The Job-Hunter's Survival Guide

The Job-Hunter's Survival Guide

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by Richard N. Bolles

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One hundred pages of lifesaving advice for people out of work. When over ten million people have needed help with their job-hunt—or with figuring out what to do with their life—there is one person they have turned to, more than any other. He is Richard N. Bolles, author of the #1 job-hunting book of all time, What Color Is Your Parachute? His name…  See more details below


One hundred pages of lifesaving advice for people out of work. When over ten million people have needed help with their job-hunt—or with figuring out what to do with their life—there is one person they have turned to, more than any other. He is Richard N. Bolles, author of the #1 job-hunting book of all time, What Color Is Your Parachute? His name is well-known around the world. Just during the last twelve months, he has appeared in Time (“10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now,” March 2009), U.S. News & World Report (deemed “savior of the nation’s unemployed,” October 2008), NBC’s Today Show (broadcast in April 2009), and many other publications and shows. His book was the #1 best-seller on BusinessWeek’s paperback list as recently as last November.

Never has his advice been more sought than during these brutal economic times. He has responded by writing a completely new book: The Job-Hunter’s Survival Guide, designed particularly for people who are hanging on the ropes, who haven’t time to do a lot of reading but need help desperately—and now. Early reviews have called this little Guide “brilliant” and “tremendously helpful.”

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times
Parachute remains the most complete career guide around. . . . It covers all the ground less ambitious books do, as well as some the others don't.
—Barbara Presley Noble
Ideally, everyone should read What Color Is Your Parachute? in the tenth grade and again every year thereafter.
—Anne Fisher
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Offer[s] tools, support and hope to help job-seekers even in the worst of economic times.
From the Publisher
Parachute remains the gold standard of career guides.”
Fortune magazine

“’The Job-Hunter’s Survival Guide’ is slim . . . but there is nothing small about the book’s job-hunting tips.”
—McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
“a quick and concise book. . . . And, at $9.99, it’s priced to sell.”
—Sunday New York Times
“chock-a-block with bullet points and tips” / “a best-hits collection of advice...culled from his 40 years of career guidance.”
—Tali Arbel, “Watercooler” Columnist, Associated Press
“Bolles’ short, sharp tome offers triage to those job seekers who may be either flummoxed with the economy or paralyzed by indecisiveness or lack of a clear path. ...his folksy, familiar style and presentation are an effective tonic for jittery nerves and chronic brain freeze. It’s pretty ballsy for an author to produce something that might cannibalize sales of his other books, but this disruptive act of creative destruction is actually a brilliant stroke by Bolles and could provide just the gentle push needed by many.”
—Richard Pachter, Miami Herald
“a peach of a book. …so elegantly slim and direct. …Take a spin through this book and do what it says until you find a job.”
—Working Strategies syndicated career columnist Amy Lindgren, St. Paul Pioneer Press
“Any reader who takes the time to practice these lessons will dreastically improve their odds of finding employment and finding it soon.”
—Sacramento Book Review
“a cheaper, more concise guide...for job hunters facing today's brutal job market."
—Content That Works, Syndicated “Working Class” Career Columnist Leslie Whitaker
"Over 15 million Americans are looking for work. ...They need a parachute. And that's exactly what they have."
—Christianity Today
“Bolles gives job hunters concise, down-to-earth advice by summarizing many different methods of finding jobs in a down economy.”
—Library Journal

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: There Are Always Jobs Out There

If there were a town that had only five jobs available in the entire town, and each job was filled and each person employed in those five was very happy with what they were doing, it might be safe to say, to some poor guy or gal out of work in that town, There are no jobs out there.

But if it were a town with 100 people who had jobs, that might not be so safe to say. Eventually, someone's gonna get sick, or move, or die. And then a vacancy will be created, that needs to be filled. With 100 jobs, there might be several such vacancies.

And if it were a town or city with 1,000 people who had jobs, or 10,000 or 100,000, there would be still more vacancies. For the principle is: the larger the workforce, the more certain it is that there are jobs out there-vacancies being constantly created due to human factors: people getting fed up, people getting promoted, people moving away, people falling sick for a long time, people retiring, people dying without warning, and so on. And in addition to vacancies, there are always inevitably new jobs being constantly created by invention and creativity, not to mention computer or technology advances.

The larger the number of people who have jobs, the more certain there are and will be job vacancies out there, waiting to be filled.

So, exactly how large is the number of people who have jobs in the U.S.? It is of course not 140, nor 1,400, nor 14,000, not even 14,000,000, but 140,000,000. That's one hundred and forty million. So, with promotion, moving, sickness, retirement or death, it follows that there are jobs out there falling vacant, and waiting to be filled. Always. That's just human nature.

How many jobs fall vacant? Some experts say it amounts, each month, to 1 percent of those who have jobs. Which in this case, would figure out to 1,400,000 vacancies per month currently.

