I can’t resist penning a few thoughts today about the subject of adaptability, since it’s been on my mind a lot lately in terms of the current economic conditions these days — and how people are responding to them.

For starters, I’m going to throw out a definition of adaptability that I hope most people would agree with.  To me, the concept can be boiled down to: “Changing one’s behavior in response to changes in the environment.”  This definition can be applied effectively to a wide number of situations, whether one talks about the small, furry mammals that outlived the dinosaurs (hiding under rocks apparently was a great adaptive strategy!) or the fact that certain viruses are able to mutate (i.e. adapt) in order to develop resistance to antibiotics.  Everywhere you look, in fact, you’ll find examples where the people, animals, or organisms that change their strategies in response to their changing environments survive–and those that don’t, or who turn a blind eye to the world around them, perish.

This is what has me concerned.  From my vantage point as a career coach, I think we’re now past the point that we can write off the current economic conditions out there as “just another” recession or market slowdown.  There are clearly a number of factors that are making this downturn more severe than the others we’ve witnessed in the past, and even if the current government stimulus measures end up working as advertised, it seems certain that the economy we’re going to see on the other side of the trough will still be fundamentally different than the one of the past.  Health care benefits are going to be handled differently.  Consumer spending habits will change.  And Americans will be looking at their retirement planning needs in a whole new light, given the recent performance of the stock market.  So whether we like it or not, I think it’s utterly safe to say that our environment is changing, drastically, and that the time for people to start adapting to it is now.  I’ve seen too many “Tyrannasaurus Rex” candidates lately (people who have been top performers in their field for decades) getting their butts kicked by the conditions out there and having little success finding new employment by solely relying on the traditional methods that have always worked for them in the past.

So this takes us back to my original question in the title of this post.  ARE you adaptable?  ARE you changing your behavior (particularly job search methods and spending habits) in response to the conditions out there?  From what I’m observing, there still seems to be a heavy over-reliance on sending resumes around, surfing job boards, and the like, versus people getting creative and trying out some alternate methods for finding work.  There are thousands of such approaches one could experiment with (read Guerilla Marketing for Job Hunters as one source of inspiration) and all of you are fully capable with coming up with some creative ideas completely on your own.  A few examples off the top of my head, however, might be:

— Injecting humor/creativity into your resume and cover letters
— Scheduling a day to drop by 10-15 suitable companies, directly, to introduce yourself (the smaller the company the better, obviously)
— Sending your resume via snail mail, or fax, instead of e-mail
— Starting a blog to trumpet your thoughts/ideas/wisdom about your industry or occupational field
— Partnering with other professionals in transition to bid on projects
— Forming a job search club, hobby club, or other social group to boost your networking reach
— Opening up your geographical or salary parameters
— Ignoring your job search for a day, or a week, or a month to focus on your authentic passions

Are these kinds of unconventional techniques guaranteed to work?  Absolutely not.  That’s the point, though.  If you’ve been trying the traditional methods of finding employment for months, and they haven’t been very productive, it’s time to start testing out some new approaches to see if you can find an “adaptive strategy” that will generate a higher response rate.  Again, the list above is just a small collection of examples.  The sky is truly the limit in terms of the ideas you might be able to come up with if you give yourself permission to think outside the box and experiment with some non-traditional ways of connecting with employers and decision-makers.

Adaptability = behavior change.  Think about it!