Dick Bolles, Talent Mentor in Memoriam

Dick Bolles died last month. He accomplished a lot during his ninety years, including writing, designing, and annually updating his job-hunting classic, What Color Is Your Parachute? Dick was proud, and rightfully so, when the Library of Congress chose Parachute as one of twenty-five books that have most influenced reader’s lives. His book was right up there with War and PeaceTo Kill a Mockingbird, and the Bible.

photo of dick bolles

Parachute certainly influenced my career. Dick became a role model for me, as an author. However, the most important role he played in my life was that of talent mentor. His influence in this regard was so magical that I have, ever since, jokingly referred to him as my fairy godfather.

Dick Bolles mentored my writing project.

Before I met Dick, I had been slogging away at an early draft of my Career Guide. I felt very alone with my project. Most people would simply stare at me when I told them what I was working on. Even members of my intended audience, creative and unconventional people, often did not get it. But Dick understood, immediately. From what he said, I gathered that he too had, at one time, felt alone with Parachute.

As my mentor, Dick opened doors. My book wasn’t about his favorite topic, job hunting. Nevertheless, he used his influence to pave the way. He flung the gates wide open for me at Ten Speed Press. He introduced me to other career book authors. He served as my writing coach. He promoted my work. Not only did he write a helpful introduction, but once the book was published, he urged career counselors everywhere to read it. Far from being alone with my project, I had found a tremendous supporter.

Dick Bolles showed me that talent mentors open doors.

Two decades later, I still feel incredibly fortunate. All those different doors? It was his idea to open them. I don’t recall asking him for anything. His support was freely given, a natural expression of his hopeful, moral, and generous nature. And he never appeared to expect anything in return, except possibly my friendship.

I expressed my gratitude back in 1994. Saying thanks seemed paltry in comparison to the many gifts he’d given me, so I asked what I could do for him. “Don’t worry,” he said, “you can pay it forward.” This blog about mentoring talent is partly my attempt to repay his amazing generosity. If you find something here that appears worthy, then please consider it a part of Dick Bolles’ enduring legacy.

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