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How Showing Flexibility Can Help You Land Your Next Job

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Following on from yesterday’s post on changing paradigms in the working world, both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times provide further evidence that this isn’t your grandparents’ hiring market, and that the key to surviving in it is adaptability.

First up is a piece in the Journal, which points to the trend of companies giving younger workers “new responsibilities typically reserved for employees with more work experience under their belts.” The reason: younger workers are typically cheaper and therefore less likely to be laid off for cost reasons than more experienced colleagues. That creates opportunity for younger workers seeking to get ahead—provided they’re willing to take on extra responsibilities, and likely for little to no extra money.

Then there’s the Times, which reported yesterday on a surge in short-term contracts—a result partly attributable to cautious employers not wanting to commit to full-time hires, and partly, as the Times piece makes clear, to employees seeking to keep their options open and not become reliant on a single employer.

What both articles make clear is that flexibility and adaptability are key qualities to be able to demonstrate to existing or potential employers. Short of including those qualities as adjectives on a resume—not a tactic that’s likely to be especially effective, given that anyone can do it—the question is how to draw attention to one’s ability to deal with flux and learn on the job.

For those already in jobs, that answer is easy: volunteer for new tasks and projects, and express willingness to try anything that comes along.

For those seeking a new position, however, the task is trickier. Obviously the best place to stress your adaptability is in an interview. For that reason, it’s worth brainstorming a few examples of different types of work you’ve done in advance of an upcoming interview. And, if you can stress how you stepped up to a new task that lay outside of your regular responsibilities, so much the better.

For so many of us, nailing the interview is the easy part. Getting it—especially with so much competition—is the tough part of the process. As such, try preparing a resume that demonstrates a range of skills and abilities, even if you held the same job for the past 20 years. And, as always, if you can provide details of how those skills brought value to your employer you should be a lock for a call inviting you to come in and press your case face to face.

The importance of being flexible cannot be overstated in this economy. But it’s about more than a simple exercise in branding yourself: with temporary positions likely to dominate the market for some time to come, demonstrating flexibility and adaptability on the job is the real key to getting ahead—not to mention securing that permanent offer or killer reference for the next position.

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