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Career Development

Adaptability Skills: Definition and Examples

February 25, 2020

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Being able to adapt to changing environments and work processes can be desirable traits to employers. Having adaptability skills means you are open and willing to learn new things, take on new challenges and make adjustments to suit transitions in the workplace. Additionally, developing your adaptability can also mean developing other soft skills like communication and interpersonal skills. In this article, we explore what adaptability skills are, how to improve these skills and how you might highlight adaptability skills on a resume, in a cover letter and during an interview.

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What are adaptability skills?

Adaptability skills are skill sets that encompass a person's ability to adjust to changes in their environment. Being adaptable in your career can mean you are able to respond quickly to changing ideas, responsibilities, expectations, trends, strategies and other processes at work. Being adaptable also means possessing soft skills like interpersonal, communication, creative thinking and problem-solving skills.

Being adaptable in the workplace can be important when working on projects, developing strategies and implementing different approaches to doing your job. By showing your employers your adaptability skills, you are revealing how motivated you are to try new things and learn new skills.

Read more: Soft Skills: Definitions and Examples

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Examples of adaptability skills

Adaptability skills can include a variety of skill sets that can essentially help you adapt to and deal with change in a positive and proactive way. Some of these important soft skills include:

  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Creative and strategic thinking skills
  • Teamwork skills
  • Organizational skills

Communication skills

Being adaptable can depend on how effectively you communicate with your teammates and managers. Being able to ask for clarification during transitions or seeking out additional information or resources for a new and unfamiliar project can show your team leaders how motivated you are to learn and ask for help when you need it.

Active listening and other forms of communication like nonverbal communication are also equally important aspects of adaptability. Active listening shows you are attentive and ready to take new direction, and developing your nonverbal communication skills can help you navigate changes in team relationships or dynamics in the workplace.

Interpersonal skills

Similar to effectively communicating with others, having excellent interpersonal skills can also play a key role in your overall adaptability. Being able to interact with others in healthy and positive ways can help you avoid miscommunication and conflict during operational shifts.

Problem-solving skills

Adapting to change can also rely on problem-solving skills. You might use your problem-solving skills to find creative solutions to challenging topics, and being able to observe and analyze how you might approach solving a new problem can show your managers your willingness to make adjustments or improvements to the way you approach solving problems at work.

Creative and strategic thinking skills

Adaptability can also require creative thinking and the ability to think strategically. For instance, developing new ideas to market products, finding ways to adapt to a changing market and implementing methods to improve and develop new strategies can all showcase your overall adaptability skills.

Teamwork skills

Teamwork skills can be essential to being able to adapt to different personalities and working dynamics. Your colleagues can be a combination of different skills, backgrounds and experiences. Being able to work on a diverse team of people and deal with conflict, differing ideas and other dynamics that can occur can positively benefit how adaptive you are in a team environment.

Organizational skills

Organization can include several different aspects that can make this skill necessary to develop your adaptability skills. When you maintain an organized work area, paperwork and other aspects of your job, you can be better prepared in the event that operational changes happen at work.

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How to improve adaptability skills

Being adaptable and open to change may not always be easy, however, you might consider the following steps to help you develop and improve your adaptability skills:

  1. Be aware of changes in your environment
  2. Develop a growth mindset
  3. Set goals for yourself
  4. Ask for feedback
  5. Learn to acknowledge and accept change

1. Be aware of changes in your environment

One key method that can help you develop your adaptability skills is to stay cognizant of changes in your work environment. For instance, you might observe the finance team's new budget to stay updated on current allowances if your team's responsibilities involve the use of company funds. You might also remain aware of policies, procedures and other operational processes to stay abreast of changes to various company practices.

2. Develop a growth mindset

Being adaptable also means being willing to learn and try new things. Developing a growth mindset can positively influence your ability to take on new challenges, find new opportunities to develop your knowledge and contribute to new projects. Your willingness and motivation to keep improving upon your skills can also show your employer your commitment to your professional growth.

3. Set goals for yourself

Another method that can help you develop your adaptability skills might be to set goals for yourself. For instance, if you feel you might be weaker in your nonverbal communication or you tend to procrastinate when expected to complete challenging tasks, you might set a goal to work on each aspect of your skills so you can improve your overall ability to adapt to changes in the workplace.

4. Ask for feedback

As you develop throughout your career, you might think about requesting feedback or constructive criticism from your managers to help you improve on your weaker skills. Positive and constructive feedback can be beneficial for setting goals and achieving success in your career.

5. Learn to acknowledge and accept change

It can also be highly beneficial to let yourself accept change as it occurs. Learning to acknowledge changes in your career can help you prepare yourself and adapt to differing circumstances. Additionally, learning how to be willing to accept change can be an effective step toward recognizing when you need to make adjustments to make transitions smoother for yourself.

Related: How to Develop Your Skill Set to Advance Your Career

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Adaptability skills in the workplace

Here are some additional tips to help you apply your adaptability skills in the workplace:

  • If there are changes to processes, procedures or operational practices, you can ask for clarification from teammates and managers to help you better plan for transitions.
  • You might request opportunities to work on tasks that may be new to you or offer to take on responsibilities that require creative approaches.
  • If sharing your ideas with your colleagues is something that makes you anxious, you could set a goal to contribute to team meetings and collaborations.
  • Try getting all aspects of your work organized, such as documents, required paperwork, projects and other work information, so you're prepared in case there are transitions within your job.

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How to highlight adaptability skills

Being adaptable can require a variety of combined skill sets. The following information illustrates how you might showcase these skills on your resume, in your cover letter and during an interview.

Read more: 10 Best Skills to Include on a Resume

Adaptability skills on a resume

You might consider the required job skills and compare them with your developed skill sets. You can then highlight these skills on your resume by providing examples of how you were successful because of your skills. Some skills you could include might be your communication, teamwork or leadership skills.

Adaptability skills in a cover letter

Consider describing your accomplishments that can be directly contributed to your adaptability skills. Maybe you successfully solved a technical problem on a software development project, or maybe you found a creative solution to a customer's problem. However your adaptability skills have helped you achieve goals, consider mentioning it in your cover letter.

Adaptability skills in an interview

You can highlight your adaptability skills by providing the interviewer with examples of how you have applied your skills in past roles. For instance, maybe you relied on your strategic thinking skills in a past role to find new marketing strategies that would position your company ahead of its competition. You can use your past experiences and achievements to help you answer the interviewer's questions in a way that shows how adaptable you are.

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