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Adaptability Skills: Definition, How To List On A Resume & How To Improve

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If you’ve applied for a job recently, you know how much the application process has changed.

Namely, a growing number of applicants are electing to use skills-based resumes that highlight the competencies most relevant to the position you’re applying for.

And in the 21st-century job market, no skill is as desirable as adaptability. According to research, adaptability is among the essential capabilities—regardless of your role, field, or career path.

Use this guide to learn about adaptability skills—including how to include them in your repertoire and resume.

What Are “Adaptability Skills”?

Adaptability refers to an individual’s ability to adjust to unpredictable events, changing conditions, and shifting demands.

However, the term has become more specific in the employment realm.

According to widespread research, most people today regard adaptability as a multi-dimensional capacity to negotiate transitions and continuously achieve synergy between oneself and one’s environment.

By this logic, adaptability encompasses several characteristics, including learning quickly, collaborating, taking risks, and more.

Why Are Adaptability Skills Important?

Adaptability skills are essential for workplace success because they showcase your ability to exercise leadership, determination, confidence, flexibility, and more.

In today’s economy, conditions are constantly changing, and new technologies are continuously evolving; those who learn, grow, and remain flexible are more likely to succeed in variable environments.

Adaptability skills are particularly crucial for those who work in:

  • Business
  • Finance
  • Education
  • Marketing & Sales
  • STEM-related fields
  • And more!

Types of Adaptability Skills

To understand the types of adaptability skills, you need to know the difference between hard vs. soft skills.

Hard skills are job-related competencies, while soft skills are personal qualities and traits. While adaptability often refers to soft skills, you can also demonstrate adaptability in leveraging soft skills.

The following adaptability skills mainly focus on soft skills, but you can also apply them to workplace competencies.

Adaptability Skills for Growth

Adaptability skills for growth are competencies that make you particularly inclined to keep growing and learning.

To that end, people with growth adaptability are often curious, resilient, teachable, self-motivated, humble, and open to criticism.

All the above characteristics are necessary for consistent personal growth.

Adaptability Skills for Teamwork

Being adaptable as a team member requires patience, collaboration, communication skills, and leadership.

Adaptability skills for teamwork are in extremely high demand since collaborative work is increasingly common in a globalized economy.

Developing adaptability skills for teamwork generally requires practice working in groups.

Adaptability Skills for Customer Service

Adaptability in customer service generally includes skills related to tolerance, understanding, patience, problem-solving, and discipline.

These skills are critical in customer service since the job entails interacting with diverse people from all walks of life.

Since customer service is a part of many jobs, being adaptable in this realm can make you attractive to a diverse pool of employers.

Adaptability Skills for Strategy

The ability to strategize flexibly is essential in many positions and fields. For example, people who work in business must consistently assess data and strategize accordingly.

Adaptability skills for strategy may include:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Innovation and creativity
  • Risk-taking and quick thinking
  • Resilience

Adaptability Skills for Interpersonal Growth

Interpersonal growth is a highly desirable skill in the workplace.

The ability to communicate and collaborate effectively is a timeless, invaluable capability. Adaptability typically encompasses attentiveness, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, negotiation, persuasion, and listening.

10 Most Common Adaptability Skills

Developing a well-rounded arsenal of adaptability skills is crucial to success in the workplace and beyond.

Although resilience is a “soft” skill, it remains one of the primary determinants of overall life satisfaction.

Ultimately, developing the ten most common adaptability skills can benefit you.

Observance & Mindfulness

Mindfulness is one of the essential skills—in work as in life.

Research suggests that mindfulness contributes significantly to happiness, fulfillment, and success. Additionally, being mindful can help you evaluate your circumstances carefully to make better decisions.

Developing mindfulness often takes a lot of time and practice. But it’s also something you can do anytime, anywhere.

How to Develop Observance & Mindfulness

Mindfulness is one of the only skills you get from removing effort rather than adding it.

To develop mindfulness, find ways to free yourself from distraction and practice observing your thoughts, others, and surroundings.

You can meditate, practice mindfulness techniques, journal, or reflect in conversations with others. Also, consider improving your listening skills, studying human psychology, and honing your ability to pay attention closely.

Teachability & Humility

Along with mindfulness, humility is highly quality, as it contributes to growth and adaptability.

Adaptable people must be highly humble to accept challenges to their expectations and routines. They must be able to listen to criticism and implement the advice. We learn by making mistakes, but a person who lacks humility often cannot tolerate being wrong.

For this reason, humility and teachability are crucial modern workplace skills.

How to Develop Teachability & Humility

Like mindfulness, humility takes time to learn.

You can develop humility and teachability by soliciting feedback from others and listening, expressing gratitude, and asking for help.

Continuously try new things and practice being new at something.

