Unicorn employees are those who go the extra mile, who have that unique set of qualities that are hard to find and make them extremely valuable to any organization.
Connelly Hayward, coach, behavioral analyst, and emotional quotient analyst, says that unicorn employees tend to show up in surprising places, and if you aren’t paying attention, you might miss them. He speaks of an employee he nearly missed hiring. Based on their resume alone, the employee lacked the credentials and experience for the role. “The COO/founder was not in favor of bringing him onboard, but the chairman and I both intuitively sensed something was different about this guy,” he says. They hired him, and guess what? He was a unicorn.
So, what makes a unicorn employee? And how can you become one?
Go beyond your current job title
Unicorn employees are curious individuals by nature. They are also very flexible and tend to not stay within the confines of their job description, but instead jump at the opportunity to delve into projects where they see a need, even if it doesn’t fall within their assigned tasks. An administrative assistant who is a unicorn employee wouldn’t hesitate to offer up a suggestion to the marketing team about a campaign they’re working on, for example. If you want to become a unicorn, be inquisitive, work on diversifying your skill set, and get to know other areas of the business.
Become an excellent teammate
Unicorn employees raise the bar of excellence and encourage others to do the same. What makes them so unique is that they are not only exceptional employees themselves, but they make others look good, too. “One of the key special qualities of a unicorn employee is that they know it isn’t all about themselves, it’s about the team as a whole,” says Hayward.
While workplaces are full of star performers who focus only on their own work, unicorns are different. They not only produce high value work themselves, but also encourage others to produce high-quality work as well. “They have a rising-tide-floats-all-ships mentality,” says Hayward. They higher up they are, they higher they can lift others. It’s not that unicorn employees don’t think about themselves, because they do; they just think about the entire group more.
Raise your emotional intelligence quotient
Unicorns have a high level of emotional intelligence. They are aware of their own and others’ emotions, demonstrate empathy, and are able to motivate others to action. You can raise your emotional intelligence by becoming aware of your own emotions, recognizing when you are feeling angry, jealous, or upset, and practice self-regulating behavior. Pause before acting or reacting, or practice deep breathing exercises. When interacting with coworkers, listen first to develop a greater understanding of where the other person is coming from, and work on building your empathy skills.
Be a hard worker, but not a workaholic
Unicorns have a strong work ethic, but they aren’t workaholics. “Workaholics are focused on volume more than value and end up burning out; unicorns know when to disengage to rest and recover,” says Hayward.
Unicorn employees have a growth mind-set and take ownership of their successes and failures. They’re willing to do the non-glamorous work that others aren’t willing to do in order to learn, and are open to accepting all feedback. Unicorns are also able to identify their strengths and weaknesses and aren’t shy about asking for help to improve. They are easily coachable as they view making errors as a part of growth.
Anyone can become a unicorn. Most of the qualities that make up a unicorn employee are about a change in mind-set. By changing your mind-set, you too can become that highly sought-after mythical employee.