Updated on 03.09.07

What Color Is Your Parachute?: Buy or Don’t Buy?

Trent Hamm

What Color is Your Parachute?This week, The Simple Dollar is reviewing the latest iteration of the classic job hunting book What Color Is Your Parachute? It was named one of the Library of Congress’s 25 Books That Have Shaped Readers’ Lives more than a decade ago; is this updated version still as powerful today as it was then? This week, let’s find out.

When I sat down to read What Color Is Your Parachute? again to review it on this site, I opened the book and recalled reading it more than ten years ago when I was trying to decide what to do with my life. I was a country kid who had basically thought he was going to work in a factory most of his life until, out of the blue, a full scholarship was dropped on me almost unexpectedly. I didn’t have any idea of who I was or what I wanted to do.

What Color Is Your Parachute? revealed to me two essential truths about who I was and what I ought to be doing: that I was very strong with logical skills and that I should be a writer. I wound up going off and majoring in mathematics (at first) and I somewhat left the writing idea in the dust.

So, this past week, I went through all of those exercises again, and what did they reveal more than anything else? I should be a writer. Time and time again, this book pointed me in that natural direction, even though in some ways I’ve been fighting against that current for most of my life.

The success of this site has been the first real encouragement (outside of this book) I’ve ever had in my life towards being a writer. Whenever I’ve even hinted at the idea in the past, people have encouraged me not to do it, that it’s a poor man’s road unless you’re very lucky. Even my high school English teacher, who did more to shape my writing (and especially my quick drafting) skills than anyone else, discouraged me from following it as a career.

Somehow, again, I am at a crossroads, and again this book has pointed its finger in the direction of being a writer. Maybe I’ll finally follow that path.

So, do I recommend What Color Is Your Parachute? If you aren’t completely confident about your career and your goals in life, this book is an incredibly powerful read. It’s loaded with various exercises for teasing out what you should really be doing with your life. Even though some of them seem redundant, silly, or archaic, if you just dive into it for a while and really allow yourself to do some self-discovery, this book might be one of the most powerful things you’ll ever read in your life.

As for what it did for me in terms of making me consider a life of writing… stay tuned. I may have something big to announce soon.

What Color Is Your Parachute? is the eighteenth of fifty-two books in The Simple Dollar’s series 52 Personal Finance Books in 52 Weeks.

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  1. David says:

    I absolutely think that you should do something that you love and I think that this website is a perfect avenue for that while still being able to support yourself and your family. Go ahead and check out “48 days…” by Dan Miller. It is right along those same lines.

  2. Brian says:

    Trent, I think you might really enjoy reading (or listening to) “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. He talks a lot about ‘going pro’ and overcoming the barriers of doing what you truly want to do – http://www.amazon.com/War-Art-Through-Creative-Battles/dp/0446691437

  3. B. says:

    This book helped me so much when I finally made myself do all the (tiresome to me) exercises. He says you can do them in a weekend, but they took me two weeks. I came up with a list of criteria for my perfect job that was satisfying to create even though it seemed ridiculously unrealistic.

    Long story short: I found out about a career I hadn’t heard of, and because of the clarity I found through the exercises, was able to make a quick decision and move, and start grad school in a couple of months. (I have since graduated.) Every day of every class reaffirmed my decision.

    I think I need to do those exercises again to fine tune my flight plan. I am amazed that I found a career I like and that pays me. Yay!

    Also, possibly another indicator of a good choice: I have never communicated so easily and well as I communicate with the people I went to school with. Despite our very different backgrounds, we are clearly very similar.

  4. Guy says:

    I went through this book at a job search point in mid-career. I didn’t find it very helpful and didn’t finish reading it. A lot of the stuff just seemed like common sense to me; I’d thought of it before. To each his own. If it works for you, then use it.

  5. Ken says:

    Responding to David’s comment: if you decide to check out Dan Miller’s 48 Days to the Work You Love, read Parachute first and tell me if you agree that almost 40% (the good 40%) was lifted from Bolles’s classic. In a few sidebars he cites WCIYP, but I was shocked at how much of the material seemed to be reworded summaries of Bolles’s main points. The Salary Negotiation graph seems to have been copied directly with no citation!

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