Consider trying rejection therapy, a method of facing rejection every day for 100 days. It has been highly effective in helping people develop rejection tolerance and humility.

Collaboration

The ability to collaborate can dramatically enhance your adaptability skills. Working with others is one of the most demanding aspects of many work environments, and only some people can do so successfully.

Demonstrating your ability to collaborate with others can be a tremendous advantage. By highlighting your ability to team up with others, you are sending the message that you are flexible and tolerant.

How to Develop Collaboration

To develop collaboration, you must find opportunities to work with others. You can participate in collaborative efforts at work or join a team or group to build your skills outside of work. Team sports offer an excellent opportunity to learn collaboration.

You can practice collaborating at home with your spouse when delegating tasks and assigning responsibilities.

Ultimately, there are countless opportunities to practice working with others—all you have to do is take them.

Communication

Communication goes hand in hand with collaboration.

When working with others, you must communicate effectively, prioritizing clarity, empathy, and compromise. Good communication hinges on one’s ability to articulate one’s thoughts and solid listening skills.

You can demonstrate your ability to communicate by relating a moment when you advocated for yourself or someone else, negotiated to your advantage or helped someone reach a decision.

How to Develop Communication Skills

Many people develop communication skills by taking communication, improvisation, or public speaking classes.

Others write for blogs or post on social media. You can also participate in debates or discussions and remain mindful of your contributions and your ability to listen to others.

Lastly, consider reading a broad range of texts and listening to speeches, talks, and videos online to enhance your repertoire of expressions and communication strategies.

Curiosity & Openness to Learning

To remain adaptive, you will need to learn continuously.

Remaining teachable is only half the battle; you must also consciously seek opportunities to learn new things and exercise new skills.

Curiosity is another often-neglected trait that significantly contributes to career and personal success. Curious people are more likely to uncover opportunities, make friends, and develop new capabilities.

How to Develop Curiosity & Openness to Learning

You’ve probably heard the expression “fake it till you make it.”

While you can’t force yourself to be curious, you can practice seeking new opportunities to learn and grow and congratulate yourself for your efforts. Over time, curiosity will become a part of your personality.

Read new books, explore new creators and influential figures, try new hobbies, and take risks. Ultimately, curiosity is all about taking reasonable risks and learning from them.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is an essential workplace skill that will undoubtedly get you noticed. It entails having a healthy dose of skepticism and questioning the status quo.

Changemakers are an invaluable part of every organization, and they are effective because they constantly think critically, evaluating a situation from every angle and questioning standard practices and traditions.

How to Develop Critical Thinking

To develop your critical thinking skills, you must continuously question the world around you. You can do this by evaluating opposing perspectives, listening to or engaging in debates, asking others for their opinions, and exercising healthy skepticism.

Critical thinking skills also emerge from doing puzzles, mathematics, and word games or riddles. Consider playing games with your friends and family members or watching documentaries together.

Problem-Solving

Problem-solving is a frequently touted soft skill that only some people know how to practice.

Successful problem-solving requires several challenging yet invaluable capabilities.

First, you need to be able to spot a problem or pain point. Then, you must have the creativity to brainstorm solutions. Lastly, you will need the resilience to bounce back if your solution fails.

You can demonstrate problem-solving by engaging in conflict resolution, proposing new ideas and solutions to problems at work, and taking risks.

How to Develop Problem-Solving & Critical Thinking

There are innumerable ways to develop problem-solving skills.

First, try conventional means of problem-solving, like playing Sudoku or doing crossword puzzles. You can also read books and keep up with global and national events to gain exposure to examples of problem-solving in action.

Read memoirs of famous problem-solvers and change-makers, and learn about historical inventions and discoveries.

Resilience

Resilience, often called grit, is the ability to bounce back after a challenging experience or event.

Having resilience makes you adaptable because it prevents you from becoming discouraged as you navigate new demanding situations.

Research suggests that resilience is a significant determinant of success and perseverance, so it is an efficient adaptability skill to add to your resume.

How to Develop Resilience

The most resilient people typically undergo intense or challenging events in their lives. While you don’t need to put yourself in a difficult position intentionally, you can practice maintaining your composure during the ups and downs of your daily life.

You can also develop resilience by persevering through difficult things. Try a new activity or hobby and stick to it despite struggling to learn something new. Try to build a relationship with someone you previously did not like or a person who intimidates you.

The rejection therapy method is also excellent for developing resilience.

Creativity

Creativity is the foundation of success.

To make change happen and set yourself apart from others, you have to be able to exercise your imagination and creativity, envisioning new and unprecedented possibilities.

Many think creativity exists only within the arts—but that’s not true. There are many ways to be creative at work, including brainstorming new solutions, facilitating compromises, and reimagining outdated practices and protocols.

How to Develop Creativity

To enhance your creativity, do something creative!

