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 Are You Flexible Enough?

By Joe Stein

Business has changed so much over the last couple of decades.  In the world of retail, the lights are on virtually 24 hours a day and 7 days a week (and in some places they are).  In manufacturing and distribution, the just-in-time philosophy has created a world where inventory is low and expectations for immediate response are high.

What does this mean for the average worker?  Well, for one (and the subject of today’s article), flexibility has become a highly valued trait when considering who to hire and who to keep when times are tough.  If you are someone who lacks the ability to be flexible, then you may find yourself challenged both in your search and your employment.

Flexibility has also entered the world of job search, as most Recruiters and Hiring Managers are exceptionally busy, leaving little time to fill open positions.  Savvy Job Seekers will provide themselves a competitive advantage by being flexible when working with a prospective employer.

Conduct a Flexible Job Search:
• Be Available – Recruiters usually are carrying a heavy open position workload.  This leaves little time for them to be chasing after applicants who are not accessible.  You can assist the Recruiter and Hiring Manager by doing a number of simple things.  Some examples are answering your phone (landline or mobile) before it reaches voice mail, and monitoring your e-mail (if the address is provided).  Schedules are also very tight for Interviewers, so flexibility in being available for interviews is crucial.  This is especially important when an employer is working on a tight timeline and would like to speak to you on little notice.

• Give Options – Make it easy for the Recruiter by providing options to contact you such as both a home and mobile phone, along with your e-mail address.  Promptly return phone calls if you do receive a message (and do so during business hours when you expect someone to answer).  Do not leave for any extended period where you will not be accessible.

• Open to Technology – Companies may have different philosophies of how they would like you to apply.  Some companies use a paper application, others a Resume, and still others require you to apply for the job electronically.  Be ready and open to apply in whatever is the preferred method of that specific company.

Be a Flexible Employee:
• Alternative Hours – So much work is now being done outside of normal business hours.  If you have the ability to work evenings or weekends, you will give yourself a competitive advantage over other applicants.  This can be a tough fill for employers because sometimes new employees claim that they can work the alternative schedule, but find out they can’t once on that shift.  If you are applying for one of these alternative shifts and you have done it before, then state on your application/resume when you have done so.  By having a track record of being able to do this, you will catch the eye of the Recruiter and provide some comfort to the Hiring Manager.

• Schedule Changes – Many employers are keeping the minimum amount of labor needed to complete the work available.  Any adjustments in the requirements of the assignment may result in the revisiting of the labor needed and, therefore, resulting in additional hours.  Similarly, employers are often left scrambling when unexpected tardies or absences occur.  If you are someone who has the ability to adjust your schedule and step-in during a pinch, you will prove yourself most valuable.  During the interview, stress your flexibility and provide an example of when you have “saved the day” in the past.

• Mindset – Individuals need to be agile in their overall mindset.  An openness to explore different ideas and philosophies is an often overlooked flexibility.  It is beneficial to have a reputation as someone who is willing to explore new things and is open to piloting new processes, as this will serve you well in your career.  Don’t be afraid to be someone who raises your hand up to volunteer for assignments.  During your job search, provide examples in your Cover Letter/Resume and during the interview(s) of when you picked up a project, changed Departments, or piloted something new.

There has been significant change over the years regarding both the job search and the workplace.  The days of just doing the same thing over and over (without change) are certainly over.  A person, who can adapt in both their job search and in their employment, will prove to be the most successful.  Use your flexibility to provide yourself with a competitive advantage.