eParachute Blog

On finding the work of your dreams, from Dick Bolles & the team at eParachute.

29 blog posts by Gary Bolles

What To Do When The Work Market Gets Weird

Openings? Layoffs? Resignations? Cutbacks? Everything, everywhere, all at once.

When the economy changes rapidly, it’s easy to get whiplash from headlines about what is happening with the job market. But whether you’re currently working, or looking for work, it’s important to not let the headlines bother you.

Yes, inflation is still challenging. Many articles continue the drumbeat for a coming recession. Tech companies like Google and Microsoft have said they are slowing (but not stopping) hiring. And companies like Netflix and Tesla have announced job cuts. (Because industries like hi-tech have a hair trigger on layoffs for “low performers” — which is actually a failure by the company — they can get a lot of media coverage.)

But anyone considering changing their work situation should be much more upbeat than the headlines suggest. Before the pandemic, on average there were two job-hunters for every open job. Now it’s the opposite: Two job openings for every job-hunter. Millions of workers are still choosing to leave their current work situations every month, and millions more are considering it in the coming months. More workers who want it have found full-time work than before the pandemic, with far fewer working part-time because they couldn’t find full-time. First-time unemployment filings are still near historic lows. And a record number of U.S. businesses were started last year, putting more potential hirers in the mix.

Despite all this good news, we tend to remember the scary headlines. That’s because humans are pattern-recognizers, and we are especially trained to look for bad news. Going back in history to when we were all foragers, we have always scanned the horizon for bad news. (“Is that movement in the forest my lunch, or am I its lunch?) 

So, let’s stop looking for bad news. Whether you’re working or looking for work, don’t let any of the headlines get to you. Well-meaning journalists often don’t understand how work markets work, either. You’re living in what we all hope will become a post-pandemic world. There’s never been a time in history with a work market like this. No matter what the headlines say, there are many in-demand work roles that simply won’t have enough workers, even in a possible downturn. 

Also, remember that tech companies are not the best signposts for work trends. Companies like Google historically have contractors for over half their “workforce,” so most of their hiring (and firing) process is completely opaque to you. Many tech companies are still hiring, just not as fast. And tech and non-tech hiring in non-tech companies is also robust. 

Now, if you’re employed and thinking about changing jobs, but you’re worried that you might get laid off from your current work, be sure to have an honest conversation with your employer. Are your hours or your job fragile? Don’t let yourself get blindsided. Sometimes when you’re thinking about changing jobs, it’s because you’re already disaffected. Well, your boss may know that, and assume you’re already looking. (Remember that “the Great Resignation” is still really common.)

If you’re job-hunting, remember that you only need a job for one person. You. Don’t get discouraged by scarcity thinking in blaring headlines. And if you’re having difficulty job-hunting, remember that digital job listings are not your friend. Instead, use the kinds of creative search techniques we talk about at eParachute. 

Remember, that process always starts with “self-inventory,” learning more about yourself. For quick insights, use the eParachute.com app. Or, if you’re willing to put more time into that process of learning more about yourself, we have a video course walking you through the techniques from What Color Is Your Parachute? 


Gary A. Bolles is a co-founder of eParachute, and the author of “The Next Rules of Work.”


Add a comment

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

For help with the answer, check out eParachute and our new career planning course.

Although “Should I stay or should I go?” is a classic 1981 rock song by the Clash, it’s also a highly-relevant question in the era of the Great Reset of Work, the Great Resignation, or whatever Great trend is influencing your thinking about work. If you’re currently in a job, and you see frequent headlines and hear regular discussion by friends and co-workers about the record 11.5 million job openings, it’s perfectly understandable you’d start wondering about other work opportunities.

If the most interesting option to you is simply getting better pay, you may not have to do much homework outside of checking job listings. But even if all you’re thinking of doing is changing jobs because of compensation, just remember the common human bias known as “the grass is always greener on the other side.” We often envision the perfect new job, forgetting the alternative adage, “The devil you know is better than the one you don’t.” If you like a variety of aspects of your current work, and all you’re looking for is a slightly better paycheck and a new work environment, consider simply negotiating with your current employer for more pay and a change of work scenery.

In fact, whether you’re thinking about making a minor change in your work, or you’re tempted by the historical number of open jobs in the U.S., I’d always suggest you take the time to do a little homework on yourself. As you know from our prior posts, we call that process “self-inventory.” And you can do that process quickly, or take more time and do it thoroughly. (For fans of Dan Kahneman, that’s thinking fast and slow.)

