The Purpose-Driven Job Hunter
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.
What direction do you give in The Job Hunter's Survival Guide?
I wrote this book not so much as a "how to find a job in a tough economy" manual, but as a letter to friends telling them that they have the resources in them to stay strong and chart their course. They have the skills and talents to take the next step.
But the next step has to be a basic reassessment of life and work. In this book, I emphasize the importance of defining vision and mission, the things that endure in life, if we can articulate them. Then we can redefine what work we're equipped to do.
We're in the midst of a fundamental economic transformation right now. Three major changes are happening. First, we are in a truly global economy, so specific jobs can shift anywhere and everywhere, and very quickly. Second, the presence and power of the Internet means that jobs are flexible, intangible, and require quick communication, which most jobs have never required. Finally, the job market requires more personal resourcefulness. We don't have jobs—or employers—who automatically provide health insurance, other benefits, and a pension upon retirement. And people have abused credit and have no savings. So we need resourcefulness. We have to be more portable.
What are the best strategies for landing a job in the new economy?
The starting point is to be clear about a sense of personal mission: What are you here to do? Then assess the skills you have—whether or not they are directly related to the workplace. Then consider how they are transferable to types of work outside of what you already are doing. God has given you talents and abilities, and you can develop your specific skills. Then consider which of these skills are best represented as physical skills, others as mental skills, and still others as interpersonal skills.