Adaptability: it’s good for life and good for the CV

What do we mean by adaptability?

We mean the ability to respond positively and appropriately to changing circumstances. Not only does it benefit us in life in general (this has been obvious to us all during the COVID-19 crisis) but also in the working world. It’s one of the important traits that employers look for because it shows that you will be able to learn new skills, embrace new technology and adopt new systems.

Simply put, adaptability means open to change and in the fast changing, highly technological workplace of today, this soft skill is prized.

We can be adaptable in different ways. Intellectual flexibility for example, refers to being able to keep an open mind - not missing the details but at the same time seeing the full picture. It’s easier said than done.

Then there’s receptiveness. That’s being receptive to demands and change and finding ways to achieve targets. Creativity is the skill of finding new ways of doing things that are beneficial.

When you go for job interviews, or probably before that, even at the CV stage, employers will be looking for proof that you are adaptable. How can this be shown? Living abroad on an exchange programme is one way to demonstrate your ability to adapt, especially if you immersed yourself in a foreign culture or learned a new skill. Part-time work whilst you study shows you can easily switch priorities. Work experience, internships and volunteering all show that you have it in you to adapt.

Business Schools, as well as employers, now offer training to make workers more adaptable. “The most important thing is to 'teach’ people to feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations", says Katleen De Stobbeleir, professor in leadership and coaching at Vlerick Business School, in Ghent Belgium.

At Wharton Business School, they use military leadership principles on their MBA programme to improve the students’ response to change. On training days with members of the US Army and the Marines, students experience intense military training exercises which put them on the spot to make decisions and adapt quickly in unpredictable and rapidly changing situations.

Often just in everyday life and in friendships, we can see who is adaptable or flexible, and who is not. We know the friends who normally ‘go with the flow’ and are naturally more likely to adapt. Then we have the friends who seem to be more rigid and feel put out when plans change, or things don’t go according to plan.

It might be that we are naturally prone to adaptability or not. But you can also decide to be consciously more flexible in your ideas or expectations. This is good training for the job market because employers increasingly want to see candidates who can easily engage with the fast evolving, constantly changing world of work. Start practising flexibility in your everyday life; adapt to the unexpected as smoothly as possible and you will be well set for the recruitment world.

Further reading:

Why Adaptability is the Key Ingredient to Leadership Success (

Adaptability and flexibility - Developing your skills - University of Bradford

Why adaptability in the workplace is the key to success (

The Benefits of Being Adaptable -

Education and adaptability are vital in our rapidly evolving, innovative world — Executive Digest — Presented by FedEx (