The quick version uses something like our eParachute card sort, taking just a few minutes to check out your latest thinking on your skills and interests, and seeing if any interesting options for jobs and fields might warrant some further research on your part.

The slow version gives you the opportunity to take more time, immersing yourself in learning about your skills and other attributes, and constructing a variety of scenarios for the kind of work you might like to do. That process is best followed using our new career planning course, which covers the full set of Flower exercises from What Coior Is Your Parachute?

Having these additional insights about yourself provides you with critical information about whether it makes the most sense to stay with your current work, or to make a change that could include taking the leap to go to a new job. And while you’re doing it, you might even hum the tune to the Clash song.

Add a comment

More »

You Are a “Skills Iceberg.” Here’s How to Fix It.

It would be nice if each of us had complete knowledge of our skills, complete memory of all the times we’ve solved problems, and a clear direction for what each of us wants to do next in our work.

But that’s not the way it works for many people.

Sure, some of us have a great ability to remember. Those people can pull up many memories, recalling lots of their work and other activities. Maybe you’re one of them. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re good at actually seeing our own skills.

Why? For most of us, we often diminish our accomplishments in our own minds. We can’t easily see many of our own skills. And it can be hard to create a clear picture of the kind of work we want to do in the future.

That’s why many of us are like an iceberg. A “skills iceberg.” Sure, there’s part that’s above the waterline, skills we can see. But there’s a lot of human potential below the waterline that we are blind to. If we could just understand — not just our skills, but our best-loved skills — we would be better at problem-solving, and a lot better at planning our careers.

So here’s how to fix it.

The best way to overcome the Skills Iceberg problem is through the process of self-inventory. Using a set of exercises or techniques to develop a list of your skills, then filter that list for your best-loved skills, is the most effective approach. And, ideally, you’ll learn a process for doing that self-inventory, so that you can do it again and again, throughout your career.

You can solve this in several different ways.

The quick way is to use something like the eParachute JUMP program. It’s fast, it gives you some useful insights into your skills and interests, and it offers some valuable suggestions for fields to explore that might interest you.

A more thorough process of understanding what’s below the waterline of your skills is to use the Flower Exercises from What Color Is Your Parachute? We have a new course that walks you through the entire process of inventorying your skills, and prioritizing them by the ones you love using the most. And it’s not just skills: It’s also the kinds of people who help you do your best work, and the working conditions that help you do your best work, the values that are most important to you in your work, the kind of compensation you need in your work, and so on.

That’s how you can thaw the skills iceberg. Learn more about what’s below the waterline, and you’re no longer an iceberg.

Add a comment

More »

4 Steps Before You Join the Great Resignation

About a third of workers in America changed jobs by choice in 2020. That’s more than any time in the past 20 years the statistics have been kept. And while that’s not completely new - about a quarter of all workers changed jobs voluntarily in 2019 - there’s no question many people are thinking of changing their work situations.

If you’re working, you could just quit. But through our decades of work with What Color Is Your Parachute?, we know from experience that it’s far easier to find a job when you still have a job. So, here are three steps to go through to make sure you make the best decision for your current work and life situation.

Step 1: Do self-inventory. If you want some quick insights, take the JUMP card sort on this site. You’ll review your favorite skills and interests, and walk away with some options for research. Even better, take the interactive Parachute Career Planning Course, and get some deeper insights into your skills and interests.

Step 2. Do your research. Take the information from JUMP or the Parachute Course, and build several scenarios for the kind of work you’ll want to do most. You might not find your ideal job, but having several work scenarios in mind will give you several options to explore.

Step 3. Start exploring those options. Find out what kind of compensation comes with the work that interests you, and how many organizations you’re interested in are actually hiring.

Step 4. Talk to your current work. So long as there is a chance to improve your work situation at your current job, it’s worth having the conversation with your boss, or with someone in your People or HR department. It’s far better to save the time and hassle of job-hunting if you can simply upgrade your current position.

Even if you find that it’s not workable to modify your existing job, consider delaying your “Great Resignation” until you line up a new job. A job search can always take longer than you think, and taking more time while you’re employed means the clock hasn’t started ticking on your search.

Add a comment

More »

Annual Career Checkup, Pandemic Version

It’s that time of year again, to do a quick review of your career and next steps. But the unique pandemic era requires unique thinking, so this year let’s do a little more homework.

