Adaptive Skills at Work: Examples and Ways To Improve Yours
Updated January 3, 2023
When you're adaptable, it means you frequently grow and change at work. Adaptability can help you handle criticism, solve problems and work in a team more effectively. Learning ways to improve your adaptability and enhance your skills can help you impress company leaders and advance your career.
In this article, we define adaptive skills, provide examples of them, describe ways to improve yours and share ways to highlight your skills during the hiring process.
What are adaptive skills?
Adaptive skills are skills that you can develop so you can continue to grow and learn in your workplace environment. Because the workplace can be unpredictable, skills that show your adaptability and ability to work with any employer when they're hiring a new employee for a role. These skills can involve being resourceful and open-minded or improving your oral and written communication.
Examples of adaptive skills
There are different adaptive skills you can build to help you find continued success in any workplace, including:
Most hiring managers look for a new employee who can work as part of a team. In nearly every job, teamwork is both valuable and necessary to meet business goals and have an efficient environment. While it's also important to be able to work independently, you may appeal to the hiring manager during an interview, or to your current manager if they're considering you for a promotion if you display your ability and willingness to collaborate.
Collaboration is an adaptive skill because no two members of a team are exactly the same. If you can work closely with people who have unique personalities and skill sets and still succeed as a group, you display adaptive collaboration with your manager.
Willingness to learn
One of the biggest ways you can showcase your adaptive skills is in your willingness to learn. Even if you've been at a company for many years, there's always an opportunity to learn something new, whether that's by shadowing a coworker in another department or asking your manager for additional responsibilities that take you a little outside of your comfort zone. When you learn, you grow in your role because you can now complete a task or project that you may not have before.
Learning something new also means that you then have the ability to teach someone else, which is another adaptive skill you can grow. Managers value employees who take on a mentor or trainer role in an organization because peer-to-peer learning and teaching can be powerful.
As a company grows, there may be opportunities for you to showcase how innovative you are. When your organization runs into an issue with a current process, you may be the one who can form a new method that allows the office to continue to be productive and run efficiently. If you're innovative, you're able to think quickly and find the resources you require to improve the current situation. This is a valuable asset because while managers are typically handling the bigger picture items, it helps them if their employees showcase resourcefulness and help them solve the problem.
When you're innovative, you also usually have a certain level of natural creativity. Innovation and creativity help you think creatively to form actionable solutions to everyday issues in the workplace.
As an employee, there may be a lot going on in the workplace or among your coworkers that managers don't make you privy to. You may not understand why there's a new process or procedure in place or even understand what everyone in the office is responsible for. The adaptive skill of open-mindedness is something that managers see as valuable because it means you're willing to take a lot of events in the workplace at face value while remaining happy to do your work and assist where you can.
Being open-minded also means that you listen to your coworkers' ideas and are open to adjusting your thinking based on your mutual conversation. An open-minded employee is willing to ask questions, take on new responsibilities and get to know their teammates on a personal level.
A determined employee is more likely to be a self-starter, take on extra work responsibilities that may ultimately help the office meet goals like those set for sales or productivity and arrive to work on time and ready to begin their day without much delay. If you're determined, you're also likely to be persistent and not give in when you're having a hard time figuring out how to complete a task or project.
This is especially beneficial in the workplace because it won't always be an easy and routine day. Instead, you may find yourself in an unexpected situation that requires you to stay focused on the end goal, manage your stress level and remain motivated.
Empathy goes along with some of the other important adaptive skills because empathy is the ability to understand how someone is feeling. Whether you're communicating with a coworker or a customer, displaying empathy can help you deescalate a situation or even drive you to showcase enthusiasm for a teammate's ideas for how to improve a workplace process.
Read more: Why Empathy in the Workplace Is Important
How to improve your adaptive skills
Although some adaptive skills may come more naturally than others, you can still improve on any of them. Follow these tips to develop your adaptive skills:
1. Ask for feedback
Since your managers and coworkers work with you every day, they're more aware of how you are performing in the workplace and can give you valuable feedback. Asking for such feedback is the only requirement. Not only does asking show your willingness to improve, but you may also be able to receive constructive criticism that can help you improve.
Related: 10 Skills for Cover Letters
2. Challenge yourself
Challenging yourself means questioning your abilities. This can be a good thing as it then forces you to figure out how you can improve. You can also challenge yourself by taking risks in the workplace and putting yourself in unfamiliar roles. Consider presenting at your next team meeting, suggesting a robust program to the CEO or applying for an internal position that you're passionate about but is a little outside of your experience.
Related: Historical Thinking Skills Explained
3. Take on a leadership role
Talk to your manager about any leadership opportunities that they can consider you for. Even if there aren't any promotions available, you may still be able to lead a coworker in a project or be in charge of a process and all the training involved in rolling it out to the rest of the company.
A leadership role may help you improve many of your adaptive skills. If you lead others, you can work on your communication, open-mindedness and empathy, just to name a few. If you lead a process, you can work on your determination, budgeting and strategic thinking.
4. Maintain a positive attitude
When you're positive, you're more likely to want to improve. You can be driven to give your best to prove your abilities to yourself and those around you. Think about how your work affects the entire workplace and consider staying motivated to make a positive difference at work.
Related: 11 Work Readiness Skills
5. Listen and observe
Just like every employee has unique experiences, knowledge and skill set, they also have different levels of adaptive skills. It's important to listen to and observe others you work with so you can learn from them. They may have a certain way of addressing their team that pushes everyone to work harder or they could approach a group project in such an organized way that the project is automatically off to a great start. If you listen to and observe the people around you, you can notice the characteristics that help make them successful.
Adaptive skills in the workplace
Here are some ways you can showcase your adaptive skills in the workplace:
Know that not everything is permanent at work. You may be able to accept different circumstances and learn from them.
Take on roles that break you out of your comfort zone. For example, if you work on accounting tasks all day, see if there are any opportunities for you to take on a more traditionally creative role.
Regularly schedule team lunches. This is a great way for you to get to know your coworkers outside of the office environment and show your willingness to form a group bond with those you work with.
Be on time. This includes arriving to work on time and completing projects before the deadline.
How to highlight adaptive skills
You can use your adaptive skills in nearly everything you do at work, so it's important to highlight your skills on your resume and cover letter and during the job interview. Here are some ways you can provide your hiring manager with a greater understanding of your adaptive skills:
Adaptive skills for a cover letter
Your cover letter is the place where you can expand more on anything that appears on your resume. You can also use your cover letter to write in-depth about anything that doesn't have a place on your resume. Make sure your cover letter is concise and that you include real experiences that showcase your adaptive skills in a prior role that's relevant to the position for which you're applying.
Adaptive skills for a resume
On your resume, highlight any past instances when you took the initiative on a new process and list any projects you've led successfully. For example, you may describe your collaboration skills while providing detail about your job responsibilities in a previous project manager role. You might want to include a more thorough description of your adaptive skills in a special skills section.
Adaptive skills for a job interview
You can automatically show your adaptive skills during the job interview by answering the interviewer's questions without knowing what they're going to ask before. If you can answer quickly while only taking a short pause to think over your answer, you can show the hiring manager that you're able to think quickly while still providing a thorough answer. It's always okay to take some time to formulate a high-quality answer to a question, but having the ability to think of such answers in a reasonable amount of time can help show your adaptability.
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