Book review: What Color is Your Parachute? 2010

parachuteWhat Color is Your Parachute? is a wildly successful career guidance book that you’ve almost certainly already heard of. It claims 10 million copies sold, not least because it is updated yearly with new web links and gratuitous references to Twitter.

The 2010 edition is labelled the “Hard Times” edition, and spends a lot more time commiserating the fact that you obviously won’t have a job because the economy is so poor. Notwitstanding this reassurance, it’s hard to see what practical benefit is offered by this focus on the bad economy.

The book’s subtitle hints that it is aimed at “job-hunters and career-changers”, and indeed it is a book of two almost unrelated halves. Many (perhaps even most) people will find themselves needing only one half of the book.

The job-hunting advice is solid, but not ground-breaking. The author emphasises networking and building relationships, and has sensible practical advice on the details. The tone is friendly, light and personable. The advice is mostly uncontroversial, but is distinctive enough to be memorable. All in all, you could do much worse if you need help with seeking a job, although the quantity of content is a little light compared to a dedicated job-hunting manual.

The section on choosing a career is where the book really comes into its own. The author clearly feels that a career should be a passion and manages to strike an encouraging tone. There are a number of well-thought-out exercises that help elicit ideas in an area that often leaves people flummoxed. Again, I was left with the feeling of wanting a little more content than I got in this section.

Overall, there’s a lot right and not too much wrong in this book. It’s well worth the money if you’re troubled by the job hunt or want to get yourself out of a career rut.

But wait! Two flaws…

Firstly, this is a book targetted exclusively at the US market. The majority of the contact details provided, and some of the advice, will be of no use to British readers (who I assume are over-represented in this blog’s audience). For a book that sells so many copies, it’s annoying that a UK edition hasn’t been produced. Even if the changes were mostly in removing irrelevant content without adding much, it would make for a less frustrating experience.

Secondly, the author was once an ordained Episcopalian minister, and some may find his religion shows through rather too much in this book. The main body of the book is fine, but the first appendix dives straight in with the Unexpectedly Capitalised Pronouns. In fairness to the author, he understands that many readers will have a different religious perspective or no religious belief at all, and encourages people to interpret his words into their own world view. Nevertheless, the appendix on the Mission that He has provided you in His infinite goodness will polarise the readership, and many people will find it distasteful.

Personally I was happy to see an author speaking from the heart, and felt that this made for a better chance of insight than a soulless politically-correct tract with all the passion carefully removed so as not to cause offence. Having said that, I’ve worked harder to understand religious belief than many atheists, and I found it heavy going and ultimately impossible to connect with. If this ruins the book for you, then you’re probably too sensitive, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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