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Guidance for Skydiving Into the Job Market

May 18, 1999|MIMI AVINS

"What Color Is Your Parachute?," the perennially bestselling guide for job hunters, is a classic of its genre. Despite the fact that the manual has been updated annually since its publication in 1970, the no-nonsense core of its advice hasn't changed: Long before Nike told athletes to "just do it," "Parachute" was dispensing the same message, then refining it with practical, easy-to-follow specifics.

Is it the only book a college graduate will want to pick up in June when preparing to launch a career quest? Probably not. But new offerings, such as "What Now? Words of Wisdom for Life After Graduation," don't present much of an alternative. What a difference 30 years make, and how curious the evolution.

Shortly after the hippie-inspired summer of love, "What Color Is Your Parachute?" didn't ignore a job hunter's feelings, but its strength was its pragmatism. In "What Now?" the sound bite has replaced the plan. The moral view now stands in the stead of strategy. Can a person without a job afford to be this touchy-feely? Only with a trust fund.

"What Now?" quotes a diverse cast of pundits, following the premise that the road to wisdom is paved with pithy comments from the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg and William Shakespeare. What's a grad to make of Khalil Gibran's musing that "all work is empty save when there is love; and when you work with love, you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God"? At least Yoda is a more succinct guru when he implores, "Do or not do. There is no try."

Comedians provide food for thought. Jerry Seinfeld observes, "Life is truly a ride. . . . I think the most you can hope for at the end of life is that your hair is messed, you're out of breath and you didn't throw up."

For anyone contemplating a job in a highly competitive field, Lily Tomlin notes, "The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat."

Either remark might give a slacker justification to neither do nor try and just maintain residence in his high school room.

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