The clergyman who became a job-search guru
Richard Bolles 1927–2017
Richard Bolles turned job hunting into an art form. In 1970, the Episcopal priest self-published What Color Is Your Parachute?, a manual on how to look for work and change careers. The title was inspired by conversations with unhappy parishioners who complained they wanted to “bail out” of their jobs, and Bolles—who had shifted profession several times—offered folksy, practical advice about everything from how to identify your own talents to how to ace an interview. To Bolles’ enduring surprise, the book was picked up by an independent publisher and went on to sell more than 10 million copies worldwide. “I was just trying to help people be better prepared than I was when I was fired and started looking for a job,” Bolles said in 2014.
Born in Milwaukee, Bolles studied chemistry and physics in college but was inspired to become a clergyman, said The New York Times. After he’d served as an Episcopal priest for nearly 20 years, his position was eliminated in a budget crunch, and he spent six months anxiously searching for work while he and his young family lived in a motel. He eventually landed a job “helping chaplains at campuses in seven Western states find new careers.” They were the initial audience for his job-search manual.
Bolles updated Parachute every year, said The Washington Post. While he acknowledged that the internet had shaken up the jobhunting process, he insisted that the book’s “central wisdom had remained the same since the 1970s.” Job interviews are still just “two people circling each other, trying to figure out if they like each other enough to actually spend time together in a productive relationship,” Bolles said. “Human nature has not changed.”