Workplace matter _Quest-cover

Whether it’s a job, meaning, new talent—or even purple squirrels riding rainbow unicorns—we’re all searching for something in the workplace!

I don’t know about you, but it’s exhausting trying to catch up with all the developments in the workplace. And if you’re not exhausted, that’s wonderful (and please share your energizing secrets in the comments)!

As I’ve been researching the latest trends in the workplace, listening to professionals on LinkedIn, and keeping up with learning and talent experts, it dawned on me that there are three quests in the workplace

We’re either searching for:

  1. A new job opportunity,
  2. Meaning in our current role
  3. New talent to join our organization

When it comes to these workplace quests, it can feel like we’re Moana searching for the heart of Te Fiti, Luke Skywalker fighting against the empire, or even (spoiler alert) Tom Wambsgans power-playing his way to the top of the Roy’s immoral media empire in the world of HBO’s Succession

In that same vein, according to SweetRush Talent Solutions Consultant Cathy Sands—who’s been on her Talent Seeker quest for more than 25 years and placed hundreds of job seekers in roles—trying to find the right candidate for a complex role can feel like trying to find a “purple squirrel riding a rainbow unicorn.” 

Yes, you read that right. 

In other words: not an easy creature to find! 

And it’s not just employers. Job seekers can also feel like this when trying to find the “just right” employer that pays well, cares about their mental well-being, and provides them tools to grow professionally. The same goes for employees engaging in the ever-elusive hunt for meaning or inspiration in our day-to-day routine. 

No matter our workplace quest, we’re all just looking for our own version of a purple squirrel riding a rainbow unicorn!

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But where do we start looking and what do we need to do? I spoke with Cathy—also known as the Purple Squirrel Finder or the Unicorn Whisperer—to learn more about these quests and to ask for her insights and advice for conquering each of them! 

Job Seeker Quests

Slaying the Dragon (of Applying & Interviewing)

Trying to find a new job is frustrating. Applying, getting rejected, preparing for interviews, researching…it takes time, effort, and energy. 

It can make even the most confident professionals doubt themselves. In a landscape where our job titles can be synonymous with our identities, the job hunt can quickly turn into an existential crisis, especially when it takes longer than we anticipate (which it almost always does).

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What can we do to put more of that power in our hands? Just like any hunter, your tools can make all the difference.

“Self-help is self-wealth,” advises Cathy Sands, Purple Squirrel Hunter/Unicorn Whisperer. “Start from the basics. Know your tools. Use Grammarly and copy edit everything on your resume and cover letter. If you don’t know your tools, take time to explore and practice using them. In addition, learn about your employer. Go to their website and LinkedIn page. Find out who they are and what they’re about to better prepare yourself at the application and interview stages. ”

Traversing Fear with Creativity

Fear can get in the way of sharing our accomplishments. It can feel intimidating (and even embarrassing) to create an elevator pitch for ourselves, whether online or in real life. But if you don’t hype yourself up, who will? Put humility to the side and fear of how you will be perceived to showcase your achievements and promote yourself, whether it’s posting on LinkedIn or networking. Find ways to stand out from the crowd. 

“Put your work in a portfolio,” adds Cathy. “Take the time to show it. Good work gets good work.” It takes time and effort, but it will pay off in the end. Advocate for yourself by showing what you can do.

And if that doesn’t work, get creative. Get the answers you need to help you on your quest.

“Don’t take no for an answer,” says Cathy. “If you are interviewing and get a rejection, don’t be afraid to ask why. Ask them: What can I do better? It’s a tough question, but be honest, and it will build your network.” 

Discovering New Ways of Being

The latest in what can feel like an endless parade of new terms about the workplace is The Great Betrayal, according to Fast Company, which reports that “amid 120,000 tech layoffs, 62% of knowledge workers say they don’t feel secure committing to one employer anymore.” The article goes on to say, “Millennials (78%) and Gen Z (76%) are most drawn to freelancing—not surprising, given that over one-third of people in both generations currently freelance—but a majority of Gen X (69%) and Boomers (51%) are drawn to independent work as well.”

This detachment from traditional employment signals a new era in how professionals are taking control of their destinies. People are more open to new ways of working and living than ever before.

Whether freelance or salaried, Cathy advises that we take the time and make sure the company you are targeting is the right match. 

“Find out if you want to work for a company,” urges Cathy. “Don’t settle. Get the job you want because you will do better, and it will get value back in your work life. You will get time and energy back when you work for a company you like.”

