Applying for your first (or second, or third) graduate job can be daunting. With a sea of other recent graduates to compete against, you need to prove yourself to prospective employers at every step of the way.
There are myriad qualities that employers look for in graduates. But in 2020, one of the most important qualities you need to demonstrate is flexibility.
Here we look at why flexibility matters, and offer some tips on how you can demonstrate and embrace it when applying for a graduate job.
Why is flexibility so important?
Changing roles mean changing skillsets
Today’s job market is a changing one. Roles are becoming more diverse, and employers are looking for equally diverse individuals to fill them.
Coding is a good example of this. As the world becomes increasingly reliant on code, more and more candidates are finding themselves needing to upskill to improve their own coding knowledge.
Between tighter budgets and the diversification of work, employers are increasingly looking to candidates who are willing to upskill to add more feathers to their bow, saving them the cost of employing multiple people.
The way businesses operate is changing
As well as a change in roles themselves, the way businesses operate is changing too. The gig economy is the most obvious sign of this. While it doesn’t necessarily impact the graduate job sector, it’s indicative of a wider move towards flexible working arrangements.
Graduate roles might require you to work from home, overseas, long hours, different offices, and so on. This might put some candidates off, so a willingness to be flexible with how and where you work is crucial for impressing employers.
It puts you ahead of the rest
Ultimately, you need to be flexible not just to employers’ needs, but to put yourself head and shoulders above the rest. Anything that makes you stand out against your fellow graduates is worth pursuing.
Naturally, education and experience will set you apart, but less tangible qualities such as flexibility also go a long way towards improving your employability.
How can you demonstrate flexibility when applying for a role?
Demonstrate a willingness to improve
Your CV is the first place you need to demonstrate your flexibility. While you can certainly use your personal statement or cover letter to articulate your flexibility, your CV should highlight it.
Seek out and create opportunities for yourself that exemplify your willingness to be flexible. Launching your own business to generate an income after graduation, for instance, shows the ability to adapt to situations and work around obstacles to achieve a goal.
Further to this, seek to actively improve your skillset through extracurricular courses. Accredited courses are great, of course, but look beyond these for more informal courses too.
As well as being more affordable than official accreditation, these demonstrate that you adopt a rounded, driven attitude towards self-improvement beyond established educational means.
Let your flexibility shine through in your personality
While your CV is a good opportunity to demonstrate your flexibility towards potential employers, your interview is where you back it up.
Prospective interviewers will likely ask you for specific instances of where you have demonstrated flexibility and adaptability. Have a few examples ready beforehand — look to teamwork during university or work experience placements for inspiration here.
But beyond answering interview questions highlighting your flexibility, foster an attitude that reflects that too.
Maintain an optimistic attitude throughout the interview, especially when asked how you’d feel about working in certain conditions e.g. at home, weekends, etc. An upbeat attitude assures prospective employers that you are happy to roll with the punches without complaint.
At the same time, make clear that your core values will be unaffected by any periods of change during your employment. If your role requires you to undertake extra duties, for instance, emphasise that your attitude towards the work itself will remain unchanged.
What should graduates look forward in employers?
While flexibility matters for graduates looking for their first role out of university, it’s equally important for employers themselves to demonstrate and offer flexibility in their roles too.
Leisure perks are the most common incentives to attract talent. Gym membership, regular socials, and other enjoyable perks demonstrate a flexible workplace that is enjoyable to work in.
But the best employers are forward-thinking with their flexibility. Beyond leisure perks, look for companies that offer incentives that make the process of actually working easier.
Annual leave purchase schemes, for example, let you maintain a work-life balance that suits you — this guide explains their benefits for those not in the know. And with long daily car commutes for work becoming increasingly commonplace, fuel cards (this website offers a useful comparison), create a flexible work environment that is smoother and, crucially, easier to work in.
In the same vein, consider offering more CSR-related benefits too. If businesses want to attract top talent, they should offer more than just a decent salary. Candidates today are increasingly concerned about charity and wellbeing.
A good employer should be flexible and allow related perks, such as one day off a month to volunteer at a charity, for instance. Similarly, they might offer in-house massages or meditation sessions.
In short, flexibility goes both ways. While you should demonstrate flexibility during your applications, so too should your prospective employers.
Flexibility is a crucial quality for any role. It’s important that you make clear to prospective employers during your application process that you not only have proven experience of being flexible but that you will bring it to your next role too. Follow the tips above and embody flexibility at every stage of the job application process.
Stevie Nicks is Digital Editor at Just Another Magazine – a website that covers the topics you care about. You’ll find articles about lifestyle, travel, fashion, trends and relationships on our site – each of which is written in our unique style.