The 10 Essential Soft Skills List: 6 – Adaptability | Bookbyte

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The 10 Essential Soft Skills List: 6 – Adaptability

There's no better way to introduce the next soft skill, adaptability, than with quote a by the martial arts legend, Bruce Lee:

"Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless—like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle; you put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend."

The "crashing" part is open to interpretation—when it comes to the workplace (*shrugs*)—but we can say it does all apply and works as a great analogy to describe adaptability. But, to define adaptability, as a soft skill or skill set, it is a general willingness, openness, and ability to gracefully transition to change, in any form, in a professional setting. And, according to Phoenix Group International (PGI), 69% of hiring managers say adaptability is the most important soft skill they screen for.

Adaptable vs. flexible

You've probably also seen the word 'flexible' thrown around a bit which is really synonymous—or goes hand-in-hand—with being adaptable. The only real difference between the two is that being flexible is more or less how you handle a short and temporary change vs. fully adapting to a permanent change. Employers seek out these two traits in their hiring process because it reflects an optimistic outlook and a can-do attitude that is often needed. With how frequent things can change in the workplace, be them in the form of new tasks/responsibilities, new teammates, new policies, new leadership, etc., as paid employees, you must be able to adapt and thrive with each change.

Being adaptable, professionally, means being open to learning new skills and taking on new roles; welcoming and incorporating feedback from your peers; embracing failures as lessons learned that can help you succeed next time (and not as total defeat); unlearning old things to learn new things; being a team player; seeing the bigger picture by weighing scenarios & possibilities before making a decision; and, keeping your calm in stressful situations.

Since employers are now asking questions designed to reveal how adaptable a candidate really is, it's worth spending some time considering how you would answer the following adaptability interview questions from The Fast Company and PGI:

  1. Let's talk about a time you were assigned a new task outside of your regular day-to-day grind, maybe something you've never done before, how did you handle it?

  2. Can you recall a time where learned a new work task or maybe how to operate a new software? How did the process go?

  3. Let's talk about the biggest change you've had to deal with. What was it and how did you adapt?

  4. Tell me about a time where you had to work with someone who was either difficult or had a different work style than yours.

  5. Have you ever had a project suddenly change after putting in a considerable amount of time? How did you handle this change?

There's no real cut and dry answers for these questions because they're designed to get you to open up a little more. But, being able to show how you successfully adapted to each situation or circumstance, along with answering all the questions in a positive manner (not making excuses, casting blame or becoming defensive) will help show the employers you do have strong adaptability skills and you possess a can-do attitude!

Lastly, the following TED talk, 3 Ways to Measure Your Adaptability—and How to Improve It by Natalie Fratto introduces the ideas of AQ or adaptability quotient and looks at adaptability as another form of intelligence—alongside IQ and EQ. Check it out!

Courses you can take | Apply Adaptability
Estimated time to complete: 5 minutes

Udemy | Improve Team Adaptability to Maximize Work Performance
Estimated time to complete: 2.5 hours

LinkedIn Learning | Developing Adaptability as a Manager
Estimated time to complete: 35 minutes