In today’s challenging job market, the time-tested advice of career guru Richard N. Bolles’ What Color Is Your Parachute? is needed more than ever. As the fall season approaches, many students and workers will be looking to make changes to their professional lives, so we’ve decided to share an excerpt of one of the classic elements from the book—the “Flower Exercise.” What is the Flower Exercise you might ask? It’s a diagram that gives you a complete picture of who you are from seven different angles, summarized in one graphic on a single page, ultimately helping you to find the career that matches all seven sides of you. For those of you looking to make significant work-life changes, start with this exercise—because knowing who you are before you begin the search for your dream job is half the battle.
This self-inventory is a flower with seven petals (including the center). That’s because there are seven sides to You, or seven ways of thinking about yourself, or seven ways of describing who you are—using the language of the workplace:
1. You and People. You can describe who you are in terms of the kinds of people you most prefer to work with or help—age span, problems, handicaps, geographical location, etc.
2. You and a Workplace. Or you can describe who you are in terms of your favorite workplace, or working conditions—indoors/outdoors, small company/large company, windows/no windows, etc.—because they enable you to work at your top form, and greatest effectiveness.
3. You and Skills. Or you can describe who you are in terms of what you can do, and what your favorite functional/transferable skills are. For these are key to your being in top form, and at your greatest effectiveness.
4. You and Your Purpose in Life. Or you can describe who you are in terms of your goals or sense of mission and purpose for your life. Alternatively, or in addition, you can get even more particular and describe the goals or mission you want the organization to have, where you decide to work.
5. You and the Knowledges You Already Have. Or you can describe who you are in terms of what you already know—and what your favorite knowledges or interests are among all that stuff stored away in your head.
6. You and Responsibility. Or you can describe who you are in terms of your preferred salary and level of responsibility—working by yourself, or as a member of a team, or supervising others, or running the show—that you feel most fitted for, by experience, temperament, and appetite.
7. You and Geography. Or you can describe who you are in terms of your preferred surroundings—here or abroad, warm/cold, north/south, east/west, mountains/coast, urban/suburban/rural/rustic—where you’d be happiest, do your best work, and would most love to live, all year long, or part of the year, or vacation time, or sabbatical—either now, five years from now, or at retirement.
Make it your goal to completely fill in your Flower. And try to feel it as a joy rather than a duty. Determine from the beginning that this is going to be fun. Because it sure can be. And should be.
As a bonus, we’re offering tips on how to avoid the 10 greatest interview mistakes. Click the link to download.