Adaptability Skills: What Are They? (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Nov. 11, 2020
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2020 has brought about more dramatic change than any recent year prior.

Adaptability skills are what kept employees afloat during this inconsistent and confusing time. The ability to adapt in the face of change, both in your work and general life, is essential to success and growth.

Adaptability in the workplace means evolving positively with circumstances. Showing these skills during the hiring process can intrigue a recruiter. Employers look for examples of an applicant adapting to changes in their role or overcoming an issue in their resume.

These skills are valuable for handling anything a new position may throw at you. Especially in a leadership position.

What Are Adaptability Skills?

Having adaptability skills means embracing change with optimism and a problem-solving mentality to create an ideal outcome. Consider a stressful work situation, such as a co-worker quitting without notice and leaving a lump-sum of work behind.

An employee with adaptability skills embraces this inconvenient change as a challenge, rather than a frustrating issue. It gives them the opportunity to showcase their problem-solving and delegation skills.

Adaptability is an impressive soft skill to include on your resume because it speaks to your initiative and leadership abilities.

Why Adaptability Skills Are Important

Adaptability skills are important to applicants at any level. An adaptable applicant will provide higher quality to their work, and be a better employee to work with. For entry-level candidates, adaptability skills can demonstrate a candidate who will thrive regardless of difficulties and has room to grow with more responsibilities.

When applying for a management role, it can make your application stand-out immensely to explain a time you handled a workplace change productively.
Being adaptable is crucial for supervisors because their team is going to be following their approach. A leader who establishes a tone of panic or stress during a period of change will surely pass this energy onto their staff.

When employers are hiring, they aren’t just seeking an applicant who has the necessary experience to fill the role adequately. They want the whole package, which includes relevant soft skills in addition to former experience.

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Adaptability skills can be just as important for you as it is for your employer. Changes always happen, and flexibility can make your life a lot less stressful when it does.

Examples of Adaptability Skills

Being flexible to change and progression involves a series of soft skills that allow a person to effectively adjust. Consider the examples of adaptability skills below to see if any apply to your work style.

  1. Communication Skills

    While many factors contribute to an organization’s success, one of the most essential is strong communication. This is true when changes are occurring, as well as when everything is going according to plan.

    Adapting to change can’t be done through a single employee individually. You must be able to effectively communicate your ideas and reservations with coworkers and supervisors when adapting to change.

    Communication skills incorporate more than just explaining your plans for moving forward to others. It involves utilizing multiple tools including:

    • Active Listening

    • Asking Questions when unclear

    • Emotional Intelligence

    • Paying attention to nonverbal cues

    • Coordinating with others

    • Respectfulness

    • Self-Awareness

  2. Ability to Learn Quickly

    A huge part of being adaptable is about openness and the ability to learn new information. No matter how exceptional you are at your job now, there’s always the possibility that the ways things are done can change. Technology, standards, and systems in the workplace are constantly evolving. Being able to learn and incorporate these advancements into your work is a valuable adaptability skill.

    Learning Skills Involve:

    • Openness

    • Observation

    • Curiosity

    • Research

    • Critical-thinking

    • Creativity

    • Attention to detail

    • Patience

  3. Problem-Solving

    One of the big reasons that adaptability is a desirable trait is that it enhances problem-solving abilities. While we’d all like to work in an environment free from issues, every once in awhile we’re going to come across a few. How you deal with arising problems or unforeseen circumstances greatly contributes to the quality of your work. Candidates who take on problems with a positive mindset and adapt accordingly are in high-demand because they maintain office productivity no matter the circumstance.

    Examples of Problem-Solving Skills Include:

    • Data Analysis

    • Brainstorming

    • Coordination

    • Teamwork

    • Negotiation

    • Decision-making

    • Experimentation

    • Logical Reasoning

    • Creative thinking

    • Evaluation

  4. Organization

    Being organized at work is generally a good idea to have your days run smoothly. This is especially true when adapting to change. It’s extremely difficult to form an effective plan or solution if you’re disorganized. Being organized at work means that it’ll be less stressful to adapt to change and make you a more prepared employee in general.

    Organizational Skills Include:

    • Time Management

    • Planning ahead

    • Record Keeping

    • Strategic Thinking

    • Scheduling

    • Using Resources

  5. Decision-Making

    A huge part of adaptability involves discussion and brainstorming, however, it’s of equal importance that you can make final decisions. There are many great options for how to go about handling a project or situation, but it comes down to following through with a definitive course of action. A plan can never grow to fruition if it’s never started. Being able to act on your plans is an important skill involved in adaptability.

