Book Review: No Parachute Required
From time-to-time, as we receive career-related and job-hunting books and other resources from publishers, the staff of Quintessential Careers will review them to help you make better decisions about the best books to use in your career and job search.
No Parachute Required: Translating Your Passion into a Paycheck — And a Career, by Jeff Gunhus, 416 pages, Hyperion; ISBN: 0786885513, $12.95.
Reviewed by Katharine Hansen
As much as we love Richard Nelson Bolles’ wise and wonderful classic, What Color is Your Parachute?, we’ve always felt it was somewhat better suited to established jobseekers and career-changers than to entry-level workers and college students. In that sense, Jeff Gunhus’ No Parachute Required could be poised to fill a niche.
The book’s subtitle, “Translating Your Passion into a Paycheck — And a Career,” aligns well with the thrust of Bolles’s book — figuring out what you really want to do with your life and career. We know through many queries to The Career Doctor and from young readers of our newsletter, QuintZine, that the quest for a career path is a huge issue on the minds of those who are at or near college age. One gets the impression that helping students plot their career path is the main focus of Gunhus’s book, but he actually devotes only about the first quarter of his fat volume to this subject.
Gunhus covers the “follow your bliss” topic well and provides numerous exercises to help readers through the process. Students who are confused about their future would do well to put the necessary time into working through these exercises.
We wonder if he should have left it at that. It’s not that the rest of the book isn’t valuable. It’s just that, at 416 pages, it’s too darned long. As a recent college instructor and parent of two teenagers, I know only too well that most young people don’t read any more than they absolutely have to. Sad but true. Gunhus might have been better advised to split his book into two volumes. To help the reluctant reader, Gunhus provides wonderfully reader-friendly bulleted lists summarizing each chapter. Young people who find a 416-page book just too daunting can still get a lot out of reading those bulleted summaries at the end of each chapter. We’re just not sure they’ll want to pay $12.95 to do so.
After the opening section, entitled “How to Decide on a Direction,” Gunhus follows with “How to Prepare for Your Job Search,” “How to Find the Best Opportunities,” “How to Interview and Get the Job,” “Job Offers, Negotiation, and Other Fun,” “Unconventional Options,” and “Secrets.” The author’s advice is liberally peppered with entertaining and instructive anecdotes from his own experience.
Gunhus’s best chapter, by far, is the one in which he discusses the value of internships, a subject in which he is well-versed as CEO of National Services Group, which manages two of the nation’s largest student internship programs. Many students need the kind of push Gunhus provides. He even includes a list of common student excuses for not doing internships and counters with arguments about why those excuses aren’t valid. He also furnishes some extremely valuable contact information on good internships programs. Perhaps he should have written his whole book on internships instead of trying to cover the entire gamut of job-seeking. To get a little taste of the internship chapter, you can go to Gunhus’s Web site about the book.
Some of the book’s organization strikes us as odd. Why tell students how to develop their resumes and cover letters before telling them about networking, researching companies, and developing a list of the right companies to target? We are also suspicious of anyone who would advise creating a resume or cover letter in the Courier type font. Courier looks like cheesy typewriter type, in our opinion.
Gunhus wisely advises young jobseekers to strive for perfection in their resumes and over letter. “Check for spelling errors at least a thousand times,” he writes, but he damages his credibility with some misspellings of his own (though, granted, we were given uncorrected proofs of his book for review, and these errors may be fixed in the final version). He sprinkles his book with appropriate quotes from well-known people, including two from Katharine Hepburn. As someone who spells her first name the same way Hepburn does, I am especially sensitive to the sin of spelling it “Katherine,” which Gunhus does twice. He also misspells Georgia O’Keeffe.
Gunhus offers numerous good tips in his sections on nitty-gritty job-seeking, and a comparison with a similar book, Brian Krueger’s College Grad Job Hunter may be apt. We admit to a slight bias toward Krueger’s book, having used it as a college textbook. Krueger and Gunhus are of similar age and orientation — both in their late-20s themselves and both involved in recruiting college students for jobs and/or internships — so they know what they’re talking about and they express themselves in a way that’s accessible to college students.
Krueger’s approach is a little more aggressive and sales-oriented, so those who are not comfortable with that posture may like Gunhus’s book better. On the other hand, Krueger’s book is a little shorter and is available completely free on the Web, so students who don’t like to read books or spend money on them might want to check out Krueger.
Bottom line, is Gunhus’s book a worthwhile addition to a college student’s career-book collection? Sure. We just would have liked to see it in smaller, more digestible bites.
Check out all our book reviews in Quintessential Reading: Career and Job Book Reviews.