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It's so common now, it no longer makes headlines: In the midst of the deepest recession in decades, over 15 million Americans are looking for work. They search diligently and pray about finding work, but the will of God may be hard to discern. So they feel like they are in free fall. They need a parachute. And that's exactly what they have, thanks to Richard Nelson Bolles, author of the now-classic book on unemployment, What Color Is Your Parachute?, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2010.

Bolles began his own career as an engineer, but felt a call to ministry in the Episcopal Church. After budget cuts forced him out of a position at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, he began working with unemployed university chaplains. His insights began to take shape in loose-leaf notebooks, which blossomed into What Color Is Your Parachute? in 1970.

At 82, Bolles has just released another book—The Job Hunter's Survival Guide: How to Find Hope and Rewarding Work, Even When "There Are No Jobs"—to encourage those who are out of work and help them rebuild their spiritual lives. Nonprofit management expert and writer John R. Throop talked to Bolles at his home in the San Francisco Bay area.

What do you tell Christians struggling with the effects of the recession?

The employment situation is not what it appears to be. And God is in the midst of it, working with us to help us discern and discover, maybe for the first time, our mission and purpose in life. That's where God is most present to us—and it's the basis not just for finding another job, but for getting a clearer idea of what we're really meant to do and what we really love to do. It's more than a job search; it's a life search, and God is in the midst of it.

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August 2009

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