Few people have helped as many people find the right job as Dick Bolles. The best-selling author of What Color is Your Parachute? and co-founder of eParachute.com has been advising job seekers for over 40 years. I had a chance to speak with Bolles recently as part of the OpenIDEO Youth Employment Challenge. The online challenge, done in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative, hopes to engage a global community in tackling the issue of youth employment. Below are notes from our conversation, which I hope will help stimulate creativity for the challenge’s Ideas Phase.
“Education, if it’s doing its job, needs to teach young people three things: they need to learn who they are, how to find the right work, and how to find an appropriate life partner. If colleges were ever to think about how they could help students learn about those three problems, education would be turned on its head.”
Bolles makes a compelling case for the value of self-knowledge. During our short conversation, he shared two stories of readers who told him how much easier their job searches became after they invested in self-exploration. Knowing your own gifts and interests well not only enables you to narrow your focus, it also helps you to understand how your skills might transfer to roles you might not have previously imagined.
Job Hunt in Groups
“I was talking to someone looking for a job and asked, ‘WHY are you doing your job hunt alone?’ I never understand why people don’t work together and help each other… Only by youth talking to other youth can we make a dent in this problem.”
For me, this insight was a real eye opener, but it makes perfect sense. At IDEO, we strongly believe that collaboration leads to great things, so why not apply this same logic to looking for a new job? Making job hunts more social makes them more enjoyable and educational. Job seekers are able to share leads, networks, and advice. They’re able to practice for interviews together and keep each other’s spirits up after setbacks. And once they start landing jobs, the value of their combined networks becomes all the more important. Animals hunt in packs, why shouldn’t we?
“Every job hunt in the world depends on one factor above all else: hope. Instead of always hearing about how intractable the problem [of youth unemployment] is, what if there was a project that collected success stories of people that took charge of their own job hunt and their own life?”
By nature, designers are optimistic. We believe there are solutions to tough problems and that, with the right methodology and collaboration, we can find them. It’s easy to lose your optimism, though, when the odds feel stacked against you. That’s why Bolles’ point is so critical: maintaining hope is an essential ingredient to a successful job search. How might we protect young people’s most important asset—their hope?
I invite you to join the conversation by sharing your ideas and solutions on OpenIDEO’s Youth Employment Challenge. I, personally, will be offering a design critique to a selected idea during the challenge’s Refinement Phase and one lucky participant will be selected to attend the Clinton Global Initiative’s 10th Annual Meeting in September 2014.
What advice have you given to first-time job seekers?
(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)