Look back at the past year, and jot down answers to any of these questions that resonate with you.

- What were your key accomplishments and results?
- What special projects did you take on and complete successfully?
- What training or additional enrichment did you complete?
- What position(s) did I hold?
- Did you do any volunteer work?
- Did you change jobs, get a raise, receive an award or get a promotion?
- Were you tasked with new responsibilities? If so, what were they?
- Did you meet specified goals and what were the results?
- Am I happy in my job?
- Do I need more challenging projects?
- Am I ready to make a career change if the opportunity arose?
- What areas do I want to improve?
- What have I learned about myself during the pandemic?

Even if you’re not currently employed, you can still perform an annual career checkup. Think about what you have done that could contribute to your career success. Think about things like:

- Did you take any training?
- Did you attend conferences, networking meetings or seminars?
- What personal branding activities did you work on, e.g. LinkedIn profile, Twitter following, blog posts, personal website, etc.?
- Did you volunteer?

After answering these, ask yourself a simple question: Do I need to make a change?

If the answer is “yes,” we have a suggestion. Check out our brand new interactive course. You’ll have the opportunity to do a series of exercises to help you envision what the next phase of your career might be.

Add a comment

More »

Four Doorways to Self-Knowledge

As discussed in a recent blog post, the better you can understand your own abilities and motivation, the better chance you’ll have of finding or creating meaningful, well-paid work. Here are four paths to self-knowledge, in order of fastest to the most involved.


A competent counselor or mentor could ask you a few questions, and give you insights about your skills and work options. The people who have spent the most time with you, your friends and family, may even be able to offer you advice. Depending on the timing, and the quality of the input, you may gain tremendous insights into your own abilities, and for your future options.

It’s important to remember, though, the psychology of perception, and filter any advice through your own perspective. Even the most well-meaning and competent advisers will have known and unknown biases, and will have varying levels of understanding of your abilities, interests, and priorities. Always be open to advice, but whenever possible back it up with further exploration of your own.


We can often be a test-obsessed species. There are countless work-related assessment tools available, and you may find them to be extremely helpful in expanding your self-knowledge. It’s important, though, to understand the biases built into tests.

Test instruments are built from a data set of others who have taken the test. The underlying assumption is that your answers match the pattern of answers from others, and because of those similar answers, you have similar characteristics. Psychologists call this “structured” or “closed” analysis.

Take, for example, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Myers-Briggs uses a personality typology built from a series of Jungian archetypes, to help people understand how they perceive the world, and how they make decisions. After taking the instrument, you are assigned one of 16 “types,” with a corresponding “code.” For example, if your Myers-Briggs code is ISFJ (thought to be the most common type in the world), you are considered to be an Introvert, using Sensing, Feeling, and Judging. Each code or type has a description of the personality traits and skills associated with it. Some people find these descriptions to be quite helpful in giving a language for their personality characteristics and skills. Yet Jung’s archetypes were not based on scientifically-controlled studies, and Myers-Briggs has been criticized as sounding more like horoscope profiles than scientifically-accurate insights.

Testing for skills and traits can often include recommendations for the kinds of work that others with similar answers have done. These kinds of suggestions can be extremely helpful (“It says I should be a lawyer!”) or extremely demoralizing (“It says I should be a lawyer…”). Worse, some test-takers will hear these recommendations as constricting, offering only limited options for the future. These should only be seen as suggestions of fields for more investigation, not authoritative directions for the kind of work you must do.

What’s most important with testing is that you treat it as information, rather than deep certainty about what is true. If you feel a test offers useful insights about your skills, interests, and options, marvelous. But don’t give any test more authority than it deserves.


An alternative to testing is a less-structured process of answering questions and generating your own insights. Psychologists call this approach “projective” or “open-ended,” with no “right” answer.

The eParachute tool (which we call JUMP), and the Flower in What Color Is Your Parachute?, are examples of self-inventory. There are no right answers, and your results can (and should) vary wildly based on when and how you do the exercises.You are in the driver’s seat with self-inventory. The mentality here is that more information is better, and that you are the best one to filter that information through your own lens of perception.

(As you have probably guessed, we here at eParachute are more fans of self-inventory rather than testing.)


There is a time for thinking, and a time for doing.

When going through a career transition, some people become test junkies. This may be a useful process of gathering a lot of information. Or it may be a delaying tactic from taking action.

