dick Bolles died in 2017, yet his legacy lives on in the Parachute book, workbook, and website.  Bolles was an ordained minister and the book, particularly Appendix A, reflects his Christian faith and approach to life and work.

Bolles, R. N. (2020). What color is your parachute? A practical manual for job-hunters and career-changers. Ten Speed Press.

↑Top of Page

REVIEW| Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success by Dr. Dawn Graham

If you are a mid-career professional who is planning to switch careers, Switchers is the book for you. Dr. Dawn Graham draws on her expertise as a psychologist and corporate recruiter to develop clear strategies for successfully changing career paths.

This book is especially useful if you have identified your next career path, or “Plan A” as Dr. Graham calls it. (If you know you want to switch out of a career but are not sure of your new target career path, check out What Color Is Your Parachute? for some career exploration before jumping into this book.)

The book offers specific steps and strategies for going through the job search process from (re)branding yourself to rocking the interview. It provides advice on how to craft a compelling career story, and how to effectively sell yourself in a new industry or company.

While some career transition books can rely too heavily on platitudes such as “Seize the Day” or “Face your fears,” Switchers offers upbeat, optimistic ideas without sugar coating how challenging it is to make a career transition. If you are ready to do the hard work involved in switching from one career to another, this book will be an excellent guide through that process.

Graham, D. (2018). Switchers: How smart professionals change careers and seize success. HarperCollins Leadership.

↑Top of Page

REVIEW| Pivot: The Art and Science of Reinventing Your Career and Life by Adam Markel

For those of you feeling stuck and unhappy in your work, the author of Pivot, Adam Markel, is the cheerleader in your corner, inspiring you to “Seize the Day” and take action now to change your life.

This is a quick read, full of motivation language and inspiring stories of others who took major pivots in their working lives.

If you need an internal push to evaluate your life and identify the changes you want to make, this book delivers. Part I is on gaining clarity about how you want to live your life and motivating you to take the plunge and make changes now, rather than continuing to wait for things to be different. Part II focuses on taking action and being intentional about taking the steps toward your goal.

Pivot takes a broad focus on changing your life, which includes your work and career, and does not provide specific steps for taking career transitions. (Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success is recommended for those wanting concrete steps to career transitions).

While the subtitle of the book suggests that it focuses on both “art and science,” it leans more heavily on inspiration over research. (Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard is recommended for those who crave a more research-grounded approach).

This book may be more appealing to those who want to pivot to careers that bring financial success and to those who are comfortable with subtle references to God and Christian values.

Markel, A. (2016). Pivot: The art and science of reinventing your career and life. New York, NY: Atria.

↑Top of Page

REVIEW| Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want by Dr. Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever

Ask for It, by Dr. Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, provides practical advice for increasing your negotiation skills. The information is especially useful for job searching women who are negotiating job offers, but the book is helpful for anyone who could benefit from strategies to “ask for more” in their work and life. The authors use stories from women’s experiences throughout the book, which makes it easy to understand the main ideas and tactics.

While Ask for It is specifically written with women in mind, the negotiation strategies will be helpful for anyone who has difficulty believing in the value of their talents. It may not come naturally to many women to ask for more – more money, more assistance, more recognition – and at the same time, women can be perceived negatively by others when they act assertively. The authors address these gender double standards and offer specific tactics for engaging in the negotiation process to help women ask for more, without coming off as “too aggressive.”

Readers gain valuable skills for negotiating, including how to do the research to find out the market value of your position, how to respond when a hiring manager asks for your salary demands upfront, and how to aim for your target salary.

While the negotiation strategies are relevant today, one drawback of the book is that it was published 12 years ago and some of the websites mentioned in the book are no longer active.

Babcock, L, & Laschever, S. (2018). Ask for it: How women can use the power of negotiation to get what they really want. The arts and science of reinventing your career and life. Bantam.

↑Top of Page

REVIEW| The 2-Hour Job Search: Using Technology to Get the Right Job FASTER by Steve Dalton

For any job seeker who has ever lamented, “I know that networking is the best way to find jobs, but how exactly do I network?“ The 2-Hour Job Search by Steve Dalton has the answers.

In the second edition of this book, the author refines his methods for helping job searchers make the networking connections that increase their chances of landing a job.

This is not a book about the whole job search process; instead, it zeroes in on the most important, and arguably the most challenging, part of the job search process: networking.

Filled with helpful, concrete advice, the book lays out specific steps to networking efficiently, and steers you away from time-wasting tasks that are less likely to lead to a job offer.

