How I Learned: Be Flexible, Adapt or Die

Composite by Mariya Pylayev

"That's not in my job description!"

Those are dangerous words in today's job market. Most of us want some predictability and stability at our jobs, however many companies demand a flexibility and willingness to step outside of our comfort zones. The one constant in most jobs today is change. If you can embrace change and adapt, you are one step ahead of the pack.Change is hard. It requires extra effort and learning new skills. One thing is for sure; the pace of innovation will only accelerate. The more readily you adapt today the more prepared you will be for the changes tomorrow will bring. Learn to say YES. Learn to be flexible. Learn to adapt.

My first big lesson in flexibility on the job was as a freelance producer. There was a lot of work available and I said yes to almost all of it. I might work a day shift at one company while working nights at another. Some weeks I would work from home, relying on faxes and phone calls to get the job done. Projects would range from commercials to sales tapes to promotional spots. One day it might be local news, the next movie trailers. Some projects required me to write, others to direct, while others had me locked in an edit room for weeks.

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Juggling gave me confidence
What I learned was to adapt. I had a dozen or so clients who all had different needs and I had to keep them all happy. This required learning a dozen different systems with varying processes and procedures. Juggling jobs and running my own business kept me on my toes every day. It also gave me the confidence to tackle any assignment knowing I could deliver great results.

It also taught me what worked and what missed the mark in how to run an organization, build a department and execute on multiple projects. When I found myself in a leadership role a few years later I could call upon experiences from those dozen different jobs to fine tune and adapt my strategy and tactics.

This same leadership position was my second big opportunity to learn flexibility. We handled marketing and creative services for a news organization. Our priorities shifted constantly. Yesterday's big project was cast aside for today's emergency. And today's emergency became tomorrow's standard practice. The pace rarely slowed and I learned to evaluate, delegate and execute quickly.

Say Yes
Also, I worked for someone who would take on just about any additional project without regard for resources or personnel. No assignment was too big or too difficult. Part of his genius was his willingness to say yes to anything. My job was to figure how to get it done on time and on budget.

I never saw a job description in those twelve years and never needed one. My job description was whatever the company wanted it to be and soon other departments looked to our group for solutions. What I learned wasn't just flexibility. I got a chance to master many new skills far beyond my training. It also gave me a tremendous amount of confidence when facing seemingly impossible challenges.

How can you incorporate more flexibility into your tool set?

-Learn the jobs of those around you.

-Challenge yourself to master new skills.

-Take classes that expand your abilities and talents.

-Look to the future and welcome new technology and innovation.

-Most importantly, say yes.

Embracing change with confidence will make you a more valuable employee and propel you forward in your career. New skills will increase your relevance and your marketability. Use your job description as a starting point and venture far and wide. Challenge yourself and reap the rewards.

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Photo source: Getty Images

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