What Color is Your Parachute?

Your Guide to a Lifetime of Meaningful Work and Career Success

Secure your ideal role in a dynamic job market.

A fortunate few seem to effortlessly land their dream jobs and assemble successful careers. For the majority, however, securing a job where we can flourish can be a complex endeavor. For job seekers in 2021, this endeavor is arguably more complex than ever before.

A worldwide pandemic has expedited the transition towards online job hunting, networking, and interviewing. Coupled with widespread economic uncertainty, potential employers are more cautious than ever, and technological advancements are simultaneously creating and restricting opportunities in various fields.

Fortunately, conventional wisdom for job seekers still holds water. By combining time-honored strategies for finding and securing the perfect role with state-of-the-art advice tailored specifically for today’s dynamic job market, you can secure a role that suits you.

In this Summary, you’ll discover:

  • How a straightforward self-inventory task can form the foundation of your entire job search;
  • That potential employers begin scrutinizing your résumé even before you’ve submitted it; and
  • The appropriate time and manner to discuss salary if an offer is on the table.


Want to get hired? Adopt an employer’s mindset.

For job seekers, the job hunt can rapidly morph from an exhilarating venture into a disheartening slog. If you’re dispatching application after application and receiving nothing but silence in return, it’s easy to convince yourself that there simply aren’t any jobs available, let alone one that’s a good fit for you.

You might be astonished to learn that in the US alone, there are between six and seven million job vacancies created each month! At least one of those vacancies will be right for you. It’s not a lack of opportunities that’s preventing you from securing interviews and job offers. It’s your approach to job hunting.

The key takeaway here is: Want to get hired? Adopt an employer’s mindset.

Bear in mind, you’re not the only one on the hunt. Potential employers are perpetually on the lookout for exceptional new hires. In many respects, both job seekers and employers share the same goal: to match the right candidate with the right role. The issue is, you and your potential employer are searching in different ways.

Many job seekers adopt a conventional approach to securing a new role. They scour classifieds, dispatch résumés, and wait. But while job seekers prefer to wait for companies to announce that they’re hiring, companies actually often prefer candidates who take the initiative and approach them. Furthermore, businesses would rather hire someone they have a personal connection with, or who’s been recommended by a trusted individual within the company.

Another discrepancy is that while job seekers hope the information they provide on their résumé is sufficient, employers are increasingly considering the bigger picture, vetting candidates’ backgrounds and social media profiles.

But why are job hunters and employers so misaligned when it comes to filling roles? Simply put, both have different priorities guiding their search. For job seekers, time is of the essence. Completing an application can be a lengthy process, so a job seeker will want to reach as many firms as possible in the same session. That’s why so many adopt a blanket approach to sending out résumés – it’s efficient. But it’s not well-targeted. The result? You could end up applying for, and even accepting, jobs that don’t align with your passion.

Remember, hiring and onboarding a new employee is costly and time-consuming for a company. When a new hire doesn’t pan out, the company suffers. Candidates who use the blanket approach – and don’t clearly demonstrate their value to the potential employer – will likely find their application buried under a pile of résumés on the employer’s desk.

So, tailor your approach in a way that directly addresses the company’s needs. That way, you’re far more likely to parachute into a dream role – one that leverages your passions and advances your career objectives.


Identify your career objectives with a self-inventory.

As we’ve seen, traditional methods of job hunting are simply not as effective as they once were. So why not try the parachute approach? It’s a job search method that enables you to identify the type of work that suits you, and helps you optimize your search, so you can parachute into your target role. And it starts with the Flower Exercise, a tool for uncovering what you want from a job.

Imagine a drawing of a flower with seven petals, each representing a component of your working life. When complete, each petal will list a few keywords or statements to guide your job search. You’ll arrive at your own unique keywords for each petal through a series of exercises. This Summary will guide you through the process of filling out the first three petals. So grab your notepad or laptop, and let’s get started.

The key takeaway here is: Identify your career objectives with a self-inventory.

The first petal represents people. What kind of people do you enjoy and dislike working with? We’re not talking about minor annoyances – sure, you’d prefer not to work with someone who microwaves their tuna sandwich. But, in the grand scheme of things, what social environment best suits you, professionally?

Before we proceed, let’s quickly familiarize ourselves with The Holland Code. Developed by psychologist Dr. John Holland, it suggests there are six social workplace contexts: Realistic, where people are data-driven and truth-seeking. Investigative, where people are driven by curiosity and problem-solving. Artistic, where people exercise creativity and imagination. Social, where connection and collaboration are valued. Enterprising, where people like to influence and persuade. And, finally, there’s conventional, where people are organized and detail-driven.

According to Holland, each of us is comfortable in no more than three of these groups. Which three groups would you be happy to work within? Add these to your first petal.

