Why You Should Be Flexible in Your Career
The job market, particularly in South Africa, is becoming more competitive by the day. In this world of constant change, being able to stay flexible in your career, being able to adapt to new circumstances and being prepared to evolve your skills are amongst the most useful attributes you can have. Here’s what you need to know about staying flexible.
What is career flexibility?
Career flexibility recognises that today’s careers generally follow a much more variable path than in the past. New technology, a more competitive workplace and a fluctuating economy are some of the reasons why flexibility is important for employers and employees alike. Just like an elite athlete needs to stay flexible in the literal sense, you’ll need to be flexible to adapt to new circumstances and to stay competitive in your career.
The importance of being flexible
Flexibility expands opportunities for employees, and is an attribute that employers are placing increasing importance on. Here are some of the advantages:
- You’ll have more opportunities. Today’s fluid work environment means that employees who can adapt to change are valued above others. In a job interview, employers are more likely to hire you if you are able to adjust to organisational shifts. In addition to this, flexibility allows you to fit various roles within a company, thereby expanding your opportunities for employment.
- You’ll be better equipped to handle day-by-day challenges. By starting each day with a mindset that you can handle whatever comes your way, you’re better equipped to deal with any unexpected events or challenges. Unforeseen challenges will pop up in most jobs, so it makes sense to mentally prepare for them.
- You’ll experience new things. Staying stubbornly on your original course will close you off to new experiences. By being flexible and willing to learn, you may discover interests or passions that you didn’t realise you have.
- You’ll be able to handle career transitions better. If you suddenly lose your job, being flexible will give you the ability to bounce back from adversity. With a number of options open to you, you’ll spend less time searching for a job and you’ll be able to adapt quickly to the requirements of work in different industries. This also applies to a voluntary career shift if you decide to switch to a completely different path.
- You’ll be happier. Being happy with life depends largely on your ability to adapt to change. Like everyone else, you will constantly face psychological challenges, and being flexible will allow you to overcome these. This is as true in the work environment as it is in your personal life.
Five tips for staying flexible in your career
While flexibility is essentially a character trait, you can also learn how to be more flexible. There are several practical measures you can take to improve your career flexibility:
- Invest in new skills. Keep different career options in mind, and work towards developing the skills you need to be able to pursue them in future. Try a distance learning course or attend any workshops that you feel may interest you. It’s always good to have a plan B lined up if plan A isn’t working out for you.
- Draw value from the people around you. The people sitting next to you in the office will invariably have different skill sets from you. Set a little bit of time aside to learn what they do, ask questions, and see what valuable new skills they could teach you.
- Listen to other perspectives. Being open to other people’s opinions is key to developing a more flexible mindset. Don’t view a differing opinion as a bone of contention, but rather as an opportunity to learn.
- Take on new tasks. Sometimes your job will require you to do tasks that you’ve never done before. Don’t shy away from the challenge – with a little bit of research and a few of the right questions, you’ll be able to complete the task and learn a new skill in the process.
- Build your online presence. The majority of employers use tools like LinkedIn to find talent. By regularly updating your online professional profile, you’re not only proving to others that you’re becoming more flexible, but you’re proving it to yourself, too.
The traditional notion of picking one career, studying towards it and then working until retirement is changing. In the fast-paced modern workplace, flexibility is no longer simply an advantage, it’s a non-negotiable. Click here to read 10 Things You Can Do to Enhance Your Career in 10 Minutes a Day.