Adaptability is a key area of professional development that is often overlooked. However, in our fast-changing world, your ability to adapt and grow can be a strong predictor of your success. People who are more adaptable are happier at work because they can find the silver lining. Change is inevitable. How ready are you when it comes?
I worked in higher education for most of my career. Despite being centers of innovation and growth, it is an institution that is slow to change. Universities are like large ships to steer; I often felt eager to introduce something new but knew it could take significant time to make it happen.
Now, working in technology, I see just how quickly change can happen and how critical it is to be adaptable. One day I may be working on developing a coaching program but the next it will be shelved to meet a more critical business need. It is a stark cultural shift from my early career days, and truly testing my own ability to face change and adapt.
People react to change in a variety of ways. Often change isn’t rolled out in a clean way and the unknown can create a psychological anxiety. Ask yourself how well you can handle the unknown and prepare yourself by increasing your capacity to handle change.
Learn new things often.
Continuing to learn new things is one of the greatest ways to increase your adaptability. The more you know, the more you recognize how many possible solutions there are for any problem. Expanding your mind allows you to see change as an opportunity to learn something new. In addition, it helps put into perspective that change is a necessary part of growth, allowing you to embrace it. Subscribe to things like Medium and select topics that are different from your usual interests. Or take a class on LinkedIn Learning to learn something new. You find your capacity to handle change will increase with every new thing you learn.
Widen your circle and get different perspectives.
You’ve heard of group think, right? When you spend all of your time with like-minded people, it reinforces the limiting belief that change is bad. Instead, use every opportunity to talk to others. Expand your understanding on a variety of issues and look for ways to collaborate with others so you can see new possibilities. I like to join working groups whenever I can better understand the challenges happening across the organization. It gives me the perspective I need to see things through another lens and the confidence to see that change is happening all around us.
Think about what you could gain, not what you will lose.
When you focus your attention on what is changing, it is common to feel a sense of loss. After all, there is comfort in what you know. If you shift your focus on what becomes possible with change, it allows you to look forward instead of back. Perhaps the change will give you the chance to work on a new project or gain a new skill. My shift from higher education to technology was exciting, but I was nervous. Now I love it. Often our most significant periods of growth come in times of change. Focusing on what was possible helped give me the confidence to take the leap and find success.
Think about solutions.
If change feels bad, it is likely because you are focused on the problems it bring. Instead, you need to shift your thinking to focus on solutions. How can you approach things differently to solve for problems? What new ways of thinking does this change enable? When coaching people, I ask questions that help them consider ways to move forward rather than feeling stuck. Solutions shift your attention to how you can take control of change instead of being a victim of it.
Take risks, try something new and embrace failure as an opportunity.
If you fear failure, you will always fear change. After all, the unknown brings with it risks and the potential for mistakes. Instead, look for opportunities to take calculated risks. Like a muscle, your ability to try, fail and try again is only strengthened with use. Learning that you have what it takes to reflect on your failures and move on will help you become more adaptable to changes that are outside of your control.
Being adaptable is important to your success at work, but also to your ability to be happy. Take time now to grow your skills in this area and you will be ready for that next big change – whatever it may be.