Parachute into the Right New Job. WHETHER YOU JUMPED OR WERE PUSHED

`THE tendency before you read my book is to blame what's going on out there,'' says Richard Nelson Bolles, author of the best-selling manual for job-hunters, ``What Color is Your Parachute?'' ``After you read the book, you know full well it's inside you.''

Bolles's book has sold more than 3 million copies since he published it himself in 1970. He has revised it every year since 1976 for Ten Speed Press in Berkeley, Calif. This year's model, says Bolles in a telephone interview from Walnut Creek, Calif., is ``the most revised ever,'' thanks to his MacIntosh computer, which allowed him to rewrite as never before.

Revisions are based on the thousands of letters he solicits and gets from job-hunters every year. It's an effective self-help book, he says, because it's truly ``hammered out on the anvil of experience.'' Most people buy it after friends recommend it.

You've heard the statistics before: The average job lasts 3.6 years, and the average worker will job-hunt eight times. Unfortunately, those searches are more ordeal than inspiration.

Last year when the economy was doing well, the book sold more than 300,000 copies - the most yet. Bolles attributes this to ``internal forces'' that operate within a person who is feeling secure enough to explore other possibilities, both job and whole career changes.

The latter are made more difficult, says Bolles, by our cultural attitude that career change is a sign of personal instability; but quite the opposite is true.

Bolles's book is solid help for those who have bailed out of a job, been fired, or just plain want to switch careers. Whatever the case, the job search begins within, with knowing what you can do and want to do. Before you go on a search, you've got to know what you're selling - yourself.

`PARACHUTE'' gives practical advice on the search:

Learn as much as you can about the jobs and companies that interest you. And don't forget to write thank-you notes to all who help when you do interview, including receptionist, secretary, and interviewer. ``You don't write because it might get you a job,'' says Bolles. ``You write them because it's simple human courtesy, very lamentably lost in our present culture.''

The most common error among job-hunters: ``Not spending enough time on it.'' He reports that the average American job-hunt - for one unemployed - is five hours per week, visiting six employers per month. ``You can see two employers a day without even breathing hard,'' says Bolles.

The second most common problem: Not knowing what you have to offer. ``Skills are like pearls ... the reason the necklace looks so lovely is not because of any one pearl,'' he says. ``It looks so lovely because they're all together there ... with the largest pearls right in the center in the front.''

Included in the 1989 edition is a new ``Quick Job-Hunting (and Career-Changing) Map,'' a workbook to help define goals, interests, and individual style. In the aptitude assessment you're asked to tell several ``achievement stories'' from your past, identify the tools you used (physical, mental, or spiritual), and find which skills you use the most. Then you decide which of those skills you most like to use. Even if you're not looking for a job now, the book may be beneficial; people change, and job situations change.

The introspective exercises, however, may not be for everyone. ``The book is most helpful to adults who have had some work experience,'' says Martha P. Leape, Director of the Office of Career Services at Harvard University. ``Many undergraduates aren't prepared to engage in such extensive self-assessment exercises.'' Often the best way to learn about themselves is to get into a job, says Ms. Leape.

``I read it a long time ago,'' says Carmeline Khazei of New Hampshire, with a string of careers including artist, model, businesswoman, nurse, and mother of four. ``I feel I have a lot of skills I haven't tapped. [The book] helps you to think about which ones to tap.''

Mrs. Khazei praises the book's guidelines for looking into new careers, but notes that it's each person's responsibility to take the necessary steps. ``It helps you to open up your parachute,'' says Mrs. Khazei, ``but it's up to you to keep flying.''

THE new edition is fun to read. Bolles's writing is lucid and witty, while the graphics are well-organized and easy to follow. The book ends with the chapter, ``How To Find Your Mission in Life,'' where the author (an Episcopal priest of 30 years) talks of higher concerns.

``To figure out what your mission is in life is a moment-by-moment matter, it's a continuous process.'' Every decision counts; do we always opt to make the world a better place? To put a little more love in the world?

``There are people who are out there on the freeway cutting off everyone with about 2 feet to spare while they're screaming down the highway, `God, I want to know what my mission is in life.'

``Your mission was to not cut off that car.''

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