Job-seekers and employees acknowledged as being unique and distinct have better chances of landing jobs and are more likely to excel in the workplace. This is an idea touched on in Mike Junge‘s first book, Purple Squirrel. Junge, a leadership recruiter at Google, titled his book based on the term recruiters use to identify their ideal hires—people so unusual, they are as hard to find as a purple squirrel.
His book addresses how to strategically job search, ways to stand out in this economy, and how to negotiate a better salary. It also highlights how candidates can become the elusive purple squirrel—the employee everyone wants to hire and promote.
Junge believes candidates can intentionally create a career to propel them on a trajectory for extraordinary success. He explains: “Consciously or unconsciously, the majority of elite professionals use a handful of common strategies to accomplish this goal.”
How can you stand out from a crowd and succeed in your job? Junge suggests the following:
Adopt a winning attitude. Attitude is difficult to measure, but for many supervisors, it’s a deciding factor for a successful employee. Junge says: “There are a lot of things in life—and at work—we can’t control. Attitude, on the other hand, is completely within our sphere of influence. At any given moment, you can choose to be resilient, unstoppable, courteous, customer-focused, or any other phrase that fits your personality, goals, and work requirements. There are plenty of reasons to be frustrated, resistant, or critical. That’s why it is so impressive when someone is deliberately optimistic.”
Want to succeed at work? Check your attitude. It’s the universal starting point for success. Junge reminds readers that a new job is an opportunity to demonstrate “confidence, humility, and results” and to jump on a fast track to success.
Be interested. Successful, charismatic professionals rely on their curiosity to win allies. Demonstrate a genuine interest in teammates. Junge suggests purposefully engaging with each individual colleague. He explains, “It’s human nature to label and categorize, but life gets much more interesting when you focus on connecting with each specific person individually.”
Be prepared to learn. No matter how extraordinary you may be, if you’re a know-it-all and are not willing to ask questions and listen, real success may always be just out of reach. Junge explains: “Even if you’re hired as an expert, it’s okay not to know it all—especially when starting a new job. Being effective in a business setting means working within the confines of company and/or group dynamics. People can be your greatest asset or the greatest barrier to your success. Until you figure out how to make things work in the new environment, your potential to make a positive impact is limited.”
Junge advises professionals to recognize, “Social learning is as important as on-the-job skill building. Be curious and don’t be afraid to say, ‘I don’t know’ once in a while.” Encourage colleagues to share their ideas and take advantage of their insights. Say “thank you” for good ideas, and give people reasons to root for you to succeed.
Maximize your memory. Don’t underestimate the importance of learning peoples’ names. Junge says: “Calling someone by name has an almost magical power.” You can make yourself memorable and impressive by taking the time to remember important details about your new colleagues. Junge suggests making a project of learning names. “Begin by gathering the business cards of everyone you meet….Write down everything you remember about each person,” he says. “This will help you lock in names and other relevant details.” Junge also suggests creating organizational charts by drawing pictures of offices and cubicles in your area, and filling in the names. Use names whenever you meet people, and soon, you’ll be on your way to impressing everyone at work.
Exceed expectations. It’s so important to be willing to do a little more than the person in the next cubicle to succeed at a job. Junge notes, “You don’t have to work 80-hour weeks to make a great impression. Most people do just enough to get by, so delivering even a little more or doing slightly higher quality work can be enough to stand out in an extremely positive way.” He suggests employees make intentional efforts to exceed expectations. “The more you look for opportunities to make a difference, the more you’ll find them. The better you understand what others are hoping for, the better equipped you’ll be to deliver results that make them happy.”