The graduation season is quickly passing, and new team members will be joining many organizations around the world. Exciting times ahead, as careers develop and opportunities unfold! The community manager at Webucator contacted me about their initiative to engage various people asking them to highlight what they believe is the most marketable skill for a new graduate. I am joining in, and my answer is:  Problem Solving.

Problem Solving

Why Problem Solving?

No matter your degree. No matter your career. No matter your job. You can be a problem solver. Organizations value people who can solve problems effectively, especially when it is done without a lot of drama. There is a method to solving problems, and it will vary between different people. Different ways can create different solutions. In the end, if a problem is solved well, then the solution worked.

“The highest levels of performance come to people who are centered, intuitive, creative, and reflective – people who know to see a problem as an opportunity.” – Deepak Chopra

Without drama means you worked well with others to produce a solution. Collaborating to solve problems is a trait that strengthens relationships. Strong relationships produce results without drama.

Simply stated, solving problems makes your space in the world better than before.

5 Key Elements of Problem Solving

On to the act of problem solving. Even though there isn’t just one process to solve problems, there are certain elements to consider and develop as you enhance this skill.

1 – Absorb Information.

When problems arise, soaking in a lot of information is as essential as is assessing a situation. Both are intertwined. Context is vital. To gain context, information is necessary. The best information is:

  • Tangible – The information has facts, figures, and real value to the problem at hand.
  • Focused – Although things can be learned from a broad view or other industries, the information collected and reviewed needs to be relevant to the problem.

The key skill is to take in a lot of relevant information quickly, gaining added intelligence to the situation being confronted.

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” – Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes

2 – Critical Thinking.

Information isn’t all that helpful unless it can be evaluated into relevant, understandable, and actionable steps. Absorbed information needs to be converted into analyzed information. Your work need to be concentrated on evaluating the collected information and developing findings and considerations from it.

“The most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers. The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong questions.” – Peter Drucker

3 – Open to possibilities.

An open mind is a mind open to options. Most importantly, an open mind means you are open to growth. This isn’t about exploring and documenting endless options. Being growth-oriented and open to possibilities means you will look for creative and innovative ways to solve problems.

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” –  Abraham Maslow

4 – Scenario Thinking.

A key part of putting together options is to think through how the selected options may play through. Being able to connect the dots of how an option may unfold is what scenario thinking will do. Doing this will expose issues with a proposed solution or, if selected, identify areas to carefully watch during implementation. Scenario planning brings a crispness to the solution.

“No problem can stand the assault of sustained thinking.” – Voltaire

5 – Decision Making.

Ultimately, a decision needs to be made. Getting to a decision point is critical. Getting to a decision with a consensus or collaborative effort is also critical. The point is to develop your skills at getting to a decision and then making it.

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Most Marketable Skill:  Problem Solving

There are no shortage of problems. There is a shortage of reasonable people coming together to solve current and long-term problems. By solving problems, you become a leader of solutions. Be a solution leader.

  • If you want to gain more responsibility early and often, then be good at solving problems.
  • If you want to grow in your career, then excel at solving problems.
  • If you want to gain momentum in the marketplace, then solve customer problems innovatively.
  • If you want to make your organization and community better, then solve bigger problems in long-lasting ways.
  • If you want to leave at the end of the day feeling good and with a sense of accomplishment, then solve problems productively and collaboratively.

What do you think will be a good marketable skill for new graduates? How will you support others in the development of this skill? Join in!