How to Find the Right Job: Knowing What You Want

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "What Color Is Your Parachute?" by Richard N. Bolles. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What job is right for you? Do you know how to find the right job?

Finding the right job is not always easy. What Color Is Your Parachute? offers 7 worksheets on how to find the right job.

Keep reading for the Parachute book’s strategies for how to find the right job.

How to Find the Right Job Based on What You Know

The goal of this petal is to figure out what knowledge you currently have that most excites you. If you like, you can also include a list of what you’d like to know. This will help you figure out what fields or industries you might like to work in.

The entries on this petal will be nouns. An example petal might read: how to change a tire, Japanese language, gardening, psychology, beekeeping.

There are three worksheets involved with filling out this petal:

Worksheet #1: What Do You Enjoy?

On a scrap piece of a paper, answer the following questions:

  • What hobbies do you like to spend a lot of time doing?
  • What activities make you lose track of time?
  • What subjects do you like to talk about?
  • What websites or blogs do you find yourself on and what are they about?
  • What TV shows or podcasts do you like and what are they about?
  • What courses or classes (either in-person or online) would you be interested in taking?
  • What newspaper articles, magazines, and books do you like to read and what are they about?
  • What would you write a book about, if it wasn’t a biography?

Worksheet #2: What Do You Already Know?

On a scrap piece of paper, create a chart with the following four columns. Write down as much as you possibly can.

Column A: What you know from the jobs you’ve had so far.Column B: What you know from outside work.Column C: What fields, industries, or careers interest you.Column D: Other good ideas.
Here, write a list of things you’ve learned during your past work experience. Write down even things that seem simple or that you take for granted. For example, if you worked as a bookkeeper, still write down bookkeeping.Here, write things that you learned because you were interested in them and things you learned in school, at conferences/workshops, in online courses, or in the world. For example, you might have taken a course in comedy writing or organized your wedding.Here, write down which sectors interest you. There are six broad categories of work: agriculture, finance, information, manufacturing, services, and technology. Each of these categories breaks down further. If you need help brainstorming, look at the tools on O*NET OnLine. Write down a few options. Remember that no jobs or industries last forever so it’s always important to have a backup plan.Here, write down any miscellaneous knowledge you have that wasn’t covered in the other columns.

Worksheet #3: Determining Your Favorites

On a scrap piece of paper, create the following chart. This chart is a prioritizing aid that will help you figure out your most important knowledges. You’re going to rank the knowledges you came up with in worksheets #1 and #2 by how much expertise and enthusiasm you have about them. 

Box A: Here, write the topics that you have expertise in but don’t have enthusiasm for.Box B: Here, write the topics that you have both expertise and enthusiasm for.
Box C: This box is for subjects that you neither have expertise nor enthusiasm for. This box is optional⁠—you won’t pursue any of the activities in this box, so if you fill it out, it’s just as a warning.Box D: Here, write the subjects that you have enthusiasm but little expertise for.

Once you’ve finished the box chart, take the top five knowledges from Box B (use the prioritizing grid if you need to) and transfer them to Petal #5.

How to Find the Right Job Based on What You Want

The goal of this petal is to determine how much money you need and/or want to earn from your job. 

The entries on this petal will be the level you want to work at, a salary range, and benefits. An example petal might read: manager level, $30-35/hour, improve the environment.

Money and happiness are both important, and they’re related. A 2010 study found that people who made less money were unhappier than those who made more. However, it also found that once people made over $75K/year, their satisfaction with life increased, but their happiness remained the same. Therefore, this petal is extra-related to all the other petals, especially to ones that have to do with your happiness.

There are three worksheets involved with filling out this petal:

Worksheet #1: Finding the Right Job Responsibilities

Your job level is related to your salary⁠—the more responsibilities you have, the more you’re paid. Ask yourself how much responsibility do you want? Do you want to be the boss, a manager, a team member? Write down a two- or three-word description on Petal #5.

Worksheet #2: What Salary Range Do You Want?⁠

The minimum number in your salary range is what you’d need to survive. To find that out, create a budget that states what you’re currently spending. Figure out how much you spend in each of the following categories. Add any categories that you feel are missing:

  • Housing, including rent/mortgage, utilities, and so on
  • Food, including groceries, restaurants, and so on
  • Clothes, including buying clothes and laundry
  • Transportation, including car payments, gas, repairs, bus passes, parking, and so on
  • Insurance, including car, home, medical, life, and so on
  • Health, including appointments, gym memberships, prescriptions, and so on
  • Support, including daycare, home care for elderly relatives, pets, and so on
  • Donations
  • Education, including your own or your family’s
  • Bills, including credit cards
  • Taxes, including local, state, and federal, and tax services. Note that sometimes you can claim job-searching costs
  • Savings, including for retirement
  • Fun, including concert tickets, cable, and so on

Once you’ve come up with a monthly amount, multiply it by 12 to get the yearly amount and then divide it by 2,000 to find out how much you’d need to make per hour to support that budget.

The maximum number in your salary range should be the highest realistic salary a generous boss would give you. To find that out, redo your budget with the numbers you’d like to be spending in each of the categories.

Transfer the minimum and maximum numbers to Petal #6.

Worksheet #3: Factors Besides Money

This is an optional worksheet. Because money only buys happiness up to a point, you might want to consider what else you can get out of a job besides salary. Finding the right job may mean you need to consider things such as respect, challenge, fame, or opportunities to do things such as be creative or help others. 

Transfer your list to Petal #6.

How to Find the Right Job Location

The goal of this petal is to figure out where in the world you’d most like to live if you had the choice and to resolve any potential conflicts with your partner about where she’d like to live. It’s important to consider location early because if you get an unexpected opportunity, you want to be able to act on it right away.

The entries on this petal include five specific places to live and a list of five geographical factors. An example petal might read: Tokyo, Florence, Paris, Calgary, Buenos Aires, sunny, near mountains, good air quality, bilingual, friendly.

There is one worksheet involved with filling out this petal:

Worksheet: Determine Desirable Geographic Factors

On a scrap piece of paper, create a chart with the following four columns:

Column A: List the place you’ve lived.Column B: What did you dislike about the places you lived?Column C: What do you like in a location?Column D: What are your top ten factors?
Here, write the list.Here, write things that you didn’t enjoy. They don’t have to be written beside the name of the places, and if things come up multiple times, add a checkmark for each instance rather than repeating the factor.Here, list anything you liked about the places you’ve lived. Also list opposites, or near-opposites, of all the things in column B.Here, list the most important factors in a place to live. Use the prioritizing grid.

If you’re doing this worksheet with your partner, get them to fill out the chart too. Then, together, make a list of your top twenty factors, alternating your and your partner’s factors in priority sequence. For example, your top factor is somewhere sunny and her top factor is somewhere French-speaking, write French-speaking, then sunny, then move on to both of your second-most-important factors. Stop after ten factors.

Now that you have either your own or a combined list of top factors, over the next ten days, ask everyone you meet if they know of anywhere in the world that has all, or at least most of the top, factors. You can also try the website Teleport to brainstorm, or if you really can’t decide or agree with your partner, throw darts at a map. Transfer the top five places and the top five factors to your petal diagram.

How to Find the Right Job: Knowing What You Want

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Richard N. Bolles's "What Color Is Your Parachute?" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full What Color Is Your Parachute? summary:

  • How to not just find a job, but find a job you love
  • Why traditional resumes don’t find you the right job
  • The 7 steps to identifying your ideal career

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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