Ultimately, the most useful information about yourself will come from taking action. You can conceptualize what you might do in a situation beforehand, but there is no real replacement for learning from experience.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that you can always jump right into a career option to learn more about yourself. If you set your sights on becoming a brain surgeon, you can’t do a quick internship in an operating room to see how you’d do. But your best understanding of your own abilities will occur when you’ve been able to perform some of the activities involved, and see what it feels like to actually do the work.

Photo: thanks to Natalia Y


1 Comment

More »

Self-Knowledge: Overcoming Your Blind Spots

Thoughts from “The Next Rules of Work” (August 2021, Kogan Page)

Imagine that the day you were born, the nurse comes to your parents and says, “Here’s your amazing child. And here’s the User Manual. Here’s what your child will be good at. The kinds of problems they’ll be able to solve best. The kinds of people who will help them do their best work. The working conditions under which they’ll do their best work.”

When you buy a Digital Distraction Device (AKA cellphone), you get a user manual. It tells you what the device can do and can’t do. Why isn’t there a User Manual of You? Instead, you had to figure all those things out. On your own.

How did you do that? Trial and error. We don’t call it “trial and success.” You need to make mistakes. You touch the stove, the stove is hot, don’t touch it again. (Okay, I touched it several times. But I was a slow learner.)

As humans, we are trial and error machines. We continually try to solve a range of problems, from tying our shoes to navigating complex social landscapes. And to solve those problems, we use our skills.

The problem, though, is that we are mostly blind to our own skills.

In Thinking Fast and Slow, psychologist Dan Kahnemann quite rightly points out that we are “blind to our own blindnesses.” That is, we don’t even know what we don’t know. This seems to be true of certain kinds of skills, and especially those skills that come naturally to us.

Our self-perceptions matter, because we make work-related decisions in part based on our skills and experiences, and how well (or poorly) we believe are our abilities to solve problems. If you think you’re a bad singer, you’re likely to avoid singing in public, which would give you the kind of experience you need to become a better singer.

Psychologists have offered us a variety of ways to look at the dynamics of self-awareness. One of my favorite is The Johari Window, developed in 1955 by psychologists Harrington Ingham and Joseph Luft, to show the interaction between our own self-image and self-awareness, and how others see us.

Luft and Ingham said that there are characteristics that are known to us about ourselves, and that we don’t know. And there are things others know about us, and things they don’t know. Here’s how they visualized those intersections.

Your “blind spot” is a set of traits or behaviors that others see, but you don’t. Of course, we all have blind spots, and perhaps our blind spots color our perceptions of others’ blind spots. But generally, if a number of your friends tell you that you’re good at something… well, you probably are.

That’s why self-inventory of our skills is so important. That’s why we ask you to do self-inventory with the card sort at eParachute.com, and why we spend so much time on self-inventory in the new version of the “What Color Is Your Parachute?” career planning course (often called The Flower Exercise.)


Add a comment

More »

Coaches: Here are 4 Transferable Skills for Your Clients’ Success

Career counselors, coaches, and other professionals who help clients with career issues often ask: How can I help my clients become robot-proof?


I’d start with helping them to focus on four specific transferable skills.


Sure, there are hundreds of transferable skills, and different work situations inevitably demand different capabilities. But four skills stand out that job-hunters, career changers, and anyone who’s working need to focus on. These are:


Problem-solving. As Dick Bolles often said, the main reason someone is hired is to solve problems. It helps, of course, if you’re solving problems you love. But if a worker’s basic frame of mind is on solving problems, they are far more likely to be hired than someone who can’t speak in the language of problem-solving.


Adaptive. It used to be that nothing in life was certain but death and taxes, and in an era of life extension and digital currencies, these might be at risk. What is inevitable is the pace of change: If you thought self-driving cars were in the realm of science fiction, you won’t believe what’s just around the bend. So we all need to be adaptive problem-solvers, because the pace of change isn’t likely to slow down any time soon.


Creative. If you’re just solving the same rote problems over and over again - well, that’s going to be the domain of robots and software. Your clients need to be creative problem-solvers, always bringing their ability to innovate to the table.


Entrepreneurial. There will always be work that allows someone to simply sit and let problems come to them: There just won’t be a lot of it in the future. Workers need to be proactive problem solvers who go find problems and solve them. Now, that doesn’t mean that everyone needs to be an entrepreneur, starting their own business (although that’s a great strategy too). What it does mean is that people need to think entrepreneurially - which is basically to be a problem-solver for a customer or client. Even if a worker’s “customer” is someone inside their own organization, that worker still needs to focus on solving that customer’s thorniest problems.