In this age of technology, with a few keystrokes job searchers can uncover endless information. Dalton’s strategy helps you use technology effectively without getting overwhelmed or lost in the details.

You will get the most out of this book if you already know the types of jobs and companies you are targeting for your job search. This is a great resource for those with a college or graduate degree, and especially helpful for those working in the business and financial sectors. While much of the information is applicable to all job searchers, those making career changes may find Switchers more helpful for networking in a new field.

Dalton, S. (2020). The 2-hour job search: Using technology to get the right job faster (2nd ed.). Ten Speed Press.

↑Top of Page

REVIEW| Roadmap: The Get-It-Together Guide for Figuring Out What To Do With Your Life by RoadTrip Nation

If you have wondered “How do you build a career that’s true to who you are?” (p. 12), then hop on the career exploration road trip in Roadmap for an inspiration ride.

Career exploration books about are not typically fun and exciting to read, but Roadmap breaks all the rules of typical career exploration. The book provides guidance on figuring out your career path based on real-life stories from people who created purposeful and satisfying working lives. Colorful pages packed with interview quotes make this an easy, uplifting read.

Roadmap is a great resource for new graduates or anyone feeling unhappy or stuck in their working life. The book offers a huge dose of encouragement to construct your own career path based on your unique set of interests, skills, and values. Interviews with people who had constructed successful working lives (based on their own definitions of success) poignantly illustrate the career exploration concepts.

This is not your parents’ career exploration book about how to find your true passion. Instead, Roadmap provides guidance on how to carve a place for yourself in the work world while embracing change and unpredictability. It teaches readers to be adaptable in our modern, constantly changing work world while also listening to the small voice in your head that whispers the truth of what you would like to be.

The book has a companion website (roadtripnation.com) that offers many free tools and videos and access to additional paid content.

Gebhard, N., McAllister, B., & Marriner, M. (2020). Roadmap: The get-it-together guide for figuring out what to do with your life (2nd ed). San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN: 9781452173443

↑Top of Page

REVIEW| The Ultimate Job Search Guide by Martin Yate

Looking for solid job searching advice from an experienced career professional with a minimum of frills? Then The Ultimate Job Search Guide is the book for you.

Martin Yate has been updating The Ultimate Job Search Guide for many years and there are good reasons it has stood the test of time. The book offers high quality information about all aspects of the job search process.

Beginning with identifying your strengths, and moving through chapters on creating compelling resumes, using effective networking strategies, and preparing for interviews, the book offers a full-service guide to job searching.

Whether you are employed or unemployed, whether this is your first job search or you are a seasoned job seeker, you will find straightforward, basic advice in this book.

If you worry about what to say in interviews or how to respond to different interview questions, the book offers a gold mine of information to help you feel prepared for any scenario. The ideas for using social media in your job search, especially LinkedIn, are timely (and just ignore the section on using Google+ - I am sure that will be removed in the next update).

In order to digest the helpful information in this book you must be willing to read a lot. If you learn better with more pictures, colors, and activities, What Color Is Your Parachute might better keep your attention. While there is a chapter on making career changes, those switching careers would benefit more from Switchers.

Martin Yate has a series of other career guidance books that can be found at www.knockemdead.com.

Yate, M. (2017). The ultimate job search guide. New York: Adams Media. ISBN: 9781507205358

↑Top of Page

REVIEW| Designing Your Work Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

If you are unhappy at work AND ready to do something about it, read Designing Your Work Life, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. Whether or not you are familiar with their best-selling first book, Designing Your Life, you will find plenty of tangible strategies in this book to help you create a meaningful working life.

Written in an entertaining, easy-to-read style, they authors explain psychological principles of change and show readers how to “think like a designer” and make changes in their working lives. The book is packed with personal stories and exercises readers can use to apply the ideas to their own lives.

One prominent message of this book is that workers do not need to stay stuck in jobs they hate. While sometimes looking for a new job is the answer, it is not the only answer. Burnett and Evans encourage readers to consider how they might change the way they are thinking about their work situations and identify other paths - besides quitting - to create a more positive work environment.

Designing Your Work Life is a beacon of hope for weary workers who are tired of being unhappy at work and are ready to take action and make changes in their working lives.

Burnett, B., & Evans, D. (2020). Designing your work life: How to thrive and change and find happiness at work. New York, Knopf. ISBN: 9780525655244

↑Top of Page