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Self guided career exploration for young job-hunters using eParachute.

For decades the book "What Color is Your Parachute?" has been a go to guide for finding jobs or careers that best suit your unique combination of gifts, skills, and interests. In 2013, eParachute was launched as an online career exploration tool that combines Parachute's self-inventory methods with a database of careers paths and a community of career seekers. One of eParachute's primary goals is to make the Parachute experience faster, more interactive, and better suited for younger audiences.

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I've been working with the eParachute team as a product designer for the past year and a half. When I first started working with the team (led by the author's son Gary Bolles and his business partner Eric Barnett), we were pretty firmly focused on providing tools to older career changers, with whom the book is better known. However after significant user testing, we quickly realized that the eParachute would be particularly well suited to younger, college-age crowds.

Here are a few key findings from our user testing that differentiated young career hunters from older ones. Note that the users primarily came from the U.S. and Western Europe.
 
  • The original Parachute process (known as the Flower) is a seven part self assessment process that is incredibly enlightening, but lengthy.  Rather than wanting a deep dive, we found younger audiences much more interested in tools that could provide quick feedback. However they were very willing to use them over and over again to explore different results.
  • Younger users tended to be more open to possibilities, poring over different career suggestions and trying to understand why a particular career might be a good fit for them. Meanwhile older users tended to be more selective and dismiss the majority of the suggestions (I'd need to go back to school for that, I'd have to start a junior level, etc.).
  • Many young users are unaware of the sheer breadth of career paths that exist, and often make critical decisions (such as choosing majors) based on very little information or analysis.
  • A key component of Parachute is tap into your network and use so-called informational interviews to learn more about different jobs or careers.  However, unless a parent or relative is willing to help, most young users' professional networks are quite small.  
  • On the other hand, younger users are much more willing to share online information about themselves and their career interests.  They also appear much more willing to ask people they don't know in "real life" for help. 

One of the key takeaways from all the above is just confirmation for what's stated in the brief for this challenge, young job-hunters today face unique challenges that make many standard job hunting recipes less effective. However they also have some unique strengths and unparalleled access to information and resources.  People seeking to develop digital tools like eParachute should keep those challenges and strengths in mind.

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You can check out eParachute at http://eParachute.com



 

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