Survive and Thrive: Adaptability and Resilience

Continuing her occasional series, “survive and thrive”, Katie Hoare from Careers Network explores a key skill sought after by employers in the post-COVID-19 world.  It’s likely that you are already developing and using these highly transferable skills in your research.


A chameleon (decorative)According to The Cambridge Dictionary, adaptability is “an ability or willingness to change in order to suit different conditions”.  The term can be applied to people, businesses, physical spaces and technology.  If something or someone is not adaptable, its use and benefit can be short lived.  Resilience has become a buzz word in recent years.  It can be defined as the “ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change” (Merriam-Webster).  In order to be resilient, you need to be adaptable.


Now more than ever people need to be personally resilient and businesses need to be professionally resilient.  Therefore, one of the top skills both employees and organisations need in the current economic climate is adaptability.

Unsurprisingly these terms regularly crop up in job descriptions, for example, a Clinical Scientist requires “a flexible approach to work with the ability to adapt to changing circumstances”; Aerospace Engineer, “the ability to cope with new demands and new problems”; Academic Researcher, “flexibility and resilience to keep going when research doesn’t generate results in the expected timescale” and Business Analyst, “a positive attitude to change” (Prospects).

In order to survive and thrive, businesses must adapt and react and they need staff who can not only cope with this, but can assist and drive the change.  ‘The only constant in life – and in business – is change’ (LinkedIn).  Some people understandably get anxious about change whilst others get excited.  With an adaptable and resilient mindset it is possible to embrace change and see it as an opportunity to learn new things and further develop yourself.  Two key elements in being adaptable are 1) self-awareness and 2) continually learning and up-skilling.  ‘Someone that is going to succeed in a post-coronavirus-world will need to be able to adapt to ever-evolving workplaces and have the ability to continuously update and refresh their skills’ (Forbes).

As a postgraduate researcher you are eminently capable of life-long learning, which Forbes suggests is key to survival – ‘there’s only one way to remain relevant in a post-coronavirus reality: commit to a lifetime of learning.’  The World Economic Forum agree, predicting that ‘in the next two years – by 2022 – 42% of core skills required to perform existing jobs are expected to change.’  Again this can be both scary and exciting as new and unforeseen opportunities arise.

In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.

Eric Hoffer, philosopher


The COVID-19 crisis has given us all a crash course in responding to change, and you can also access the Adapting to Change workshop on the PG Skills Canvas course. This workshop, led by Nigel Linacre, life coach, charity founder and author, can help you understand how your mind works and the impact it has on your body, emotions and actions, as well as teach you tools and techniques to be adaptable and resilient in the face of challenges, change and unexpected circumstances. 

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