The second petal represents your working conditions. Start by reflecting on the working conditions at previous jobs. In two columns, list things you liked and disliked. Perhaps you appreciated the relaxed dress code but despised the open-plan office. Rank all these likes and dislikes in order. Then, use the data to write a brief statement detailing your ideal working environment, which you can add to this petal.

The third petal lists your transferable skills. Write about a time you achieved a goal. Perhaps you aced a presentation, or you persuaded the electricity company to reduce your rates. Whatever it is, write it down in detail. Now, go through the story and identify the skills you used there, like time-management, persuasive talk, programming, or filing. Repeat this process seven times. You might be surprised at how many job-relevant skills you already possess! Add five key skills to your petal.


The Flower Exercise: A Pathway to Your Dream Job

You’ve embarked on the journey of the Flower Exercise, and you’re halfway there. The destination? Your ideal job. Let’s navigate the remaining petals together.

The fourth petal is a repository of your knowledge. Jot down everything you’ve learned from previous jobs, your hobbies, and areas of interest. This petal is like a treasure chest, storing everything from your accounting skills to your knack for dog-breeding. Don’t fret about how these pieces fit together. The aim is to capture all your skills and specialties.

Now, sift through this treasure for the gems. Rank these skills based on your passion and proficiency, placing the ones you’re most enthusiastic and experienced about at the top. Finally, distill your top five skills and etch them onto your petal.

The fifth petal is about your financial aspirations. Yes, job satisfaction is crucial, but so is your livelihood. Reflect on your desired salary range. Determine your financial needs to cover expenses and meet your goals. Consider the benefits you’d like as an employee and the level of responsibility you aspire to. Are you aiming for the captain’s chair or content as a crew member? Summarize your findings and add them to your petal.

The sixth petal is your geographical preference. List the places you’ve lived and the pros and cons of each. Transform your negatives into actionable positives. For instance, if you find New York “too crowded,” add “small city or town” to your wish list. Rank these geographical factors by importance, research, and identify five locations that align with your preferences. Add these to your petal.

The seventh and final petal is your purpose. Dive deep into your life philosophy. Reflect on your views about spirituality, beauty, community, morality, love, and truth. Once you’ve penned your thoughts, distill this philosophy into a few sentences. Add these to your final petal.

With the Flower Exercise complete, you now have a comprehensive guide to steer your job search. You’ll find yourself referring to it time and again.


Your Résumé: The Key to Unlocking Opportunities

The job market is ever-changing, but one constant remains: the power of a compelling résumé. So, what does an effective résumé look like?

Your résumé should be a concise document, ideally one or two pages, that encapsulates your employment and education history, skills, expertise, and accomplishments. You could opt for a functional résumé, highlighting your role-specific responsibilities with a brief employment history, or a traditional résumé, presenting your experience in chronological order. Regardless of the format, be sure to highlight key achievements and instances where your skills brought value to your past employers. Quantifiable achievements are particularly impactful.

However, in today’s digital age, a paper résumé is just the beginning.

Your online presence forms your second résumé. This includes all your public profiles, from LinkedIn to YouTube. More often than not, potential employers will discover and evaluate you based on this online résumé. It’s crucial to harness this trend to your advantage. For instance, LinkedIn is typically the first stop for anyone interested in your professional profile. If you’re not on LinkedIn, it’s time to join.

LinkedIn is a goldmine for opportunities. Many jobs are not openly advertised; instead, recruiters approach potential candidates directly. LinkedIn also allows you to cultivate your professional network, connecting with former colleagues and others in your industry. This network can provide valuable connections within companies you’re considering.

Maintain your LinkedIn profile. Keep your résumé and headshot current. Optimize your profile with relevant keywords under “Skills” to attract recruiters in your industry.

But don’t stop at LinkedIn. Choose another social media platform that aligns with your field. Instagram or Pinterest are excellent for visual or design fields. YouTube can showcase your storytelling and presentation skills. Twitter is a platform to share industry-related articles and insights and connect with like-minded professionals.

Remember, employers will evaluate both your online and offline résumés to determine your suitability. Ensure both are polished and professional.


Mastering the Art of Interviews

At last, the moment you’ve been preparing for: the interview. This stage is often the most critical in your job search. It’s a two-way street: you need to impress the employer, and they need to impress you.

The interview process begins before the actual interview. As soon as you receive the invitation, start researching the company. Gather key stats and information. Reach out to your network for insider insights. Demonstrating your interest and knowledge about the company will impress your interviewer.

Many stumble at the seemingly innocuous question, “Tell me about yourself.” Here’s a tip: the interviewer is not interested in your childhood pet. They’re asking about your skills and core competencies. Respond accordingly.

Narrate your experience and skills as stories. Instead of using clichéd lines like “Customer service is in my DNA,” share a story that showcases your dedication to customer service.

Remember, employers are risk-averse. Show them you’re a safe bet. Understand the key skills and requirements for the role and come prepared to demonstrate your proficiency. Avoid mentioning short-term plans that could be perceived as a risk, like relocating in six months.

