Are You Willing to Become One, or Will One Replace You?
By Pat Barber
The term “Purple Squirrel” recently caught my attention. As I must do when my curiosity is peaked, I investigated! Urbandictionary.com gives this definition: “The elusive candidate with exactly the right qualifications to match a business’s needs.” Then I ran across an October 11th 2010 CBSNewYork.com article describing it this way: “Businesses are looking to do more and more with fewer people, so they want people who are able to take on a wide range of duties.”
But wait! Aren’t “exactly the right qualifications” and “wide range of duties” conflicting terms? Perhaps – perhaps not. Here’s the thing. The term “Purple Squirrel” has been around for a number of years now, mostly familiar to HR and recruiting professionals who coined the term to describe businesses whose candidate expectations were, in their opinion, impossibly unrealistic.
The recent global recession, however, forced business expectations to change. In short the age of “It’s not in my job description!”, or “I haven’t been trained in that!”, or “I have seniority - I shouldn’t have to work so hard!” can no longer be tolerated. And in fact, it does not have to be! Realistic or not, impossible or not, in a job market saturated with thousands upon thousands of job seekers, businesses hold the upper hand and their demands are being met! Progressive and college prep high schools, college career counselors, HR representatives, and even recruiters – all are scrambling to make the impossible possible. The formerly elusive and near-extinct Purple Squirrel is not only alive and well, it is fast becoming prolific!
Businesses need their people, at all levels, to be willing (and able) to wear many hats. They need extremely flexible people, willing to ignore stereotypical job descriptions or inflexible work hours. They want (and are getting) employees consistently willing to go where none in their profession have gone before! Employees who, regardless of seniority, are willing to continually learn and grow, willing to consistently push themselves (and others) past comfort zones! They want and need employees who hold an ever present and unshakeable conviction that nothing is beyond them or their ability to learn, or is “bigger” than them, or beneath them, or is “someone else’s job”.
They want and need Purple Squirrels!
And if their existing staff cannot or will not become the Purple Squirrels they need, they will simply go elsewhere for them! And so I respectfully submit that the question for every employee today - no matter where, in what profession, or at what level - truly does become:
“Are you willing to become a Purple Squirrel … or will one replace you?”