ADAPTABILITY: AN IN-DEMAND ATTRIBUTE

By Sheryl Silver

Reprinted from the Star ledger Sunday, January 15, 1995
Section Nine: Page 45

Ask any recruiter or hiring manager. Whatever business or industry they are from, they’ll likely mention “flexibility and adaptability” as traits on their “most wanted” list for new hires.

This same focus on flexibility applies to current employees as well. When it comes to cutting back in a department or job category, the least flexible, adaptable individual amongst similarly qualified employees, is likely to be the person terminated.

Think of people you know who resisted computer technology when it entered the work environment. What about those who clung to “the old way” of doing things after your company was acquired or new management was brought in to improve productivity? Those folks that come to mind probably fall under the category of “former” rather than “current” co-workers.

The point is that in an economy where change is ongoing and managers and supervisors are required to peddle as fast as they can to meet their supervisors’ demands, there is little tolerance for employees who resist change – whether it relates to new technology, new procedures, new job responsibilities or revised compensation plans. The response to those who resist – whether stated or not – is “get with the program or go elsewhere”.

By the way, adapting to the changes but making known your displeasure about doing so will not serve you either.  Winners who continually complain about the changes they have had to make are likely to find a way to their bosses “hit” lists at some point.

How can you demonstrate your flexibility and endear yourself to your boss as an adaptable, versatile employee?

If a downsizing in your department has led to expanded responsibilities and longer work schedules for everyone, taking on extra work without complaint is likely to score you extra points on your bosses “flexibility” scorecard.

If new technology is being introduced and training for it is available, be among the first to sign up for the classes. Beyond being seen as cooperative and eager to adapt to change, you may become the resident expert with the new technology and thereby, be seen as one of the more valuable employees in your department.

If your company initiates a re-engineering project with the goal of enhancing productivity, volunteer to be on the task force that identifies ways to improve the status quo.  Your willingness to volunteer for the project will be viewed favorably and any measurable improvements you produce through the project will enhance your reputation as a valuable contributor.  Even if the engineering effort ends up eliminating your current role, you have a greater likelihood of being re-deployed elsewhere in the organization if you are viewed as an inactive participant in the process rather than a passive bystander.

If you are someone who thrives on new challenges, this focus on flexibility is undoubtedly welcome news. Demonstrating you have got this in-demand trait should be painless.   If change, however, isn’t something you enjoy and if more than one person in your life has suggested you are a bit rigid, it is advised to: Think of a time when you stepped outside your comfort zone and didn’t actually die from the experience. Take another stab at it. Your professional future may depend on it.

The consequences of staying locked into the status quo – whatever your area of expertise – is a limited lifespan with your current employer and diminished employability with other employers who generally will also be looking for up-to-date skills and approaches to problem solving.  Do yourself a favor.  Embrace change enthusiastically when it lands on your desk, whether it relates to new technology or job duties, a new boss or incentive plan.

Develop the range of experience that suggests you’re an individual willing to adapt, to take on expanded or diversified responsibilities, to continue your education and to update your skills.  Whether you are marketing yourself internally for advancement in your current organization or externally for a job with a new employer, such a track record will tend to be far more impressive to employers than one indicating a more static work history consisting of years on end of nearly identical job responsibilities.