If you haven’t been living under a rock, you are aware that we are now living in very uncertain times, with big changes coming.
To start, Oxford researchers predict that as soon as 2033, 47% of US jobs will be at high risk of being replaced by robots.
Let’s also not forget that approximately 50% of workplace activities around the globe are automatable. This will push the entire workforce to develop new skillsets and step into alternative industries at the same time.
And we can’t ignore the fact that people are no longer retiring. Nearly 25% of Americans say they will never retire, and this lack of retirement is creating more competition and a slew of upper management roles not opening up for younger generations.
With 40 million Americans (as of May, 28, 2020) filing for unemployment and on the job hunt, knowing what skills to embody on a resume or interview are more important than ever. In a world where recruiters only read a resume for 7.4 seconds…standing out from the rest isn’t a nice to have, its a necessity.
So how do we stay competitive and relevant in such an unpredictable world?
The answer isn’t about mastering the right hard skill, such as Java programming or CAD (computer-aided design) capabilities. Actually, no matter what your industry or profession is, the most valuable skill you can have, according to experts, is one soft skill…adaptability.
Harvard Business Review defines adaptability as the ability to “quickly read signals and act on change.” According to Fast Company, adaptability is now the number one quality employers should look for in a new hire. It’s no longer enough to be talented or hard-working, companies are looking for employees who are versatile, flexible, and ready to take on the challenges of a fast-changing world.
If you want to be one of these powerhouse candidates, here are 4 habits I’ve identified that will help you become more adaptable, no matter what happens at work, in your industry or in the world.
1. View change as an opportunity.
No matter what comes up at work or in life, being adaptable all begins with a positive outlook. You cannot choose your thoughts, but you do have the power to decide what you are willing to believe and support. A nationwide study has found that students with a growth mindset, meaning someone who sees challenges as opportunities for growth, were three times more likely to score in the top 20% on tests.
Begin to pay attention to your emotions and what thoughts pop up into your mind throughout the day. When a meeting is suddenly moved up 30 minutes, do you go into panic mode and become frustrated for the host’s disregard for your own schedule? When your project’s prioritization gets moved down the company list, do you think negatively on your performance and give up?
To better understand where you fall, track your thoughts for a few weeks. Every time a change occurs in your life, jot it down, along with what your initial reaction was. You will quickly begin to see not only what emotions and thoughts you turn to most, but also begin to see what changes alarm you the most.
While this awareness is great, you must also change your mindset. My best advice, decide to get wildly curious when a challenge or change arrives. Ask yourself:
- Who has experienced this same change that I could ask for guidance from?
- What is the one thing I can do, right now, to move things forward in this new direction?
- What are the potential positive outcomes that may arise from this change?
- How can I perform my best in this new environment?
The more you can practice noticing your thoughts, and shifting them to a place of curiosity and intrigue to easier sudden changes will become. Instead of running away from change, you may just might find yourself walking towards it with a magnifying glass.
2. Build learning into a constant habit.
It’s tempting to think that once you have that golden diploma in hand, your days of school, studying and learning are done. Think again. Every 5 years a skillset you have built becomes obsolete, so by the time you graduate from school…what you learned in your first year is already losing some of its value. According to a report on workplace reskilling, 25% of adults reported a discrepancy between the skills they have and the skills needed to execute their current job. Instead of falling behind, assess your own skills and determine what you need to learn in order to stretch into the job you want, not just stay in the one you have.
Continuous learning doesn’t only benefit your career, it can even improve your overall mental and physical health. Neurobiologists have found that continued learning improves brain health!
Schedule time every month to become aware of changes in your industry and the current state of the world around you. This looks like subscribing to industry magazines, forums, or newsletters, finding conferences in your area, and making a point to attend any guest lectures.
3. Expand your personal network.
It’s easy to get so caught up in the world of your job and your coworkers that you lose track of your wider community. Especially as of late, with most people confined to their homes spending time with only immediate family and friends. But the reality is, your relationships with people in other industries will be more important than ever. While you may have a position you like now, most people change jobs 10-15 times during their career, with 80% of them never even being posted to the public, because they’re filled through networking alone.
Begin to view your network as an investment, and realize that you get out of it what you put in. Don’t simply consider networking as a means to find your next opportunity, view it through the lens of simply connecting with others. When you deeply connect and get present with another person, they can become a part of your network, turning you into a connector which is one of the highest forms of giving you can do in your career. Give wherever you can.
Part of this means keeping a library of your connections. Whether you attend a networking event, meet someone in a coffee shop or connect with an alumni on LinkedIn, add their information to an excel file or a notebook and take note of your connection or any special conversation you had. The next time a friend or recent connection mentions they’re looking for a lawyer, a marketing consultant, or financial advisor..chances are you know of someone. It’s all about keeping your ear open for opportunities to help others. Become the connector everyone is looking for and when one of your connections has the key to your dream job, you can bet they’ll think of you.
Talking to people might be a stressor, especially for the 12% of adults who experience social anxiety, but research has found we often underestimate the positive impact of connecting with others, for both our own and other’s, wellbeing. Don’t just stick to the people you know, in fact, do the opposite and seek out individuals vastly different than you. When you talk with an array of people, you are not only building a broader network, but you are experiencing different perspectives, opinions, and cultures…all of which make you more adaptable.
4. Befriend the uncomfortable.
You attend the same gym class, take the same route to work, and make the same smoothie every morning. Life can so easily become this comfortable cycle of lather-rinse-repeat. This might have you feeling comfy and cozy in your life, but if you want to jump out of mediocrity, make a commitment to regularly try new things outside of your comfort zone. The more you challenge yourself, the more you can actually change your brain.
The more you do it, the more comfortable you are with change, and the faster you grow. In fact, when you challenge yourself, you are actually changing the chemistry of your brain…for the better. When you step into a new environment or try to learn a new skill, you engage in what is known as neuronal plasticity, where your brains’ balance of neurotransmitters changes and creates new connections. So attending that online marketing class or getting scuba certified may just be making you smarter… and more adaptable.
Becoming more adaptable also makes you happier. Psychologist Rich Walker of Winston-Salem State University found that people who engage in a variety of experiences are more likely to retain more positive emotions than people with fewer unique experiences. While we all have our favorite hobbies and places to go, be cognizant of adding variety into your daily life. This could be as simple as taking a new way to get to work, listening to a different podcast, or yes…going skydiving or river rafting over the weekend. You never know what ambiguous activity you are going to love!
As the great biologist Charles Darwin once observed about his theory of evolution, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent…it is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
At any given moment, we’re either growing… or dying. Choose wisely.
If you want to not only survive but thrive in your career, build your adaptability muscle now. You are going to need it.
Source: Ashley Stahl via Forbes.com