Richard Bolles was responsible for coaching laid-off ministers to find a new line of work. He was a minister ministering to ministers who could no longer minister. To help his clients, he wrote a little pamphlet with tips on how to move on to another calling.
The pamphlet had strategies that went against all conventional wisdom. It taught job seekers to stop relying on want ads (Craigslist postings for you Millennials), and network their way into jobs created just for them.
Instead of waiting to be interviewed by companies, Bolles coached people to go out and interview the companies they wanted to work for. Very disruptive strategies. Perfect for Manic Impressives.
That Little Pamphlet
Richard published that pamphlet as a book titled “What Color Is Your Parachute”. It spent 288 weeks on the NY Times Bestseller List and sold over 10 million copies in 26 countries and 22 languages.
Richard Bolles died last month at the age of 90. But his legacy will live on for ages. Dick, as he called himself, turned the job-search field on its head, and developed a massive legion of fans. Me among them.
I used Dick’s book in my 20’s to understand my most valuable skills and leverage them into a career. In my 40’s and 50’s I used it to successfully network for opportunities. But it was in my 30’s that I had my Richard Bolles adventure.
The Big Idea
While working as a training consultant, I came up with a brilliant idea. Take the things I learned from Parachute and produce a one-day seminar. Capitalize on the name recognition of the book and create a one-stop shop for career changers and job seekers. Have people work through the exercises, provide case studies and support, and hook them up with lots of resources. I saw the whole thing in my head, complete with sponsorships and advertisers.
All I needed was one thing: Permission. It wasn’t my material, so I would have to get Richard Bolles to allow me to license his name and material. But how the hell would I do that?
Ponder for a second. What would you do? Play with the idea for a bit then toss it aside as a pipe dream? Or find a way to take some action? Past history showed I would have chosen pipe dream. Not this time.
Keep in mind, this was well before the internet, and contacting an author meant knowing someone in the business. I flipped through the book, read Dick’s bio, and tried to contact him through his publisher. No go.
Guess What I Did?
You’ll never guess, so I’m going to tell you. I picked up the phone, dialed 411, and asked if there was a listing for Richard Bolles. Son of a gun. The man who sold nearly as many books as the Bible was listed in the phreaking phone book.
So I called and guess who answered? Yup, Dick answered, as nice as can be. Even more amazing. Being highly Manic Impressive with no shame and even less inhibition, I asked him to lunch. And you know what he said? “Sure, why not.”
Two weeks later I met Dick at the House of Sake in Walnut Creek. Turns out he was a huge fan of Japanese food, extremely gracious, and an absolute pleasure to lunch with. We talked about all sorts of things, then near the end of lunch I wound up to give my pitch.
Guess what he said?
Wait, what? That doesn’t fit the amazing theme. How did you screw this up?
First off, his ‘no’ was quite polite. His wife was working on a seminar she wanted to deliver, and though he would license material to me, he couldn’t let me use his name or book for a seminar. A polite, but matter-of-fact, no.
Hey I took my shot, and got to have lunch with my hero. So I thanked him for meeting with me and reached for the check. But he wouldn’t let me pay. “I have a personal policy,” he said. “Whoever sells the most books picks up the check.”
The Legacy of Richard Bolles
Dick updated “What Color Is Your Parachute” annually for 40 years. His gift to the world is still available, and still the best advice to make your career dreams come true.
And as usual, even now, Dick is extremely generous. You can access his site with tons of free resources, or get an online subscription to his E-Parachute site with all the personal inventory exercises for an entire year for only $4.99.
Yes. Under 5 bucks for a year with the best career tools and advice ever written. That’s an incredible legacy.
So if you’re working in a place that doesn’t appreciate you, or you’re helping your kids find their way in the world, take advantage of the legacy Richard left behind. You won’t even have to pay for lunch.
He still won’t let you.