When I started my small startup in Kenya to help graduates prepare for the job market, I spent an awful load of time asking employers what skills they needed most and which they lacked most in our students. That was the easy part, the hard part was, what those skills meant to them and how to explain it to a Kenyan university student or graduate. One of the most frequently mentioned skill yet hardest to define was ‘Problem Solving’.
However, after 14 months of consultation, research and building the UReadyAfrica Employability Program, I think I can share in simplistic terms what our university students and graduates need to know when employers say they want a good problem solver. In so doing I will address the students directly and provide a sneak view of our Problem Solving course.
For starters, whenever you see a job advert always know that you are looking at a problem the employer has. His/her only question as they interview you is ‘Is this the best person to solve this issue? Do you bring the best set of skills and attitudes that will also be useful in resolving future problems that arise?’ We build the UReady Problem Solving course to demystify the nature of problems that arise in businesses and how you can adopt a mental approach that makes you shine every time you sit in an interview
A problem solver is a student, graduate or worker who approaches problems with a creative spirit and inquiring mind– they apply a structure to problem solving to deliver a practical and useful solution” But to get to this point we must understand that problem solving is both a mental issue (ability and preparation) as much as it is an attitude one.
Problem-solving does not start as a skill; it starts as an attitude then grows to a skill. The attitude of problem solvers when asked the following questions is clear.
• Do you react to a problem with a creative enthusiasm and an inquiring mind? YES!
• Will I see initiative and independence in you when finding a solution to a complex matter? YES!
• Can you identify better and practical ways of solving problems that are not obvious to others? YES!
To become such a person is a two-step process: change your attitude and begin to welcome challenges including the ones you will face when looking for a job. Secondly, cultivate this skill through the habits and the tools presented in the course. Below are suggestions of mental habits of the problem solver employers want based on a book by Tony Wagner:
a). Love Evidence — Always ask what is true, what is not true as of now, how do we know that? When you love evidence you will be able to see even half-baked solutions and build on them. You will say, Victor has a great point, he is right that we must do ABCD what he has not done is look at XYZ…
b). Listen to Viewpoints — Be the one saying, what are we hearing from the accountant that is different from the people on the ground? Why do they hold such opinions, should we dig more, should they elaborate? Do their approaches possess strengths or flaws? Now that majority seem to agree on one viewpoint, is there an alternative viewpoint we have ignored?
c). Speculating intelligently — become the ‘WHAT IF GUY’ the person who says, give me a minute, what if…? I am just saying; how about we look at it this way?
d). Collaborate — problems are too complex to be solved by a single individual efficiently and on time especially in your job. You will become competitive if you are that guy everyone wants on their team (a McKinsey rule).
e). Look for Connections — what is tied to what and whom?
f). Cause and effect — Is there a pattern here? Does the supplier affect the chef in ways we may not be looking at?
And that is what makes you a great problem solver!
visit: http://www.ureadyafrica.com/courses/view/20 for more
Ndirangu M.S is an emerging leader in workforce development. He is a crusader for youth employment and jobs in Kenya. A Global Shaper @ World Economic Forum and a Mandela Washington Fellow.
Ndirangu M.S | Ask Me About Employability500
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