In some form or other, you’ll see if you know how to look for it, that flexibility is one of the key skills that employers are looking for; and if you can demonstrate a positive attitude while being flexible, you’re well on your way to being viewed as favourable.
Many times when I look at job postings, employers will note that the job requires a person to be willing to work evenings, weekends, weekdays, and a variety of shifts during any of those periods. What they are really saying therefore is that they require a person with the flexibility to work any or all of those shifts. Too often – far too often – someone nods their head and says they are more than willing to do just that, but when they get the job, they grumble and complain about the days and times they are required to work.
And flexibility isn’t just for those seeking work. Even when you have a position, you may be asked quite often to adjust your work schedule, switch priorities and work on other assignments, change teams, departments, even work locations if the company has pressing needs in another area you could fill.
And here is the heart of the matter; when you are faced with a situation where you are being asked or told to do something different from you might have expected, how quickly or willingly do you embrace the change? Few bosses or supervisors really relish the idea of throwing someone off what they expected to do if they can avoid it. However, the skills, availability, talent and cooperative attitude of an employee can really make giving this kind of news less stressful for them, and will be valued and remembered, thus increasing your value to them.
Dealing with change usually means you are provided with a choice; not a choice necessarily to keep doing what you expected or something unexpected, but the choice on how to respond. Now I myself used to react poorly to change when impacted personally. I generally would prepare in advance my schedule, get materials ready I’d require and lay out my day in a very systemic way. This high degree of organization was threatened when faced with change requiring me to do something else.
However, what I learned is that by agreeing to change early, the anxiety of being in flux or the energy fighting for things to remain constant was wasted energy. Time is usually critical, and the faster I accepted the change, the more time I gained to re-think and re-program my day, change my expectations, and get going on the new task or job to be done. Then I found that once I did this periodically, and embraced change more often, my ability to adapt and be flexible became a strength. In short, I added to my skill set, and my personal value.
And flexibility once acquired, spreads in unexpected ways. Job interviews for one are where as an applicant, you usually try to anticipate the questions that might arise based on the company and job you are applying to. Sometimes employers will throw curveballs and ask questions you could not have anticipated in order to see how flexible you are, how you deal with change, how spontaneous you are. There are even interviewers that don’t care so much about the content of an answer as much as they zero in on your physical reaction to change.
So they read your face; your raised eyebrows, the furtive glance that betrays anxiety, the tapping fingers, the cracking knuckles, the beads of sweat, the shifting legs and rolling eyes or stumbling words. If you are used to being flexible, new information in an interview beyond what you might expect becomes just one more thing to challenge your flexibility and deal with.
And it can be something as simple as expecting to be driving the forklift at work all day and finding out you have been reassigned to being a driver’s helper for the day unloading and loading cargo on a route. Not what you expected, but how flexible are you going to be or are you going to dig in your heels and run for the Union Steward? Same pay, same hours, different job. Willing or unwilling? Accepting or resistant?
As I’ve said in other blogs before, one of the key things you should always bear in mind is the skills that are needed in the job; and I’m not talking about the job you are currently doing, but skills required in the job you might want to apply for next. Your current job may be one very long interview process if you look at it that way. When opportunities come up to transfer to your dream team, or to more senior position with added responsibility, those who have been supervising you might well discuss how your performance has been in the job you now hold. Your flexibility may very well be one of the key things they discuss because you will now be one of their peers.
Flexibility is valued because it demonstrates your overall value to the company. You can do multiple things and do them well, do them with a positive attitude and be an example for others.