Other experts, citing historical records for the period 1994-2004, say it in fact amounted to an average of 1,250,000 per month, year in and year out, for that period. That was the figure Ben Bernanke suggested, in an address he gave at Duke University back in 2004, before he was made Chairman of the Fed.

Well, I just saw in the news the April 2009 unemployment figures. They said that 13,200,000 people were unemployed but were officially looking for work, and 2,100,000 were unemployed but had given up looking, and then there were 9,000,000 part-time workers who want full-time jobs but can't find them. So, your figure of 1,250,000 monthly vacancies, doesn't come anywhere near matching the number of people who want to find work. It still sounds like an awful situation, wouldn't you say?

Absolutely. But this gap doesn't just exist during brutal times. There are always more people looking for jobs than can find them. That's why there are always at least 8,000,000 people who fail to find work in the U.S. even in the best of times. Job-hunting is all about competition. When any of us is out of work, in good times or bad, we always have to compete with others for any job that interests us.

It's just that in brutal economic times the competition grows a lot, lot more fierce; and people who have elementary job-hunting skills that were adequate enough to get them through easy times, now find those skills insufficient for the time at hand.

Still, even in this worst of economic times people are finding jobs, every day in the year. A recession or Depression wakes everybody up to the fact that they need greater job-hunting skills.

What do you mean by greater job-hunting skills?

Well, there are four pillars, I think:

1. Assume that finding work is your job. Don't wait for someone else to come and save you-the government, or anyone else. If you are someone with faith, the rule is simple: pray as though everything depended on God, and then work as though everything depended on You.

2. Be willing to work hard on your job-hunt. Don't just give it 'a lick and a promise,' and then give up. 'Working hard' means time and persistence. Lots and lots of time. Days, weeks, months. And be smart in your use of time. Learn a lot during this period. Learn which job-hunting methods have the highest success rate, and which have the lowest. Invest your time accordingly.

3. Do a thorough and detailed inventory on yourself. You think you don't have time to do this? Oh yes you do. Incidentally, this step is more overlooked than any other I can think of, yet has more to do with a successful job-hunt than anything else I can think of. You will wantto be focused-laser beam focused-during the time you are looking for work. You want to know, and you want to be able to describe to others, what you are looking for in the way of work, in the greatest detail. 'Staying loose' about what you're looking for is job-hunting suicide.

4. Learn everything you can about the job-hunt in 21st-century America. Go beyond what you learned back in high school, or-worse-out on the street.

In brutal times, it's time to update your knowledge. For example, do you know the 18 different ways there are to look for work? Do you know how many of these you should use at any one time? Do you know what to do next, if the Internet and posting your resume doesn't turn up anything? And if you decide to use a resume, do you know what is the one criterion by which you should decide whether to include or omit any particular item? If you get a job-interview, do you know what is the time limit you should observe in answering any question? And finally, do you know the one question you should ask, in the interview, that will make a difference in whether you get offered the job, or not?

Remember above all else, in brutal economic times the familiar ways may not work. The ways that worked last time you were out of a job, may not work this time. Marshall Goldsmith famously said it: What Got You Here, Won't Get You There.

Be ready to observe, to learn, to change your way of doing things. Be ready to reinvent yourself, with a new identity. No longer, "I am an auto worker (or whatever)" but "I am a person who . . ."

Okay, but before we continue, I just want to register my distaste for the fact that the job-hunt is all about competition. I think that sucks. There has to be a better way.

I couldn't agree with you more. Cutthroat competition offends the spirit and the soul. I once got a glimpse of a better world. I was sitting on a bench in Walnut Creek, California, eating an ice cream cone. An old lady, with white hair, came and sat down beside me. "Isn't this a terrible time!" she said, by way of striking up conversation. "Yes," I agreed. "You know," she said, "there used to be a mine up in the hills over there. During the Depression everyone was out of work. My father heard that they were hiring, up at the mine. So he went up there and stood in a line outside the hiring shack. Since the wait was long, he struck up a conversation with the man behind him. Eventually, as the line moved, my father found himself next in line, outside the shack. When he went in, the hiring manager said, 'You're in luck. This is the last job I have to give out today.' My father turned and took a look out the door. 'In that case,' he said, 'why don't you give it to that man out there. He has four children depending on him, and I only have two. I'll find another job.'"

So, out of compassion, he gave away the job that was his.

If only we could replace competition with compassion, the job-hunt would be a better place. Not to mention the world.

P.S. The compassionate man, her father, found a job the following week.

Summary: Eventually we will come out of this. It will be over. It's only a matter of time.

What we need, in the meantime, is patience. And compassion.

Chapter 2: How to Find Hope in the Midst of a Brutal Downturn

I remember as vividly as though it were yesterday, the time I got laid off when I had a wife and four small children. My boss delivered the news just before noon. He mumbled the usual condolences. I stumbled outside, into the bright sunlight. It was lunch time in San Francisco, and as I wandered around the city dazed, I heard laughter, everywhere. I remember thinking a totally irrational thought: How can you all be so happy? Don't you understand? I just lost my job. The whole city should be in mourning. Even the sun should be hiding behind the clouds today.

