Adaptability and Flexibility


"Indecision is the key to flexibility!"

The world of work is changing at an ever increasing pace so employers actively seek out graduates who can adapt to changing circumstances and environments, and embrace new ideas, who are enterprising, resourceful and adaptable.

In our list of the top ten skills employers want, flexibility comes ninth.

Some people thrive on change and the unexpected and enjoy alteration to their their routines: they are naturally adaptable.

If you are the kind of person who always has a ‘to do’ list and doesn’t like it when something arises which isn’t on your list, then you probably aren’t naturally adaptable.

New graduates will increasingly be recruited for their adaptability

91% of HR directors think that by 2018, people will be recruited on their ability to deal with change and uncertainty says The Flux Report by Right Management.

60% of HR directors identified employee wellness and resilience as key to enabling organisations to achieve their strategic objectives. 53% said that employees’ ability to deal with unanticipated problems is THE key attribute for future business success.

49% of organisations had already introduced improved flexible working arrangements to help staff cope with flux. Other initiatives include increased internal communication from leadership to maintain morale (42%) and promotions but with minimal pay rises (36%).

The Report found that people in their 30s are perceived to be best equipped to deal with changes at work, whilst those in their 50s and 60s were considered least able to cope.

Noone ever steps in the same river twice: it's not the same river and you are not the same person.


Individuals who cultivate a variety of skills seem brighter, more energetic and more adaptable than those who know how to do one thing only.

Robert Shea

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.

Charles Darwin

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.


Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change - this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress.

Bruce Barton

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.

Anatole France

Change brings opportunity.

Nido Qubein

Change is inevitable - except from a vending machine.

Robert C. Gallagher

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr

He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.

Francis Bacon

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.

Frederick Douglass

If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living.

Gail Sheehy

If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.

Maya Angelou

It's the most unhappy people who most fear change.

Mignon McLaughlin

Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have.

Margaret Mead

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

Alan Watts

The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.

Rupert Murdoch

We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance.

Harrison Ford

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

Mohandas Gandhi

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

You can learn to cope with change

But you can also learn to become more adaptable and to develop your ability to cope effectively with change. You can learn how to become adaptable through experience.  You might even have the advantage over others as you will have used your planning and organising skills to change your behaviour.

Flexibility involves:


Some careers which particularly require flexibility


How can you show a recruiter that you are adaptable?

It,s not sufficient just to say “I am adaptable”, you need to give evidence of your adaptability by giving examples. You can draw on situations like these to help you demonstrate your adaptability:


You have to be able to prove to an employer that you can:

Here are answers to the sort of question you might get on application forms or at interview to test your adaptability

Use the STAR method when drafting your answer

Describe where you have had to show flexibility to rearrange your plans to cope with a change in circumstances


I had to show great flexibility when undertaking my degree. The Access course was a gentle introduction to study but, once I started full-time study at university, I had to adapt not only to the demands of academic work, such as meeting essay deadlines, but to fitting this in around my family responsibilities.

  Demonstrates determination
Although I had worked out a study plan before commencing my course I found that rigid study PLANS could rarely be adhered to due to the ever-changing demands of my children. I therefore adopted a flexible, rather than a highly structured, approach to study, fitting it in whenever and wherever I could - this included taping lectures so that I could listen to them in the car on my way to the University. This worked well during most of the term, although when revising for exams I had to return to a more organised approach, and emphasise to my children how important it was that I should be allowed to complete my study periods in peace.
  Shows adaptability
I have obtained good results in my exams so far and hope to achieve a 2:1 in my final exams.


Describe a situation when you demonstrated adaptability


I knew that I wanted a year out in Africa and that I did not just want to travel but also to share in the life of the country and its people. Teaching gave me such an opportunity to put down roots in a community but, as this was a voluntary programme, I needed to raise £2000 in order to take part in this project. I did this by working very long hours in a factory over the summer to raise the funds that I needed.

  Demonstrates determination
I planned my year by reading a great deal about Tanzania, using websites to research the country & speaking to Tanzanian students at the university. I also asked the organisation that arranged the placement to put me in touch with previous volunteers so that I could pick up tips from them on life in Tanzania, the schools & what I should take with me.   Evidence of careful planning and forward thinking.
Despite all this planning I still found that I needed to be very flexible & to adapt to teaching a class of 60 lively ten-year old boys with few text books & even less in the way of scientific equipment. I had to adapt to this lack of resources & to bear in mind that the pupils were learning English at the same time as they were learning science.
  Shows adaptability
This experience was the most satisfying of my life and the headmaster was so pleased with the children's progress that he asked if I would be able to return at sometime in the future.


Adaptable employees the future for businesses


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