Today when you go for a job interview, the first thing employers will gauge from your answers is how flexible and adaptable you are, not just at work, but also in life generally. No matter how your grades in school look like and the degree you aced at university, without the dynamism and flexibility an employer is looking for, chances of nailing that much coveted position become limited. Adaptability and flexibility skills might not be taught anywhere as is, but rather these are skills you add to your resume that equip you for any challenge and are mostly self-taught. In fact, we might never know what employers mean when they seek adaptability and flexibility when they are hiring because these skills, which are mostly honed in your character, vary from one position to another. Raymond Nshimiye studied civil engineering and hopped around with his first-class degree looking for a job, thinking it was enough but from one job application after another, he was turned down, in most cases coming close. One day while pondering the future in his single room, he thought about the other skills he can earn to put himself in a position where he can be easily hired. “I went and researched what other skills a civil engineer can add to his or her CV and I found that the things I studied in class alone might never earn me a job. I was shocked to learn that apart from the technical skills I learned in school, as an engineer I had to have written and oral communication skills, leadership skills, project planning and management skills, problem solving and decision making, among other skills,” Nshimiye recalls. Apart from taking on online courses, he joined a media company where he quietly worked as a graphic designer, with his civil engineering degree in the bag. From his desk, he learned how people in the media industry go about their work. “It was a whole different world from what I expected after school but this is what I needed exactly. I needed an environment that I wasn’t used to and people in a different field altogether,” he says. Fast forward, three years later in May 2019, Nshimiye landed a job with an international firm constructing a major infrastructure project in Rwanda and to his shock, it is the other skills that earned him the job. “I was able to communicate things perfectly, using the same engineering terminologies I learned in school but this time well communicated and with a bit of authority. They didn’t even bother looking at my transcript,” Nshimiye recalls. Few months into the job, the Covid-19 pandemic struck and construction works came to a halt momentarily. A huge cache of people working on the site were laid off until the pandemic subsided but Nshimiye was retained because the firm still needed him to serve in other capacities. Adapting to change In today’s world, it is important for employees to adapt to change, taking on varied roles, job responsibilities, new schedules and learning how to operate in the new context of things. This calls for being flexible and being able to incorporate feedback effectively in whatever you do. “That is not my job” is a statement most employers will not tolerate today. Adapting to change means dealing positively with praise, setbacks and criticism and being able to understand, negotiate and balance diverse views and beliefs to reach workable solutions, particularly in multi-cultural environments. A ‘can do’ attitude and approach driven by new challenges and using your initiative to get things done is what most employers are looking for today. Employers are looking for people who can work around unexpected changes of circumstances or workload rather than employees complaining that they are being diverted to a field that is not theirs. As a site engineer, Nshimiye would be asked to edit documents, draft communication plans and also do media interviews and responses on behalf of the firm - a field that he previously thought wasn’t his. Some of the key characteristics of adaptability and flexibility include taking on additional roles outside your core duties in order to help out your boss or colleague in a bid to ensure that the project or business is achieving its objectives or target. In the digital world, you also need to have the willingness to undertake long hours, to stay longer if a client or the job requires it, respond to queries at any given time and to turn up quickly when you are called upon. Being able to take a flexible approach to work situations is essential for good leadership and managing ambiguity and employers naturally see that in you. If you have the ‘functionere’ approach, your chances of nailing that high paying corporate or multinational job will be dented. ‘Functionere’ is a term often used in Rwanda to refer to public or civil servants, whose work starts and ends with the official government working hours, exiting the office at 5pm sharp. Today, even the government is no longer accepting the ‘functionere’ approach, putting service delivery at the core of everything.