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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.

Photo of Patrick Donohue
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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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Photo of Gavin Cosgrave

Hey Patrick!
I actually bought and tried eParacute. Since your the product designer, I wanted to let you know about my experience:
1. I really like the personality assessment part. The interests, skills, personality traits...it was great. I like how it lets you pick a bunch, then narrows it down. That whole part is great. I was pretty excited.
2. When I got the career suggestions, though, I was a little disappointed. I'm pretty sure the top two were marine engineer and aerospace engineer, neither of which I'm remotely interested in. All the jobs felt outdated, and the new job market (more technology and experience design) felt very underrepresented. Maybe this is because the book is older.
Anyway, just thought I'd share. I'd love it if you would check out my idea. You sound like a really interesting guy involved in a lot of cool stuff!

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Photo of Patrick Donohue

Thanks for the feedback, Gavin! It's really helpful!

We've actually got a number of changes to the user experience in the pipeline, based on very similar feedback from other users.

By the way, I think your idea for this challenge looks great! Informational interviewing and "trying on" careers is a big part of the original Parachute process.

Patrick

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Hey Patrick – thought you might want to join the conversation over here: https://openideo.com/challenge/youth-employment-pathways/research/play2work-who-said-gaming-was-a-waste-of-time-press-play-to-start-your-career given it's posted by a digital media dude from Amsterdam who's making fresh strides in engagement around career development.

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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. -- This is absolutely true. In the U.S., 18-year-olds have to choose a college major without much exposure to the different fields they could study. Many students change majors in college before graduating and then receive a diploma with little experience of the world and what kind of job they might want. Yet, their major often limits the options they have to work after school.
I think eParachute may be good before/during college to help students figure out what they want before they have finished investing in a degree.

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Photo of Aaryaman Singhal

It would still be useful after they finish school, but could have more impact before.

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Great idea to use this tool while still in college Aaryaman. It will open up one's mind to what the possibilities are. Just doing that can be incredibly helpful.

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Patrick, fantastic post! The lessons you draw from the experience of eParachute are really insightful and helpful. Understanding the breadth of one's potential and the power of networking can't be stated enough.

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awesome post and work, patrick. hopefully you all grow to expand beyond your current boundaries. sounds like cool work.

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Photo of Guy Viner

Hey Patrick- Glad to see you sharing your learnings from eParachute. Do you have any insights into how youth engaged on the platform cross-culturally? Has your team gathered any data on what youth are doing after they use the eParachute?

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Photo of Patrick Donohue

Hi Guy,

Unfortunately no, we don't have any specific insights from cross-cultural use, and as I mentioned our user testing is currently focused on U.S. and English-speaking users. The book is definitely globally relevant, available in 20 languages, and RNB has written versions focused both on teens and retirement.

We're definitely interested in what eParachute's user base is doing afterwards, especially looking for unintended uses and to help us prioritize features. For example, we just rolled out a feature that suggests potential college majors or courses to a user, in response to a common question we've been seeing around "what next steps should I take get to the careers I am interested in?"

We've also seen some power users running through eParachute again and again to "try on" different jobs. The platform currently provides a sample of current and local job listings (if available) for each career, with the intent of helping people better visualize themselves in a particular career, however there's a lot more to be done to support that particular use case.

Patrick

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Thanks for bringing up these use cases. The insights they give us are definitely worth bringing into the ideas phase of this challenge. I'm excited to learn more!

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Photo of Patrick Donohue

Wow, thanks team. Hope it's helpful!