Many enjoy creative hobbies like writing, painting, dancing, drawing, or sculpture. You can also develop creative skills by trying new things.

Creativity comes from taking risks, so consider trying an activity out of your comfort zone, like improvisation or scuba diving.

Lastly, expand your perspective by traveling, interacting with diverse groups of people, or learning about the unfamiliar.

Optimism

Most people conflate optimism with happiness and joy.

However, optimism isn’t about remaining in a good mood. Optimism entails believing in possibilities and having faith in the future.

Optimistic people are highly adaptable because they trust that no matter what happens, they will be okay.

Optimism is also infectious; an optimistic employee will likely keep everyone else in good spirits, making them an invaluable addition to a team.

How to Develop Optimism

To develop optimism, spend lots of time exposing yourself to optimistic content, people, and experiences. Surround yourself with light-hearted people, watch or listen to comedy, read positive books and listen to positive podcasts.

You can also practice seeing the good in things. Many people maintain a daily gratitude list to track the things that bring them joy. This practice can significantly enhance your optimism.

How To List Adaptability Skills on a Resume and Cover Letter

Once you’ve developed your adaptability skills, it’s time to market yourself accordingly.

You’ll want to showcase your skills by using clear examples and tangible evidence, creating a clear picture of who you are in your prospective employer’s mind.

For each skill that you list, be sure to add one or more concrete examples. Additionally, you can ask any recommenders to confirm your standards for credibility.

Lastly, ensure that your resume and cover letter align.

How To List Adaptability Skills On a Cover Letter

To list adaptability skills on a cover letter, consider the requirements and specificities of your prospective job.

For example, if you are applying for a position as a teacher, list the adaptability skills most relevant to that position—such as communication, creativity, and problem-solving—and provide concrete examples.

Begin by naming the skill, then provide an example. Lastly, explain why this skill makes you uniquely suited for the position. Using this equation will make you more likely to convince your potential employer of your value.

How To List Adaptability Skills on a Resume

No matter which type of resume you choose to write, you must list specific examples of your skills to communicate them to your reader.

For example, under your most recent position, instead of listing “collaborates effectively,” you could write “participated in three event-planning committees and hosted 12 successful events.” Remember to edit your resume for each job you apply to, focusing on the skills most applicable to your desired position.

Tips for Highlighting Adaptability Skills in Writing

To highlight your adaptability skills in writing, you should know several essential strategies.

Use synonyms

Consider using a thesaurus to look up synonyms of the attribute you wish to convey. Avoid overly common words like “organized” or “hard-working” and aim for specificity instead. For example, you could say “meticulous scheduler and planner” instead of “organized.”

Stick to a Small Number

If you simply make a list of positive attributes, your reader is likely to lose interest.

The right amount of skills to list on a resume is typically between three and ten, but you’ll only be able to elaborate on a few, so choose wisely.

Focus on 3-5 essential adaptability skills to showcase in your writing.

Provide Examples and Evidence

As mentioned, naming a skill means nothing without examples.

Employers are likely to have heard “I’m reliable” many times before, but an example can set you apart from other applicants.

Remember to provide examples to support any claims you make about yourself.

How To Demonstrate Adaptability Skills in an Interview

Once you’ve landed an interview, it’s time to think about how to elaborate further on your adaptability skills.

Use the tips below for the best results.

How Do I Say I Have Good Adaptability Skills?

Rather than stating that you had good adaptability skills, consider using a synonym or concrete example to illustrate your point.

Ultimately, anyone can say they are adaptable, so you’ll need to supply evidence of a unique situation in which you demonstrated your flexibility. Consider discussing when you are adjusting your priorities to meet a changing deadline or describe when you had to accommodate an unexpected challenge, like a new coworker or budget cut.

Tips for Highlighting Adaptability Skills

To highlight your adaptability skills in a job interview, focus on providing examples of your flexibility and tying them back to your potential job.

Ultimately, you want your employer to picture you practicing those skills in your new position. Use the tips below to guide your preparation.

Brainstorm Multiple Examples

Although you likely won’t have time to address them, you’ll want multiple examples before your interview.

Preparing accordingly is essential to leverage the best example when the time comes. If your boss emphasizes the value of collaborative work, you can highlight an example that showcases your adaptive collaboration skills.

Get Creative

Your examples don’t need to be work-specific. You can use an example from your personal life if it is relevant to your prospective job.

For example, consider describing a moment in your life when you resolved a conflict between two people or implemented a creative solution to a problem.

The show, Don’t Tell.

Look out for any opportunities to demonstrate your adaptability directly.

For example, if your interviewer is very busy, you can suggest meeting at a different time. Take a bold risk and propose a solution to a problem you noticed in your new workplace.

Just remember to exercise reason and be yourself.

