As an IT, tech, or business professional, do you sometimes wish you were a purple squirrel?
In the natural world, purple squirrels do not exist. In the recruiting world, they don’t really exist either—but every once in a while, someone spots one.
Highly qualified in a specialized way, purple squirrels are industry lingo for the right skill set combination for a very particular need. The purple squirrel of one business could be a regular tree squirrel to another. While purple squirrels fill niche needs, part of their magical nature is sometimes their willingness to work for less than market salary rates.
As an experienced professional, you are probably familiar with job postings with an astounding combination of required skills and experience. Implausible and almost impossible to fill—that is a posting for a purple squirrel.
When you consider your current career plan and longer term goals, do you sometimes see a job posting that makes you wish you were a purple squirrel, too?
The fact behind the fiction of the purple squirrel
Our recruiters work with successful, mid-size to large companies seeking highly qualified business and technical professionals. We do the extra work to fully understand the background of the jobs for which we seek applicants. Because of that, we don’t deal with too many purple squirrel positions. Why?
- High quality employers: There are many profitable companies that are not necessarily quality employers. We work with high quality employers to ensure the professional and cultural fit of candidates we represent. That means the positions for which we recruit are reality based, generally involving experienced, adaptable candidates. By helping employers winnow their job descriptions to attract the best and the brightest, we avoid both the kitchen sink—and the purple squirrel.
- High unemployment means more purple squirrel postings: When the job marketplace is overflowing with talent, as it was between 2008 and 2013 during the Great Recession, there were a higher percentage of well-qualified candidates looking for employment.
Employers were able to demand and choose between purple and purple-striped squirrels. The Recession eased, the job market has tightened and turned advantageously toward skilled workers, especially individuals with capabilities in IT, project management, analytics, and tech. Unlike the purple squirrel, the talented niche worker of this economy is not likely to compromise on work environment, compensation, responsibilities, and opportunity for advancement.
- Like purple squirrels, purple squirrel postings are hard to pin down: Purple squirrel job postings often appear when there is a sudden need for a highly specialized position which sometimes has the air of experimentation. As recruiters, we see a flurry of words, needs, demands, and responsibilities in these postings. By the time appropriate candidates are notified and vetted, the job posting may have changed, reduced, or disappeared. Or, these postings may remain open for a great deal of time, oftentimes without a satisfying result. Purple squirrel positions are time-intensive, resource-busting, and frustrating for recruiters, candidates, and employers.
- Purple squirrels can also be expensive: In addition to the cost of a lengthy recruiting cycle, highly specialized talent may skew the other direction—demanding higher than marketplace wages, benefits, and bonuses. Eventually when the perks are exhausted, a purple squirrel may pull up stakes and head over to a competitor. Possibly leaving a trail of discontent behind them, purple squirrels continue to provide their elusive services to the highest bidder.
With rapid technological advance, specialists are needed in every field. Good planning and communication between stakeholders can improve the chances of a good hire, a good job opportunity, and avoid the purple squirrel.
Forget the purple squirrel and be yourself
Employers who hold out for long-shot, idealized employees are welcome to wait. In the meantime, take steps to optimize a job transition, if that is what you have in mind. Consider these points:
- Plan: As an experienced professional, you can take the time to really gauge where you are, where you are going—and where you ultimately want to be. Give some structure and thought to what your life and interests look like.
- Be curious: Curiosity is mentioned again and again as a desirable professional trait. Life-long learners bring a lot to leadership roles and to newly established specialty roles that require on-the-fly adaptivity and resilience. Talk to others about positions that interest you, ask for feedback, and use your curiosity to build a strong, marketable background.
- Get the right help: When you are considering a transition, do your research first. We talk to interested candidates, offer a sketch of interested industries and provide advice on best practices and potential pitfalls. Whoever you speak with—recruiter or mentor—make sure it is no strings attached. You are just looking for information to form your search.
I wish I were a purple squirrel…not really. When you are interested in taking a look at real options ahead—contact us at The Hunt Group.