An interview is akin to a conversation. Listen as much as you talk. Respond to the questions asked and ask your own. Learn as much as you can about the role and the company culture. Remember, you’re evaluating them as much as they’re evaluating you. If the position or company doesn’t align with your ideal job profile, it’s okay to move on.


Master the Art of Salary Negotiations

Imagine you’ve navigated the labyrinth of job hunting, using the Parachute Approach as your compass. The Flower Exercise has helped you crystallize your ideal role, and your compelling online and offline resumes have opened doors. At last, the job you’ve been dreaming of is within your grasp.

Do you accept it without a second thought?

Hold your horses. It’s time to discuss the matter of remuneration. Finding a fulfilling job is crucial, but so is securing a salary that reflects your worth. This is why salary forms a significant petal in your flower diagram.

The key takeaway here is: Master the art of salary negotiations.

To secure the best possible salary package, you need to be ready for a candid and thorough negotiation process. Here are five strategies to ensure you emerge victorious.

Firstly, save the money talk for the end. The salary discussion is vital, but it should be the final act of the interview process. Regardless of how certain you are about landing the job, wait until an offer is on the table before broaching the subject of compensation.

Secondly, let the employer make the first move. Many employers aim to pay new hires the bare minimum. If you throw out a figure that’s lower than their expectation, that’s what you’ll receive. However, once they’ve made their offer, you’re in a position to ask for more.

Thirdly, do your homework. Consult industry connections or use online resources like Glassdoor to determine the average salary range for similar roles in your field. If your salary request is excessively high, you risk jeopardizing your chances of securing the role.

Fourthly, “hack your proposed salary range.” If your research is thorough, you might be able to estimate the salary range your employer has in mind. For instance, if it’s between $45,000 and $55,000, counter the lower end offer of 45k with a range that’s just below their maximum. Propose a range between $52,500 and $60,000. It’s still within reason, but it should prompt them to increase their counter-offer.

Lastly, don’t conclude your negotiations until you’ve discussed benefits. Perks like health insurance, life insurance, and vacation time can add 15 to 18 percent value on top of your base salary. Ensure you’re not overlooking a low-paying job with substantial benefits or a high-paying one with minimal perks.

Remember, you work to live, not the other way around. So, negotiate a salary that allows you to live comfortably.


Can’t Find Your Dream Job? Invent It!

Let’s revisit the Flower Exercise. This self-assessment tool is designed to lead you to your dream job. But what if the role you envision for yourself doesn’t exist after completing the exercise? Have you made a mistake? Should you start over?

Not necessarily. Just because your dream job doesn’t fit into the conventional nine-to-five mold doesn’t mean it’s unattainable. In fact, you can parachute into the role you’ve always wanted, with the best boss in the world – yourself!

The key takeaway here is: If you can’t find your dream job, invent it!

So, what will your business do? Maybe you want to sell handmade jewelry or launch a boutique eco-consultancy. Fantastic! You’re already on the right track.

But what if you don’t have a clear business idea? Here’s a simple strategy: List five things you’re good at, then list five things you love to do. Cross-reference these lists to find overlaps and generate potential business ideas. For instance, if you love baking and have teaching experience, you could start offering baking workshops!

Before you invest in a set of cake decorating tools, though, you need to understand an important equation: A minus B equals C. In this equation, A represents the total skills you need to succeed. This is an unknown quantity. B represents the skills you already possess. Subtract B from A, and you’ll get C, which represents the remaining skills you need to develop before launching your venture. The challenge is, you don’t know what A is . . . yet.

Your mission is to determine A for your chosen field. To do this, you need data. Conduct research, then connect with entrepreneurs whose small business experience aligns with your game plan. Ask them about the essential skills and expertise needed to succeed in the area. Don’t stop there. Ask how they launched their business, the challenges they faced, and what they would do differently if given the chance.

Once you’ve gathered enough data, you’ll not only understand your existing strengths and skills, but also those you need to cultivate to succeed. Perhaps, in addition to baking skills, you’ll need basic bookkeeping expertise and some social media savvy. If you can develop these before launching your business, you’re setting yourself up for success.



The key takeaway from these Summaries:

If your job search isn’t bearing fruit, don’t simply search harder, search smarter. Start by using the Flower Exercise to determine what you want from a job. Then, leverage your connections and optimize your online profile. Brush up on interview strategies, and don’t shy away from discussing your desired salary. Follow these simple steps, and you might be surprised by how quickly you parachute into your dream job!

Actionable advice: Boost your confidence with informational interviews.

You don’t need to apply for a job to request an interview. Have you heard of an informational interview? This is an informal chat where a company employee briefs you on their workplace culture and specific role at the firm. Requesting informational interviews from your connections is a great way to strengthen contacts in your field. These interviews also provide insight into different companies while you’re trying to find out which ones might be a good fit

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