All Articles Leadership Tapping authenticity to realize your dreams: A Q&A with author Katharine Brooks


Tapping authenticity to realize your dreams: A Q&A with author Katharine Brooks

What is the enduring allure of the best-selling book What Color is Your Parachute?

6 min read


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This post is sponsored by Penguin Random House

The iconic career-advice best-seller What Color is Your Parachute? focuses on people being their most-authentic selves while reaching for the best opportunities in the workplace.

The system Richard Bolles started over 50 years ago is expressed with a welcoming writing style that makes its time-proven strategies accessible to a broad spectrum of readers. The secret to the system’s success is asking readers to start by examining themselves, before directing their efforts outward to find that dream job or career that will truly fulfill their needs.

Author Katharine Brooks

Here, we chat with Katharine Brooks, the author of the latest edition of the book,  about this jobseeker’s guidebook:

Question: The concept and philosophy behind the book has been relevant for half a century. What makes this an evergreen source of inspiration and motivation for job seekers and the career-curious?

Answer: Well, first, it’s the only career book that has been updated every year, so the information, while often timeless, is always fresh and current. As a result, the book has kept up with trends in the economy and society—recessions and covid, for example—that have had an impact on the hiring market.

From the beginning, Richard Bolles never talked down to anyone. He clearly empathized and understood what job seekers were going through, inspiring them to take chances and making them feel less alone. My goal is to keep that same personal and compassionate connection with readers, and instill even more motivation by incorporating new insight from the fields of psychology, sociology, and economics.

Q: Why is a book like this critical during a pandemic, which has not only forced change throughout nearly every industry, but almost invites us to reevaluate our place in the world and what “success” truly means?

A: This is really the key to finding fulfilling work. The pandemic has instigated a new level of self-awareness and a desire to find greater fulfilment generally, not just at work but in life. However, life and work are intertwined, so focusing on finding an interesting and fulfilling job has taken on new importance. Workers are reexamining not only what they do, but where they live, and how they want to live in the future. A job they might have “tolerated” in the past suddenly isn’t tolerable anymore. In addition, the increasing opportunities for flexible scheduling and working from home may open new ideas for how one works.

Q: What are the best takeaways for someone reconsidering their path now that the business world has transformed?

A: People have been given an opportunity to determine if the decisions they have made so far in their lives are still working for them or whether it’s time to find a new path. This new path might be as simple as taking a similar job with a different employer, or taking a different job with the same employer. Whether finding a new job title with a new employer, completely changing industries, going back to school to re-train for a new field—or even a recommitment to the position and path you’re on — the beauty of What Color is Your Parachute? is that it will help with any or all of these decisions.

Q: The book places high regard on the mental side of job seeking. How to manage emotions, maintain positivity, come from a mindset of strength and confidence, etc. If that is not in a reader’s natural wheelhouse, can it be learned?

Motivation and confidence are incredibly important in the job search. If you don’t know who you are or what you really want, you are more likely to be influenced by the opinion of others or whatever careers are “hot” at the moment. A job search requires tenacity, not to mention the ability to hear the word “no” and keep going. It’s easy to feel defeated, so an important element of the search is practicing self-compassion and learning how to motivate yourself no matter what is happening.

Research has shown that optimistic individuals have better success in most fields of work. The field of positive psychology has provided new guidance and lessons on optimism and self-empowerment that can be applied to the job search. No one expects you to always be happy or upbeat at all times in the process. This is where self-compassion comes in. You have to support yourself through all the ups and downs of the process.

Q: What audiences could most benefit from the wisdom and real life practical exercises in the book?

A: Blue-collar jobs, white-collar work, professions like law and medicine—the book has a long tradition of speaking to all workers with solid and relevant advice. Certain chapters focus on specific populations. One chapter focuses on people who might need accommodations in the workplace, or people who might face discrimination. It offers tips for finding open and inclusive companies as well as information on legal rights and navigating the interview process when you have a special situation. Another provides insight and ideas for individuals who are considering starting their own business.

Because the job search for a college student is somewhat different from an experienced worker, I have written a special edition called What Color is Your Parachute? For College that provides more in-depth and specialized information about being successful in college as well as in the job search.

Q: For fans of the brand, what does this new edition add to the conversation beyond editions from previous years?

A: The last few years have been a rollercoaster, thanks to COVID. While still relying on Richard Bolles’ excellent exercises and content, I expanded the psychological elements. I’ve introduced new research to help readers deal with the stress of the job search and more information on finding a genuinely inclusive workplace. Even the classic “Flower Exercise” has been updated with suggestions for completing the sections that people find challenging (like writing seven essays). The section on social media and resumes is regularly updated based on the ever-changing world of the internet.

The world has changed, and so has your workplace. If you’re currently employed, observe how your company has adapted. Have you been supported and made to feel safe? Have you been given more work or longer hours but without adequate compensation or recognition? Do you suspect these changes are permanent or temporary? You can ride out a temporary dissatisfaction, but if you are unhappy with changes that are likely to be permanent it’s time to look around. But don’t start by going on the internet to “see what’s out there” — use this “parachute” to make sure you land somewhere truly fulfilling.

Learn more about the latest edition of What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles with Katharine Brooks.

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