Interview Questions Related to Adaptability That You Might See

Preparing for common interview questions before your big day is always a good idea.

Review some of the most common interview questions below and begin brainstorming answers showcasing your adaptability skills.

What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?

You are likely to hear this question in a job interview since employers want to know more about you and how you might be an asset to their team.

When someone asks about your strengths and weaknesses, they evaluate your perception of those attributes.

Remember to be completely honest—don’t try to spin a strength as a weakness, as employers are familiar with this tactic.

Why Adaptability Skills Are Relevant to this Question

This question gives you a unique opportunity to mention your adaptability skills. You are adaptable, flexible, or open-minded and follow it with an example.

In an interview, you have more time to establish a consistent narrative so that you can discuss your adaptability skills across several different positions and roles.

Consider explicitly stating that you are working on your skills, which also shows adaptability.

Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

Employers typically ask this question because they want to account for gaps in your resume or sudden departures from an old position.

While it may come as a surprise, it’s a common question, and you can answer it in a way that sheds a positive light on your adaptability skills.

You can use this question to justify why you are a good fit for your new position as opposed to the old one. Remember to refrain from speaking poorly of your prior employer.

Why Adaptability Skills Are Relevant to this Question

Your employer may ask this question because they wonder if you could not adapt to a changing work environment.

You can truthfully discuss your reasons for leaving your job while tying it to your adaptability. Consider mentioning your belief that the new job will give you more opportunities to exercise your flexibility.

Ultimately, it’s always best to respond truthfully to every question—especially this one.

What Is Your Work Style?

This question may seem specific, but it offers plenty of opportunities to discuss your adaptability skills.

Employers typically ask this question to get an idea of:

  • How you interact with others
  • Whether you work best in a group or alone
  • How do you approach difficult situations
  • Where you excel and how you might fit into your new role.

Why Adaptability Skills Are Relevant to this Question

This question offers a unique opportunity to tie adaptability into your interview.

Although you should answer the question honestly, you can also discuss your ability to flexibly toggle between different work styles and adjust according to the demands of a task or project.

Additionally, consider explaining how your work style has changed due to your work experiences.

Tips for Improving Adaptability Skills

If you want to work on your adaptability skills, you should put yourself in situations that require flexibility.

Many people choose to experiment with new hobbies, tasks, or opportunities. Others may try to brainstorm new solutions to old problems—at work, home, or personally.

Use the tips below to hone your flexibility skills and land your next job.

Push Yourself Out of Your Comfort Zone

Risk-taking plays a big part in your ability to exercise and improve your adaptability skills. New and unusual situations allow you to practice skills like creative problem-solving, mindfulness, and curiosity. You can also use your health risks as examples of your ability to adapt at your following interview!

Learn from Others

Ask your friends and coworkers to help you work on your adaptability.

They can let you know when you are demonstrating adaptability or being rigid. They can also encourage you to take risks and take them with you.

Having another person’s support can dramatically improve your efforts.

Learn to Embrace Setbacks

Adaptability is all about letting go of your expectations.

To that end, you must learn to accept setbacks—including job rejection! If your interview doesn’t go as planned, use that as an impetus to grow and change. In your following discussion, you can cite this incident as an example of your adaptability!

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re still uncertain how to improve and articulate your adaptability skills, consider the answers to our most frequently asked questions below.

How do you describe an adaptable person?

Most adaptable people are flexible, communicative, creative, problem-solving, optimistic, humble, observant, and teachable.

Although many qualities play into adaptability, all center around one’s ability to excel in unusual or difficult situations.

What is the difference between adaptability and flexibility?

Both terms are often used interchangeably.

However, adaptability usually involves long-term situations and adjusting your behavior to fit your expectations. In contrast, flexibility refers to accommodating others in short-term positions.

Additional Skills to Be Aware Of

If you enjoyed this article, consider learning more about the other top skills to include on your resume.

  • Problem-Solving Skills: Problem-solving skills are highly relevant to adaptability skills. Since the two go hand in hand, it’s best to work on both simultaneously.
  • Interpersonal Skills: Interpersonal skills are fundamental across most industries. Use this guide to learn more about developing and articulating your interpersonal skills.
  • Communication Skills: Adaptable people are often quite adept at communicating with others. If you want to hone your communication skills, read this guide on the subject.
  • Leadership Skills: Leadership skills are always in high demand. You can finetune and express your communication skills using this guide.
  • People Skills: People skills allow you to navigate interpersonal situations with ease, negotiate, debate, discuss, and solve problems. Consider practicing your people skills to improve your chances of getting a new job.

Wrapping Up

Adaptability is a desirable trait in most work environments and across most careers. Being adaptable will help you land a job and empower you to excel outside of work.

Remember that the foundation of adaptability is mindfulness. You are adaptable if you can remain present and composed during any situation. Congratulations!

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