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Adapt or die: why career adaptability is vital to your success

Thursday, January 21, 2016 - 11:28

By AIM Senior Research Fellow Dr Samantha Johnson

“Dreams are extremely important. You can’t do it unless you imagine it.” George Lucas

New Year’s Resolution…get that dream job or a promotion.  Right?  Be brave, grab the bull by the horns, and go for it!  Easier said than done!  Here are some tips for career success, based on new research about career adaptability.

Career adaptability is a relatively new concept first published in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour in 2014 and it’s all about career success. Career adaptability can be learnt and practiced and equals career satisfaction, promotions and overall career success.

There’s even a new psychometric tool to measures a person’s career adaptability. Used by career counsellors, it is helping people get promoted, be engaged at work, have greater career satisfaction and overall, better career success.

Career adaptability refers to a person’s willingness and ability to adapt to changing work environments.  It’s about being very, very aware of the 4 attributes of adaptability, practicing them and being explicit about them so that potential employees see them clearly.

Underlying abilities include being able to cope with change and the unknown. To see into something that is unfamiliar and work with it. It’s about having self-knowledge and self-management to operate effectively – or foresee how to operate effectively – in a job that you don’t yet clearly understand, because you don’t yet have it! It’s about doing things to prepare for a new environment.

Career adaptability means having, and showing, 4 tendencies:

 Concern for the future

A focus on the future, preparing for upcoming career tasks and challenges; looking ahead and preparing for what might come next.

Control over personal success factors

Shaping and developing yourself and your environment to prepare for what comes next through self-discipline, effort and persistence.

Curiosity about possible future roles

Imagining yourself in different situations and roles. Exploring possible selves and different future scenarios.

Confidence and self-belief about being in a new role

Turning your goals onto reality and successfully solving problems and overcoming obstacles. Seeking information about possible futures and exploring options for yourself in different future scenarios to build confidence and gain aspiration.

To increase your level of career adaptability, consider doing the following:

Many of these tips are not new.  But new or not, they’re well worth considering and are proven to improve promotion and career success. And if you give them deep consideration, they’re harder to do and require more energy and thought than you might think. Don’t give them lip service or assume you’ve got these attributes.  Focus your attention on them. Strengthen them and make them known to others.

Career adaptability is not about skills or qualifications or previous work experience.  Selling yourself into a new position is not just about being clever or a fast learner or looking for challenges!  It’s about being adaptable and showing a potential employer that you are adaptable.  It’s about being willing to and capable of foreseeing something new and unknown and moving into it with optimism and confidence.  Believing this yourself and showing others this will help you achieve your dream job.  Success is not just about skills, it’s about attributes.  It’s about being adaptable. Give it a go. Good luck.

Reference: Mark L. Savickas, Erik J. Porfeli (2012) Journal of Vocational Behavior 80 (2012) 661-673