Nobody seemed to care. They went about their business oblivious to the fact that my whole world had just collapsed. I wondered how I would tell my wife and kids that I didn't have a job anymore. I knew the news would make them anxious, and afraid. I guessed what their thoughts would be: What about their future? How long would it take me to find another job? Would we starve, in the meantime?

I had lost my job before, but I was single back then. Now I had five people depending on me. Their fate was in my hands.

If you think I knew what to do, you are out of your mind. I was a babe in the woods, so far as job-hunting was concerned. I did eventually find work. But it took me several months, and I made every mistake in the book, along the way.

Out of this experience, however, was born great sympathy. I think this happens to every person with any "character" who loses their job. You can never again look into the face of someone who has lost their job, without remembering, without feeling kinship and empathy, remembering how you felt when it was your time. You want to reach out to them. You want to give them a hug. You want to help them, in any way you can.

The world thinks of unemployment in terms of numbing statistics: thirteen million people out of work here (that was at the height of the Great Depression, and also is the current number in the U.S.). Twenty million people out of work there (that is the current situation in China, as I write). But I think of unemployment, now, in terms of faces-thirteen million sad or haunted faces, etched with fear, searching for hope.

I've been out looking for work, and I'm here to tell you, there are no jobs out there. Just how do you keep hope alive, during this brutal Recession?

It is simply not true that there are no jobs, out there, as we saw in the previous chapter. But that brings us then to your question: how do you keep Hope alive?

The answer is relatively simple:

The secret of keeping Hope alive is to always have alternatives.

For example, there are eighteen alternative ways of looking for work. They are:

1. Self-Inventory. Before you do anything else, do a thorough self-inventory of the transferable skills and interests that you most enjoy and do best, so you can define in stunning detail exactly the job(s) you would most like to have, to your family, friends, contacts, network, and employers. And then use this knowledge to focus your search for work.

2. The Internet. Use the Internet, to post your resume and/or to look for employers' "job-postings" (vacancies) on the employer's own website or elsewhere (CareerBuilder, Yahoo/Hot Jobs, Monster, LinkedIn, etc.).

3. Networking. Ask friends, family, or people in the community for job-leads.

4. School. Ask a former professor or teacher for job-leads, or career/alumni services at schools that you attended (high school, trade schools, online schools, community college, college, or university).

5. The Feds. Go to the state/federal unemployment service, or to One-stop career centers (directory at

6. In Your State. Go to private employment agencies (

7. Civil Service. Take a civil service exam to compete for a government job (

8. Newspapers. Answer local "want-ads" (in newspapers, assuming your city or town still has a newspaper, online or otherwise). The Sunday editions usually prove most useful. (See for how to use them; for a directory of their websites, see news

9. Journals. Look at professional journals in your profession or field, and answer any ads there that intrigue you (

10. Temp Agencies. Go to temp agencies (agencies that get you short-term contracts in places that need your time and skills temporarily) and see if they can place you, in one place after another, until some place says, "Could you stay on, permanently?" At the very least you'll pick up experience that you can later cite on your resume (

11. Pickups. Go to places where employers pick up workers: well-known street corners in your town (ask around), or union halls, etc., in order to get short-term work, which may lead to more permanent work, eventually. For the time being, it may be yard work, or work that requires you to use your hands; but no job is too humble when you're desperate.

12. Job Clubs. Join or form a "job club," where you receive job leads and weekly emotional support. Check with your local chamber of commerce, and local churches, mosques, or synagogues. Excellent directory at (

13. Resumes. Mail out resumes blindly to anyone and everyone, blanketing the area.

14. Choose Places That Interest You. Knock on doors of any employer, factory, store, organization, or office thatinterests you, whether they are known to have a vacancy or not.

15. The Phone Book. Use the index to your phone book's Yellow Pages, to identify 5-10 subjects, fields, or interests that intrigue you-that are located in the city or town where you are, or want to be, and then call or visit the organizations listed under these headings.

16. Volunteering. If you're okay financially for a spell, volunteer to work for nothing, short-term, at a place that interests you, whether or not they have a known vacancy, with the hope that down the line they may want to hire you ( or

17. Work for Yourself. Start your own small business, trade or service, after observing what your community lacks but needs (

18. Retraining. Go back to school and get retrained for some other kind of occupation than the one you've been doing.

Now I give you a puzzle. Researchers discovered some years ago that the majority of all job-hunters simply give up by the second month of their job-hunt. They stop looking for work. Maybe they resume later; maybe not. But initially they give up, after a month. Why do you think that is?

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Meet the Author

Richard N. Bolles is the author of What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers, the best-selling job-hunting book of all time, having sold 10,000,000 copies to date. The book is updated every year, exists in 20 languages, and is used in 26 countries around the globe.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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