Employee Quests

Seeking Meaning

As human beings, we’re looking for meaning in our lives, and employees are looking for meaning in their work. Doing the same thing day in and day out can seem Sisyphean at times, as we push our proverbial mental boulders up the hill—whether emails, meetings, spreadsheets, or presentations—and meaning helps us make sense of it all. 

​​Even former President Barack Obama weighed in on the workplace conversation during a LinkedIn News event—”Former President Barack Obama on finding purpose in our work”—saying, “In a moment of time where there’s a lot of anxiety about what’s next, where we’ve seen globalization and automation and unions being battered and offshoring and now AI, people are concerned about their work.”

And Obama—who is featured in Netflix’s new show, Working: What We Do All Day, inspired by Studs Terkel’s book, Working—goes on to say that our elders may not have had the opportunity to look for meaning or inspiration in their work, but found work that would pay the bills and made it fit into their lives. 

Finding Purpose & Well-Being

Today, people want more from their jobs. According to the BBC, 70% of Gen Z respondents ranked purpose as more important than pay. And the same article shows, “70% of employees say their personal sense of purpose is defined by their work, and when that work feels meaningful, they perform better, are much more committed, and are about half as likely to go looking for a new job.”

Even the U.S. Surgeon General weighed in on the discussion, finding that apart from physical safety and healthy work-life balance, employees need to feel their work matters to find true workplace wellness

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But how much meaning or fulfillment can a job really offer us? Where do we draw the line? And what do we have to do to find meaning (or, dare I say, joy) in our work?

Cathy suggests finding opportunities to challenge ourselves in our work that will impact on our happiness, performance, and the company’s bottom line.

We work a lot, so we should enjoy what we do,” says Cathy. “If you don’t love your work, ask yourself why and what will make that better? If you love your company but not your work or vice versa, it might be time to search for another job or at least see what else is out there.”

As SweetRush CEO Andrei Hedstrom says, “Serve your people so that they’re able to explore and express the truth, beauty, and goodness in them, and they’ll do amazing things.”

Talent Seeker Quests (Employers)

As a job seeker, it may seem that talent seekers are in a totally different dimension, but these quests are not so dissimilar. Both can be frustrating and seem hopeless at times.

Understanding Who You’re Seeking

As McKinsey’s research finds, 40% of employees are looking to leave their jobs. Talent seekers need to make sure their efforts are not in vain and that the effort and time they put into finding new talent won’t be lost due to job hopping.

The research also finds that there are five personas of employees: 

  1. The traditionalist
  2. The do-it-yourselfers
  3. The caregivers
  4. The idealists
  5. The relaxers

Talent seekers must try to appeal to the motivations and values of these five personas of job seekers while getting what their organization needs for its business objectives. 

Looking for a Superhuman

Employers striving to discover new talent can be stuck trying to find the “perfect” employee. They can feel pressure to find a superhuman who has all the skills needed, meets the current job requirements, can evolve with the organization, adapt in the face of future (and unknown) challenges, and is the ideal “culture fit.” 

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And to add even more pressure, the interview process is a chance for job seekers to make sure that your organization is right for them, so your actions need to accurately reflect your company’s culture. It’s important to make a good impression on candidates who will remember how you made them feel.

Infusing Kindness & Honesty

Cathy supports the Golden Rule: “Be good to people, and you can build your network, which will help you in the long run.”

And being honest pays it forward and creates authentic connections. Help job seekers out, let them know why they’re not a match, and share what they could do to build their skills. Even a short follow-up conversation to let them know what good looks like and why.

“It shouldn’t be painful to be transparent,” assures Cathy. 

The Quest Continues…

Every hero on a quest has tools and supporting characters to help them achieve their goals and save the proverbial princess. Tap into your community to find the Maui to your Moana, Hans Solo to your Luke Skywalker, or Greg to your Tom (ideally, with less humiliation, Boar on the Floor, and general ickiness) to help you on your journey. Better yet, follow Cathy on LinkedIn or reach out to her directly or the Talent Solutions team with your hero’s challenge.

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With new perspectives, these workplace quests can result in a better workplace for us all!

Check out the other Workplace Matters editions on the following topics and how they relate to the workplace:

#1: Past Generations 🧒🏽🧑🏻👵🏽

#2: Power Skills 💬💪

#3: Songs 🎵🎶

#4: Television/Movies 📽️📺

#5: Children’s Books 🐛📚

#6: Love & Reflection ❤️‍🔥🤔

#7: Career Advice 🗣️🦻

#8: Future Generations 🔮

Good luck on whatever quest you’re on!

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Your workplace BFF