Updated: Feb 22
Flexibility - being able to take a proactive approach during uncertainty
While I define adaptability as one's reaction(s) to external circumstances, flexibility focuses on one's proactive approach to bettering situations that have been impacted by external circumstances. Take COVID-19 for example. Working from home is mandatory for many people across the world. If you accept this and make the most of it, you are adapting to external circumstances. If however, you look at ways to change your experience of working from home, by altering your schedule, changing up your routine, and identifying ways to make your 9 to 5 at home better, then you're also being flexible. Not only do you understand the importance of acceptance, but you also make the most of it.
Flexibility is more important than ever, especially because of all the uncertainty that has culminated as a result of the global pandemic. In addition to the above example, there are many other areas of our life where a flexible approach can be useful. Let's say you're looking for a job or internship because you had an offer rescinded. What do you do? How can you increase your chances of success? Is there a way to look at other industries or roles you've never considered before? Is there a way to map out your network and identify potential contacts? Is there a way to reconnect with people you haven't spoken to in a while? Are there people who can help? Can you get other people's perspectives to see whether your understanding of a given market is accurate? Adaptability is accepting the fact that your offer was rescinded (because this is out of our control), and flexibility is brushing this off and looking for ways to turn your experience into a success story. While the circumstances we're in are truly unique, I do have a personal story that may resonate.
Four years ago, I graduated from a prestigious university in the UK and had been given an offer to join my country's permanent mission at a large intergovernmental organization, in the United States. With my offer lined up, I started the process of acquiring a diplomatic visa. While I knew I was cutting it close, there was nothing else I could do to expedite the process. A few weeks came and went, and it was clear that I wasn't going to make the start of my internship. With no other lead at the time (despite how hard I had tried to make sure I'd be employed by the end of my degree), I took a trip to visit my younger brother who was undertaking his first-ever internship as part of his degree. Adaptability in this case refers to my acceptance of the fact that my visa was not going to be issued in time and that I would not be able to start my internship. It was time to head back to the drawing board. This is when it pays to be flexible. I now had to ask myself, what was I going to do? First of all, I had to look at my personal and professional profiles. Where would my background be useful? How could I put my language skills to use? Was there any other opportunity starting at me? Could I take this experience and leverage it?
By asking myself all these questions, it became clear that luxury hospitality was an industry worth looking into. I had an in by leveraging my brother's exceptional professionalism in his role and I now had a plan: join the team in Spain, spend a few months working alongside my brother, travel around Spain on our days off and get a secondment to one of the sister properties back in the UK. By doing this I'd give myself another shot at pursuing employment opportunities in the same city I had graduated a few months ago, and guess what? This is exactly what happened.
Following my week-long trip to Spain, I interviewed while back in Greece, and then moved back to Spain for a couple of months, working alongside my brother, travelling around, and accepting a role at one of the hotel's sister properties in the UK, two months later. Did I get lucky? Maybe. Was I fortunate? Definitely. In any case, it's clear how adaptability and flexibility can complement one another, especially when we are faced with immense pressure and uncertainty.
1. Commit to an approach that is proactive
2. Understand your strengths and overall value as a person and as a professional
3. Ask yourself how you can make adjustments that help you make the most of situations
4. Focus on creating a vision irrespective of how non-linear it may seem at first