Adapt to survive: how being adaptable can help you at work

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Busy office desk showing adaptability skills

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You probably don’t need us to tell you that the world is moving along at a really fast rate – everything from technology to politics is changing all the time. That affects workplaces too.

It means that employers are looking for staff who are adaptable, and will happily embrace different ideas and ways of working. More than ever, you need to have adaptability skills at work. 

What does being adaptable really mean?

Having adaptability skills basically means that you’re able to deal well with change.  Employers love staff who can handle lots of different, evolving situations. Adaptable people are open to new ideas, they can cope when things don’t go to plan, and are flexible enough to respond to any problems that come up. They are resourceful and often use their initiative.

Has anyone ever called you a team player? Or said that you go with the flow? Then you probably already have the beginnings of great adaptability skills. 

So what does being adaptable at work actually involve?

Flexibility and adaptability skills are important no matter what career path you’ve chosen. Here are some examples of being adaptable at work:

  • Staying calm when problems come up
  • Taking on a new project at short notice
  • Planning ahead, and having back-up options in case something goes wrong
  • Thinking on your feet
  • Responding well to a changing priority or deadline
  • Show that you’re willing to learn new methods or techniques
  • Have a positive attitude and keep an open mind
  • Give suggestions for making things better
  • Not quitting when things get difficult
  • Multi-tasking

How can adaptability skills help you at work?

There are loads of reasons why it’s good to be adaptable at work. Here are just a handful:

You'll be fine when the going gets tough 

If you’re adaptable, you’ll be able to deal with any disappointments or setbacks that might come up at work. Instead of stressing about what could have gone differently, you’ll stay upbeat and start thinking ahead to the next challenge.  

You'll be ready for the modern workplace

With the rise of flexible working, being adaptable means you’ll be able to manage any changes in your working patterns. 

You'll be a better leader

leaders have adaptability skills
Being adaptable will help you to develop strong leadership skills

It’s never too early to develop your leadership skills. Adaptable people make for great leaders – they’re able to handle change and also motivate their team if unexpected difficulties crop up. 

You're a natural problem-solver

Since being adaptable means always having a back-up plan, you’ll be ace at coming up with solutions to problems. 

You'll stand out to employers

Employers love adaptable staff! In fact, 91% of human resources directors think that by 2018, people will actually be employed on the basis of their adaptability. And more than half said that staff’s ability to deal with uncertainty is the main factor in the company’s future success. Being able to cope with change and not panicking if things don’t go exactly to plan will give you the edge when you’re applying for jobs. 

Your colleagues will love you!

Adaptability skills will mean you’re a really valuable member of your company’s workforce. But it also means that you’ll be an important member of the team – you’ll be calm and confident in the face of challenges, and will be keen to work well with others.

How can you develop adaptability skills?

Don’t worry if this all sounds like a lot! You probably already have some adaptability skills, and if you don’t, you can work on them. Here are a few ways to do just that:

  • Working part-time while you’re at school (taking on shifts at short notice would be very adaptable!)
  • Planning and then going on a gap year
  • Balancing your school work with family commitments
  • Changing arrangements with friends at the last minute – and having a back-up plan!
  • Coping with the change involved in moving away from home

Don’t forget to make sure employers know you’re adaptable! These examples are perfect to include in your cover letters.

So do you think you have awesome adaptability skills? Read our guide to find out what other skills for the workplace you might already have

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