Parachute PastorRichard Bolles

(Reading Time: 2 minutes)

When Bolles graduated from Teaneck (N.J.) High School in 1945, his yearbook quote was, “Dick’s future will be scientific / But in which field he’s not specific.” He indeed had a lot of interests: after serving in the U.S. Navy, he studied chemical engineering at MIT, transferred to Harvard to get his bachelor’s in physics, and then got a master’s from New York’s Episcopal General Theological Seminary. He served as a pastor in several churches until he was fired in 1968. He had a hard time finding a new job, but finally found one months later. Bolles had other minister friends in a similar situation, so he put his career advice for out-of-work ministers into a photocopied pamphlet in 1970. It was popular, so in 1972, he expanded his pamphlet into a more general career advice book — or maybe the best-known job-hunting guide ever: What Color Is Your Parachute? It hit the New York Times’ best-seller list in 1979, and stayed there for more than a decade (and occasionally has been listed there since). It has sold more than 10 million copies and is available in 22 languages. In 1995, the Library of Congress named it as one of the top “25 Books That Have Shaped Readers’ Lives”. Why the odd title? Because as a minister, he often heard from his flock that they were dissatisfied with their jobs, and were thinking of “bailing out” to find something else. “And I always thought of an airplane when I heard that phrase,” he said. “So I would respond, ‘What color is your parachute?’” Bolles retired from the ministry in 2004, but continued to update his book each year, as he had done since 1975. He recruited his son, Gary, to continue that after he died, suggesting he have job experts help. “I told him to make sure to find people who were funny, have a lightheartedness about them,” he said. “When you are out of work and on the ropes, that is so important.” Bolles died March 31 at a hospital in San Ramon, Calif. He was 90.

From This is True for 2 April 2017