Purple Squirrel: 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 even more drastically. 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 people, at all levels, to be willing (and able) to wear many hats. They need extremely flexible people: those willing to ignore stereotypical job descriptions, those willing to overlook set-in-stone work and break schedules in order to do whatever it takes to get the job done. They want (and are getting) employees consistently willing to go where none in their professions have gone before! Those who regardless of seniority or expertise are willing to continually learn and grow, 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 ever beyond them and their ability to learn, 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?”
About Pat: On December 1st 2011 I will celebrate 11 years with Avaya. I am a Management Associate at Avaya Inc, at the Westminster Colorado office. In addition to supporting my Director and several departments, I also provide global division level document security services; I am co-founder and current lead of AWAN, Avaya's global assistant network; I am an active member of Avaya’s Ambassador Program; and I help to plan, organize and host one of our most important annual in-house events, our R&D Summit/Symposium. ). I am a breast cancer survivor 9 years now (double mastectomy surgery on 11/29/01, followed by chemo which ended 3/31/02).
My email: email@example.com
My LinkedIn site: www.linkedin.com/in/PatBarber
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