How to Get a Job, Part 4: Be Flexible

It’s the final day of this little how-to-get-a-job sequence, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it thus far. Bookmark those posts; they were true 40 years ago and they’ll still be true 40 years from now.

Today’s final tip is simply to be flexible on the job. And if possible, indicate in the interview that you’re a flexible kinda guy/gal.

What’s that mean, exactly? Here are some concrete examples:

At your job, you may be asked — especially as a new hire — to do a lot of stuff you’ve never done before. Or that you didn’t expect to do, or that you (at first) don’t know how to do, or maybe even that you hate to do.

I know, too easy, but if you’d seen the other photos I could’ve chosen from in a post called “Be Flexible,” you’d be proud that I chose this one.

Be open to all of it (unless it’s illegal or immoral, of course. Especially if it’s illegal). At least for the first few months of a job, try not to utter the words “that’s not what I was hired to do!” — unless you’re being asked to move a body or arrange a courtesan for a visiting dignitary.

But what if you get called upon for something you simply don’t know how to do? My suggestion is to answer with something like, “Sure — I’ve never actually done that before, but I’m more than willing to learn.”

That’s all a boss can ask from you if you’ve never done something before. Now, that doesn’t mean that the boss won’t occasionally let slip some signs of disappointment that you don’t already know how to do it — but hey, that’s the nature of bosses. I mean, if they’re that kind of person to begin with, imagine how grumpy they’d be if you started to whine about the assignment, or just rejected it altogether.

This is a messy example, but it’s also perfect. Let’s say you’re in the restroom at work and the toilet needs to be plunged. It’s not overflowing just yet, but it will be soon. No one else is around. Do you:

a) Slip out of the bathroom, pretend you saw nothing and let the next person deal with it;

b) Go tell the boss or office manager that there’s a problem with the toilet, then go back to work;

c) Grab a plunger and plunge it yourself, then go back to work;

d) Grab a plunger, plunge it yourself, then go tell the boss or office manager that they may want to have someone come look at it, then go back to work.

The answers above start with the worst ones and progressively get better. Toilet-plunging can be ugly business. Especially if it’s someone else’s mess you’re cleaning up and not your own. However, mark my words, a toilet problem can be your friend, people. If you’re the one who rolls up your sleeves and says “I got this” and bails everyone out, people remember that. Bosses remember that.

Being flexible doesn’t just brand you as a team player, either — it actually gives you the opportunity to learn more stuff and become, therefore, more valuable to the company. Maybe not so much with the toilet-plunging, but with the cleaner work, it does.

Of course, if you’re just interviewing, it’s unlikely that the toilet is going to overflow while you’re there, allowing you to spring into toilet-plunging action and rescue your future coworkers from an afternoon of soggy shoelaces. However, I do have a similar story. It’s not my story and I *cannot* for the life of me remember where I read this, but it’s a great illustration of what I’m talking about. (I promise to give credit where it’s due here once someone reminds me where I read this).

So, at this one employer’s office, they put the interviewee inside a room, by herself, full of chairs — around a conference table or something like that. Then, they have a secretary and an employee come in, and the secretary tells the employee (in full view of the applicant) that all of the chairs need to be moved over to a different room. The employee starts moving them, one by one — again, in full view of the applicant.

If the applicant just sits there on her ass and doesn’t get up and offer to help the employee move the chairs — that’s it, she’s done. Interview over before it starts, go home. This employer figures that if you’re the type of person to just sit there and not, at the very least, say “need some help?” then you’re not the kind of person they want on their team (because, remember, especially in this economy, employers have lots of applicants to choose from).

So, someone remind me where I read that example if it rings a bell to you, so I can give credit.

That’s all, folks. If we employers can get those four qualities in a new employee, then chances are we’ll be elated.

Now, use those tips! For those of you who have already graduated or are graduating soon and looking for jobs, good luck on your job search!

I’ll be back tomorrow with more scholarship-related questions and answers. It’s been backing up while I’ve been doing this four-parter on how to get a job. Talk to you tomorrow!

9 thoughts on “How to Get a Job, Part 4: Be Flexible”


    Thank you so much for you consideration and offering me such noble idea.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top