Adaptability

By Claire Lamont

We are in the midst of a fourth Industrial Revolution. Adaptability, the second trait in the Untapped Seven, will be a crucial characteristic in working lives increasingly shaped by global forces. As the new Industrial Revolution ripples change through our culture and workforce, adaptability will be what allows us to thrive.

While the first Industrial Revolution is the famous one - you know, the satanic mills and the move to factory workforces and urbanised living - the second moved us to the use of electricity and mass production lines in the early twentieth century. The third took us into the age of computers, and now we face Industry 4.0: The age of machine learning and data, where computers can communicate with one another. It’s the rise of Smart Machines, and it’s already happening. That AI you work with along with your Untapped Accelerator? There you go.

Personally, I’m a slow adapter: I had a paper diary until the past couple of years, when the merits of Google Calendar finally won me over (ok, and my business partner sat me down and gave me a stern talking-to.) And I studied Classics at university; that gives you an inkling of my love for the Old.

But I am also (just) a Millennial, and we are, famously, the generation of multiple careers, compulsive job-hoppers - apparently 91% of us in a recent survey expected to stay in any job less than three years. Faced with increasing job insecurity, many of us shape portfolio careers which, though often based around a mixture of part-time and self-employed work, ironically can be more secure than full-time salaried positions.

And in that respect, I am rather a classic Millennial: starting with my trusty books in a publishing job, after a few years I sidelined into setting up a small food business, and now run that with a partner alongside freelance work and psychotherapy training. It may look like a motley collection, but the reality for me is that I get to work in varied roles, each drawing on different parts of my personality - and I never get bored.

This is adaptability in the face of insecurity, and it has its up and downsides (because yes, like many Millennials I could really do with sorting out a pension and a mortgage...) In many ways, the opportunities I have had to find work that fulfills me in different ways has been great.  But it has been an uphill struggle to learn that I need to grasp those opportunities, and be adaptable to what comes along. I moved into running my own business after a difficult experience of redundancy. In the middle of that time in my life I would hardly have said I was excited about adapting to the new opportunities this presented. More likely, I would have had a little cry.

But for me, this is a key aspect of adaptability as a trait: that it can be learned and can be improved. Life throws us lemons, and while for some of us the move into lemonade can be painful, once we have adapted and learnt that we can change, we can move forward, we can find new areas of happiness and growth, the new behaviour tends to sticks around. Looking back, we begin to see the silver lining of the lemons we got thrown and the new doors that opened. If, in the midst of crisis, we can take a step back and see the big picture, we can begin to embrace the opportunities inherent in any change.

Possibly the biggest lesson for me was that I was not alone in finding new paths forward in the face of adversity. I depended on the support and advice of my friends and family. They helped me remain open to new paths, to see my own worth and have faith in it, and to find inner courage where I felt none. It’s vital in this new, uncertain world that we can extend understanding to those around us who are facing uncertainty, and offer a helping hand where needed. Along with that, we must see where others are less fortunate than ourselves, and might need further support to find their inner strengths to adapt.

Insecurity is frightening. How we manage this new reality as a society will continue to shape our politics for years to come. But we do have some choices in the face of these monumental global forces. We can choose how we confront adversity as individuals, how we adapt, and how we help support others as they face their challenges.