    Decision-Making Involves:

    • Critical-thinking

    • Problem-solving

    • Leadership abilities

    • Delegation

    • Teamwork

    • Organization

    • Risk Assessment

    • Evaluation

  6. Resourcefulness

    Being resourceful is a very helpful skill when it comes to adaptability because it allows you to consider all possible options.
    Resourcefulness means using all the tools at your disposal to get a job done. These resources may not always be so obvious or outlined. Sometimes, you need to use a little bit of creativity to reach an end goal in the best way possible.

    Resourcefulness Involves:

    • Open-Mindedness

    • Communication

    • Innovation

    • Confidence

    • Persistence

    • Building Rapport

    • Research

    • Prioritization

  7. Leadership Skills

    Adaptability insinuates strong leadership skills. If you’re seeking a management position, or hope for your career to move in that direction, having adaptability skills can be crucial. Out of everyone involved in a project, it’s most important for a supervisor to be flexible. This is because their attitude will affect the whole team.

    Have you ever worked for a manager who became stressed out at every minor inconvenience, and in turn, the entire team was continually on edge?

    This is a negative environment to work in, and it’ll show in the quality of work and productivity.

    On the other hand, consider a time you worked under a supervisor who always kept their cool and found solutions, even when faced with considerable difficulty.

    An adaptable leader motivates their team to do better, and that can greatly improve overall work performance.

    Leadership Skills Include:

    • Strong Communication

    • Delegating

    • Decision-making

    • Organization

    • Dependability

    • Confidence

    • Honesty

    • Giving and Receiving Feedback

    • Interpersonal Skills

  8. Stress Management

    Adapting to change can be stressful, even if you’re a seasoned professional when it comes to flexibility. Being able to effectively manage stress and channel it into finding a solution is a vital adaptability skill. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the workplace when the unexpected happens, but crucial to maintain a calm, and professional attitude.

    Stress Management Involves:

    • Keeping an Optimistic Outlook

    • Confidence

    • Logical Reasoning

    • Setting realistic goals

    • Time Management

    • Emotion Regulation

    • Accepting what you can’t control

Tips For Improving Adaptability Skills

Adaptability skills can be improved upon, like any other ability. Despite your position or field, working on these skills can greatly enhance the success of your resume. If you only have the time to work on one of your soft-skills, make it your adaptability.

Consider implementing one or more of the following tips to upgrade your adaptability skills.

  1. Ask Many Questions

    It’s impossible to perform to the best of your capabilities without a clear understanding of what’s expected. Asking questions when needed gives you a better idea of the task at hand, and creates a better chance of you coming up with successful plans.

  2. Accept and Analyze Failures

    Not every plan or idea pans out exactly the way you picture it in your head. Failures don’t have to be negative. They give you the chance to learn, grow from your mistakes, and be more successful in the future. Analyzing where things didn’t go as well as expected and figuring out why that happened can help you improve for the next time.

  3. Do Things Differently Than Usual

    You may be used to doing things a particular way if you’ve been in an industry for a long time. While it may seem more convenient to stick with the way you’ve always done it, consider different ways of doing things. Even altering the system of small tasks at work can improve productivity and stimulate creative thinking. Already being familiar with switching up your plan can be very helpful for when unexpected situations arise and you need to act quickly.

  4. Take Risks

    Adaptability and success are about experimenting with new ideas. Always walking on the safe side could be limiting your adaptability. While you should never take mindless risks, assess what reasonable risks could be a benefit to you and the organization you work for. Stepping outside of your comfort zone makes room for a great deal of innovation.

  5. Get More Comfortable With Change

    Dealing with change has a bit of a learning curve. It can be difficult and even scary. Getting comfortable with change and accepting it as an eventual given can greatly improve your adaptability skills when you’re faced with an unexpected situation.

  6. Be Willing to Learn

    Nobody knows everything. Especially in the everchanging world we live in. In order to improve your adaptability skills, you must always be open to learning more. This can mean anything from doing a little extra research in your free time to attending courses to extend your current knowledge. Curiosity drives improvement. An eagerness to learn more will always make you a stronger and more adaptable employee.

  7. Improve On Your Listening Skills

    There are many strengths associated with adaptability, however, listening skills might be one of the most crucial for improving your skills in this area. Active listening involves full comprehension of what your coworker is explaining through both verbal and nonverbal cues. Improving your listening skills can impact your adaptability by increasing your overall understanding of responsibilities, conflict, and the environment.

  8. Be Positive

    One of the best ways you can enhance your adaptability skills is by maintaining a positive attitude, regardless of difficult circumstances. Throwing in the towel and drowning in a sea of complaints never solved anyone’s problems. The first step to developing a productive plan of action and adapting to the situation is to look at the issue through an optimistic lens.

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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