Of course, it’s not by accident that those four transferable skills - Problem-solvers who are Adaptive, Creative and Entrepreneurial - spell out PACE. The pace of change is accelerating -- and your clients will need to practice these four skills to keep up.

Join us Wenesday May 9 at 10am PT for our second Webinar: 6 Strategies for Your Job Search. It's FREE! Click here to register, space is limited.


More »

Unbundling Jobs

You’ll find after you go through eParachute's career exploration exercises that you’ve learned about three important components of you: Your skills, your knowledges, and your preferred people environment - which also turn out to be three of the most important components of a job.

It turns out that, according to Dick Bolles in What Color Is Your Parachute?, work roles have four more important parts. In addition to skills, knowledges, and people, jobs also include the people environment, the workplace environment, geographical location, compensation, and the purpose you feel you’re fulfilling.

The various elements of a work role have traditionally been bundled together into what we call a job.

Technology and globalization have turned these components on their sides, “unbundling” them, allowing them to be separated into different layers, and fundamentally changing the way work is performed.

Take, for example, geography. Many jobs used to require the work to be conducted in a specific location, such as an office or a factory. But with the combination of automation and globalization, a variety of work can be performed in another place -- from your home or a coffee shop, or outsourced halfway around the world.

But automation and globalization have far more seismic implications for work than simple outsourcing: Together, they allow work to become completely unbundled, down to a very granular level. Services like Uber, Taskrabbit, and Mechanical Turk each allow work to be conducted in narrow contexts, dramatically impacting the way we work.

How does an “unbundled job” operate in practice? What happens when, say, there’s a customer who wants to go from point A to point B in a city?

In the past, we called the hirer “A Cab Company,” and the worker “A Cab Driver.” (In 2012, there were about 233,000 cab drivers in the U.S.)

What are the most frequent problems that a cab company has? Taking the customer’s order, dispatching a vehicle to pick up the passenger at Point A, depositing the customer at Point B, and charging the customer.

In a traditional cab company, the tasks needed to solve these problems would have been performed using the skills of the dispatcher, who takes the customer’s order, and tells the driver to pick up the passenger, and the driver, who transports the customer, and takes the customer’s payment.

Along comes Uber. The tasks needed to solve the problems are now performed by an app, which takes the customer’s order, tells the driver to pick up the customer, and takes the customer’s payment; and an untrained driver with a car, who transports the customer.

So, the job of driver and dispatcher have become unbundled. And it’s happening in industry after industry after industry.

Now, it doesn’t mean that all jobs are going to become unbundled tomorrow. Despite the rise of the Internet and new media, we still have old media like radio and record players. Jobs will be around for a long time. But just as unbundling is affecting entire industries, this unbundling is impacting a wide range of jobs today. And it’s going to affect an increasing amount of the work that people do.

That’s why it’s so important for you to do your own self-inventory. The more you know about your skills, knowledges, and other important work-related characteristics and needs, the better you’ll be able to find meaningful work - whether you find it in a traditional job, or in something a little more non-traditional.


Add a comment

More »

Give the Gift of Self-Inventory

After the holidays comes the new year, a time for many people to think about what will make the next year even better than the previous one. So why not jump in with a present that can help young and old to envision a more fulfilling future? Give the gift of self-inventory, with eParachute.


For high school students, it’s an opportunity to learn more about themselves. Taking a few minutes can bring the important insight that their unique skills and other attributes can be connected to college majors they might never have considered.


For college students, it’s a way to think in new ways about what they’ve already learned, and what might be the most interesting and exciting things to learn in their remaining time in school.


For those who are approaching college graduation, self-inventory is the first critical step into the world of work, helping them to take inventory of their knowledges and experience, and to consider work options that might never have occurred to them.


For relatives and friends who’ve been working for years or decades, it’s a valuable opportunity to synthesize all they’ve done and learned, and to re-assemble those skills and knowledges into a variety of new opportunities that could provide more meaningful work.


Whatever the time of life or work circumstances, taking a few minutes to gain new insights into what makes each of us unique, and how those characteristics and experiences can translate into a new role in the world of work, is a gift that keeps on giving long into the future.




More »

© Copyright 2012-2013 by eParachute, Inc - All rights reserved.