When something goes wrong, it is often referred to as a problem. We all face problems everyday, whether in our personal life or the workplace. They are undesirable events that can cause a domino of other difficulties, eventually becoming a hindrance in accomplishing goals. In order to ensure operations are always running smoothly in an organisation, problem solvers can often save the day.
Problem-solving involves the technique of recognising a problem, establishing the source of the problem, as well as identifying, evaluating, and examining options for the best solution, and lastly, applying the solution to solve said problem. If you want to advance in your career, developing this skill is essential. Most occupations require solving problems to a certain extent. Employers value problem solvers because they want someone they can rely on to remain calm and composed, and think things through logically when anything goes awry.
A significant part of problem solving includes establishing the root cause of the problems rather than just the symptoms. A customer complaint, for instance, is a problem that must be dealt with. To do this, the first step is to inquire about the reason for the complaint because once the source is identified, it can be eliminated to remedy the problem. Here are five steps commonly used in solving problems:
Finding out the cause of the problem requires gathering and analysing data, isolating potential causative elements, while evaluating which components must be addressed to achieve a solution.
Relevant skills: Data gathering, data analysis, historical analysis, and fact finding.
A single solution is rarely enough when it comes to solving complex problems. The next step is to consider a range of potential remedies to cover all the necessary bases, and minimise chances of failure. So that when one plan fails, another plan can be implemented to solve the problem.
Relevant skills: Thinking outside the box, brainstorming, forecasting, prediction, project planning and design.
This stage of the problem solving process is typically done by higher rank employees such as team leads or relevant decision makers. It involves estimating potential costs, the necessary resources, and possible obstacles to effectively implement a particular solution.
Relevant skills: Teamwork, discussion, analysis, collaboration, test development, mediation, and prioritising.
Once there is a plan of action, it must be employed together with assessments that can quickly and correctly evaluate whether or not it is working.
Relevant skills: Project management, project implementation, collaboration, time management, benchmark development.
Implementing a solution is one thing, but having systems in place to gauge how or how well it is working is necessary to know if any adjustments need to be made, or if the problem is entirely solved.
Relevant skills: Data analysis, communication, customer feedback, surveys, follow-up, troubleshooting.
Problem solving skills assist in identifying the cause of a problem and devising an appropriate solution to overcome it. While it is a skill on its own, there are other related skills that contribute to this ability.
Conducting research is essential to pinpoint the cause of a problem and understand it completely. Then, it is about gathering additional information about the issue at hand by brainstorming and learning in order to look at it from different angles.
It is important to first assess the situation before beginning to solve any problems. Analytical skills help in assessing challenges and employing impactful strategies. They also go hand-in-hand with research skills to evaluate good and poor ideas.
You'll likely end up with several approaches to overcome a single problem. The ability to assess the benefits and drawbacks for every strategy is essential to evaluate the best approach, and whether or not it is attainable or feasible for the business.
Evaluation skills determine which solution to a problem is the best. Another skill you must master is the ability to collaborate with others and draw on their knowledge to better understand all of the possible angles to the given problem. Then, once you've found a good solution, your decision making skills will make the call and put it into action.
The ability to communicate effectively is vital in ensuring that all team members are on the same page. You must be able to convey the problem, ideas, and propose solutions so that they can be successfully implemented.
Some problems are more complex than others. This is why to be a great problem solver, you need to be able to think creatively to find the best solution. Work together with people to understand the issue in-depth, what has been tried before, as well as exploring innovative ideas to tackle it.
Dependable and trustworthy employees are what employers are looking for. Not only will you help them to look good as daily operations are always kept moving smoothly, but they don’t need to keep checking up on you to make sure you get the job done.
Some people are born with natural problem solving skills. You can also develop or improve these skills with experience and practice.
Practice solving various hypothetical problems so that you familiarise yourself with the problem-solving process. Doing this with someone else from the same profession will help keep things interesting. Whenever possible, try role-playing to further hone your problem-solving abilities.
Problems exist in every facet of life. Rather than shy away from them, you should take every chance you can to get creative and come up with solutions.
To become a well-rounded problem solver, you must continue to learn and stay up-to-date in your field of expertise. There are a ton of courses available that're industry-specific. This way, you can learn about the possible challenges that you may face down the line, as well as how others in the industry effectively deal with these challenges.
Although certain skills are unique to particular industries or career paths, there are basic capabilities that apply to several professions. These are regarded as fundamental employability capabilities that let employers know what kind of employee you'll be down the line.
Employers are always searching for individuals who possess these qualities. The more relevant your skills are, the more appealing you'll seem to hiring managers. Here are the top employability skills that recruiters are searching for:
Emphasising your most desirable skills on your resume and cover letter immediately makes it more attractive. It can also help you to better articulate the value you can bring to the organisation.
You can showcase your problem-solving skills on your resume either in the “skills” or “achievements” section. Ideally, you should have specific examples which you can state in short and succinct phrases. Instead of simply claiming that you're a problem solver, define the valuable problem solving skills you have that're intrinsic to the special trait you possess.
A cover letter is another great place to emphasise and elaborate your problem-solving talents. Past experiences are most convincing so give several summaries of any past instances where your problem solving skills saved the day. If you don’t yet have any stories to share, do some research and look into a problem that you think your potential employer is trying to solve or might face in the future and describe how you plan to solve it.
During the interview stage is where you can elaborate on the points you included on your CV and make them come alive as you tell the story in person.
Do you have a knack for nipping challenging problems in the bud? Are you someone who tackles problems from a logical and creative angle, evaluates viable solutions, and solves them in a timely manner? If this is the case, your problem solving skills will serve you well throughout your career. They'll even continue to level up as you gain more experiences.
One of the primary ways hiring managers and recruiters evaluate candidates is their ability to solve problems, as those with excellent problem-solving skills are more likely to work independently and proactively. If you’re still on the lookout for your dream job, keep a list of the jobs you’ve had and the problems you’ve solved along the way. So that when you see a job posting that you think will be a great fit, all you need to do is update your CV and sell your skills further at the interview to seal the deal. Good luck!