What Job Seekers Need to Know About Flexibility

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With everybody adjusting to a great deal of change, flexibility has never been more important.

We asked New York-based Aerotek Recruiter Lead Manager Christel Mendez if that’s true in the job market as well.

Her response?

“100% yes,” she says.

Mendez also went on to clarify exactly what job seekers need to know to adjust to the new reality — where flexibility is the top skill in a suddenly topsy-turvy landscape for employment.

Expectations have gotten clearer

The term “flexibility” can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people — or employers. 

Before coronavirus, flexibility was spoken of as a desirable quality in candidates in only general terms. You might see application language along the lines of “looking for a self-starting go-getter.” 

But now the need for flexibility has more exact specifications. 

“Everyone wants to work with someone who’s flexible, able to adapt, ready to pick up on things quickly,” says Mendez. “Now when employers ask, it’s much more detailed. For example, flexibility could mean being in the office today, but going home tomorrow. You could have to totally change your schedule at a moment’s notice, and companies will specifically ask if you can handle it.”

Exact details of what “flexibility” means will change from position to position, but employers now define more exact parameters of the flexibility they expect from a successful candidate.

Flexibility is a two-way street

Job seekers aren’t the only ones who need to be flexible. 

Employers in medical assistance, customer service, or claims processing have seen a massive increase in workload, so they’ve had to be more adaptable in their hiring practices. 

“Flexibility applies on both the candidate side and the employer side,” says Mendez. “Employers in surging industries also have to be more open to candidates with different backgrounds than previously — it’s the only way to broaden their search for employees with sought-after skills.”

What had previously been candidate requirements in terms of years of experience, education or even certifications are now “nice to have” rather than “must haves.” Work from home is now expected for many employers who hadn’t offered the option before. Some have even been extending employee perks to attract candidates, with offers such as meals, free rides or flex time. 

So if you’re flexible and adaptable, now’s the time to look for an employer that is too.

Specialized skills can be transferable 

Some candidates may need to transfer to a new industry after several years developing increasingly specialized skills. Fortunately, you couldn’t have gained specialized experience in your field without being adaptable along the way. 

“You get interviewed and you get hired because you know how to do the job,” says Mendez. “You get promoted and you get recognized due to the extra things you do, and the extra things are flexibility and adaptability.”

Evidence of the extra steps you’ve taken for your career — technology you learned, certifications you earned, degrees you attained — will be interesting for employers in other fields to hear about. The effort and commitment makes you stand out as a candidate.

So while you might not find an exact match for your skills and experience, the fact that you’ve already developed specialized skills in any field makes you a desirable candidate.

Flexibility is easily implied

Since employers are so interested in flexible candidates, all you have to do is make minor tweaks to your application materials to show how flexible you are. 

Mendez has two main pieces of advice for highlighting your adaptability:

  1. Start with your resume. Follow simple, readable formatting and insert relevant buzzwords. When you list accomplishments in each section, focus on what you did that fell outside the normal boundaries of your strict job description, and start with a relevant verb first, e.g, “coordinated” or “worked with.” Have 2-3 versions ready for different types of positions, companies or industries. 
  2. Build your LinkedIn profile. Pay attention to every little detail. Find or take a professional-looking picture. Scan for spelling or grammar errors. Mention in your profile that you’re actively looking. And use your profile — connect with people in your network, tap into agencies and their networks.

Flexibility is a learnable skill

Adapting to change is more difficult for some people than others. If you struggle to incorporate change into your life for any reason, Mendez suggests focusing your application materials on the results you’re able to get anyway. 

“There’s a lot of free webinars, articles, books that can help you understand different ways to develop flexibility,” she says. “But if it’s just not your thing, showcase your ability to cut costs, train in minimal time or meet deadlines. At the end of the day, what companies want is results.”

The interesting thing about highlighting your results rather than your soft skills is this actually proves you’re flexible, even if just in terms of how you talk about yourself as a candidate. 

If you’re searching for your next opportunity, look for organizations that handle change well, and show them you’re prepared to adapt to their needs.

To find out which opportunities may be the right fit for you, consult our job board.