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Problem Solving Skills = You’re hired
The number one skill that you should be able to demonstrate to an employer is problem solving.
you work in the training and educational field, you get asked a lot
what the most marketable skills are that people need to have to secure
a good career. Obviously when asked this question people assume
that I am going to tell them that Microsoft training is the way to go,
and they would be wrong. Sure having the skills to effectively
use the Microsoft Office Applications are essential, but they can be
learned after you’ve secured employment.
If you have watched any news cast in the UK, North America, or Australia that has done any segments on education and training, then you’d think that the answer might be Learn to Code. You’d be getting warmer, but still not correct. While learning coding skills does make an individual more marketable and more desirable to employers, it is still not what I consider to be the most marketable skill to have when seeking employment.
The number one
skill that you should be able to demonstrate to an employer is problem
solving. Why problem solving? I’m glad that you asked that
question. In today’s society we leverage technology to make life
easier; we have advanced education systems to provide our youth degrees
in subjects where the jobs no longer exist. We are creating a
situation for our youth (job seekers) where they don’t have to solve
problems because simply replacing something that breaks is cheaper and
easier than fixing it.
We have embraced
political correctness way too far and created a false reality in our
schools where the spirit of competition is replaced with the spirit of
participation. As a society the baby boomers and Generation Xers have
tried to make life as easy for their kids as possible and over protect
them in a lot of respects. What this has done is created a
generation of extremely intelligent people who have limited life skills
and problem solving abilities. They essentially have all this
theoretical knowledge in their heads, and confuse having knowledge with
the ability to execute ideas and actually solve problems in
I love the television show “The Big Bang Theory”. Super intelligent individuals with limited social and life skills. There was an episode where the boys were travelling to a bully’s house to confront him because he hacked Sheldon’s World of Warcraft account and stolen all of his character’s gold and awards. The boys are driving home when the car that they are in starts making odd sounds and smoke pours from the hood. They all turn to look at each other and Lenard asks “Does anyone know anything about internal combustion engines”? The boys all look at each other and answer that they all know a lot about internal combustion engines. The Lenard asks “Does anyone actually know how to fix an internal combustion engine”? There is a slight pause and then the group answer is no, “We better call someone for help”. To me that is a fantastic example of the lack of problem solving skills with today’s youth.
I recently had a
coffee with a friend of mine who works with people who are out of work
and looking for their next opportunity and he completely agrees with
the lack of life skills and problem solving in today’s youth. He
told me about a young man who came to see him who was around 25 and had
a BA Business Administration. He was out of work, having got laid
off at his previous job, and wanted to start a career in the field of
My friend thought
that this was a fantastic idea as there are many excellent paying
careers as a project manager and he started looking at his
resume. He noted that the young man actually had no experience in
project management, nor had he ever had any project management
training. My friend was a little confused so he asked the young
man why he listed that he had a Masters in Project Management listed on
young man stated that he indeed did master project management. He
had read a book over a weekend- all twelve chapters. He felt that
he had mastered the theoretical concepts of project management; and
therefore, did actually have a Masters in Project Management.
My friend was
completely stunned, and then he realized that this young man was
completely serious. My friend explained to him that it takes way
more than just theoretical study to make a good project manager.
It takes practical experience working as part of a team on projects
learning to apply the theories learned so that he could solve problems
as they came up and keep projects on track so that they can be
completed on time and hopefully under budget.
Now the young man
was stunned and he told my friend that he was wrong. He told him
that he had the ability to master video games very quickly by playing
them all weekend and completing them. Once he beat the game he
had mastered it, and using that logic, having read the book he had
mastered project management.
Youth today in North America lead a pretty privileged life, and if they can demonstrate the ability to effectively solve problems that a potential employer might face, they stand a great chance of landing a good career. At the interview they need to be able to answer the question “What was a difficult situation at work that you encountered and overcame”?
Earlier in this
article I mentioned learning to write code as being a fairly close
answer to the most marketable skill that a young person could possess
and it was not so much knowing how to write code in a specific language
that made it valuable. It was that in learning to write code
individuals use logic and problem solving skills. They build code
stacks that break when they add new elements, and then have to fix
them. That’s problem solving and if an individual can demonstrate
that skill to an employer it doubles their chance for getting the
When employers put out job postings it is because they have a problem that they are trying to fix. The company is growing and they need more staff, or someone left the company and they need a new person to fill the gap so the rest of the team does not work so hard. They have a headache. If a person applying for that job can demonstrate the ability to solve that problem, then they become “Tylenol” for the employer and get hired.
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