By: Ashlee [Adaptability | Futuristic | Empathy | Input | Ideation]
Before I graduated from college, I worked three part-time jobs, took on a full-time student course load, rehearsed for theatrical shows around 20 hours a week, plus time to hang out with my friends, travel to see my family, and if I was lucky, a little me-time.
How did I survive all the chaos to walk across that stage in May? It was during the last two years of my undergrad I recognized and started using one of my top strengths. Thanks to CliftonStrengths for Students, I present to you Adaptability.
Edward “Chip” Anderson, Ph.D., coauthor of CliftonStrengths for Students, defines adaptability as this: The genius of this perspective means that you can change and change quickly. Rather than being rigid, you are flexible; and rather than being tied to some pre-set plan, you can quickly change to meet immediate demands and circumstances that require attention.
Thankfully, I recognized through my experiences in several internships I needed a workplace that was constantly in motion. Sitting behind a computer? Chained to my desk? I don’t think so. In fact, whenever an employer used the term “fast-paced” and “no day is the same as the one before,” I feel my blood start to pump a little faster.
In my eyes, adaptability is being able to change yourself and be open to things, be it for personal or work-related reasons. A nice way of putting it is to “go with the flow.” For example, when I directed a show for UMD’s Stage II production company, I had to wear many different hats as director. I had to work with actors one minute, and the next, I’m speaking to my lighting designer about a new effect idea I’d like to try out during a particular scene. Immediately after that, I’m out in the rehearsal space with my actors because the blocking doesn’t feel quite right. Right after that, I’m being told our rehearsal schedule for the upcoming week is no longer going to work and we have to tweak it. Being adaptable allowed me to wear each respective hat with ease while still keeping the overall bigger picture in mind.
Adaptability has also come into play in my professional life in a more serious way. For instance, a new full-time job means changing my daily routine. There’s no sleeping in until 10 or 11am anymore. Every morning, I’m walking into my office ready to work by 8:00 am. I wasn’t even six months out of college, and I was making major changes compared to my lifestyle the past 5 years. Because of adaptability, I was able to recognize my need to hit the sack an hour or two earlier. I’m not waking up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every single morning (that’s what coffee is for!), but I am far more attentive than if I keep to my “college days” sleeping habits.
Sure, you tell yourself you’ll catch up on sleep over the weekend, but guess what? Sometimes you have to work *gasp* on the weekends! Just another adaptation you’ll make to the working world! It also helps to be adaptable when you can’t head out for lunch at your regular break time.
On a more serious note, a crazy and hectic work atmosphere isn’t ideal for everybody, but opening yourself up to being flexible is when great things happen. If a great project suddenly comes along or you’ve been dying to work with so-and-so, do it! I don’t care if your planner says you have yoga every other day at 5:00 pm. When the opportunities come across your desk, grasp them with both hands and run with it straight out the door.
I never really saw myself as a mini graphic designer of sorts until my boss asked me if I’d like to try my hand at it for an upcoming event we were promoting. I said yes, put lots of energy and thought into it, and I am now designing every invitation and brochure needed in our office, and I absolutely love that part of my job.
Be open and adapt to what comes at you. Sometimes you have to “go with the flow.”