Problem Solving

All About This Important Soft Skill

Colleagues trying to solve a problem
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What is Problem Solving?

Problem solving encompasses the process of identifying problems and implementing solutions to them. In the workplace, as in life, complications come up regularly. Employers value individuals who can resolve these issues. This soft skill is important in most occupations, but required in some.

Before you can solve a problem, you have to be able to recognize that one exists. To do this, you must be very observant.

Notice everything that is going on around you. Be sensitive to things that aren't quite right or haven't produced the expected results. Examples are an increase in employee absenteeism or a lack of increase in sales after an ad campaign. Once you identify a problem, you must analyze it. Try to figure out what is causing the difficulty and whether it can be resolved. It is important to note that not all issues can be fixed. In addition, something you identify as a problem may not be one after all.

After you decide that there is in fact a problem that can be solved, you must come up with possible solutions. You can try to recall how you dealt with similar situations in the past and use your creative thinking skills to come up with alternative solutions you think might work well. Then when you have a list of possible fixes, use your critical thinking skills to evaluate each of your options in order to decide which one will work best.

Next, implement your chosen solution. Your job isn't complete yet. You must check back to verify that your plan worked and if it didn't, you must figure out why, and then try something else.

Careers That Require Problem Solving Skills

You must be able to solve problems regardless of what career you choose.

For some occupations, however, problem solving is one of the most important parts of the job. They are:

  • Chief ExecutiveChief executives direct all the activities of the companies and organizations that employ them. They devise strategies and create policies to help them meet their goals.
  • JudgeJudges preside over trials and hearings, making sure they are handled fairly under the law.
  • PsychologistPsychologists diagnose mental, behavioral and emotional disorders in their patients and then decide how to best treat them.
  • MathematicianMathematicians use their knowledge of advanced mathematical principles to solve real world problems.
  • ActuaryActuaries, after evaluating the probability of certain events occurring, help their employers minimize their cost.
  • Operations Research AnalystOperation research analysts use their knowledge of mathematical and analytical methods to solve problems for companies and organizations.
  • Agricultural EngineerAgricultural engineers use mathematical and scientific principles to solve problems related to farming.
  • Biomedical EngineerBiomedical engineers analyze and then decide how to solve problems having to do with biology and medicine.
  • Environmental EngineerEnvironmental engineers use their knowledge of soil science, chemistry and biology to solve problems in the environment.
  • Biochemist or BiophysicistBiochemists and biophysicists study living organisms and their relationship to the environment, applying what they learn to solve complex scientific problems.
  • Special AgentsSpecial agents, also known as detectives, gather facts and collect evidence to help them solve crimes.
  • AnthropologistsAnthropologists gather information about human beings' origin, development and behavior.
  • Management AnalystManagement analysts help companies solve problems that may be causing them to operate less effectively and efficiently than they should.
  • ArchitectArchitects design buildings that will meet the needs of the people who will use them. They also make sure these structures are safe and aesthetically pleasing.
  • AttorneyAttorneys, also known as lawyers, represent clients who are involved in criminal and civil legal cases.
  • DoctorsDoctors diagnose illnesses and diseases, and then decide how to treat them.
  • School PrincipalPrincipals manage elementary, middle and high schools, making sure students and faculty reach educational goals.
  • DentistDentists diagnose and then treat diseases and other problems with their patients' teeth.
  • Athletic CoachAthletic coaches train athletes to compete in sports as a team or individually.
  • Marriage and Family TherapistMarriage and family therapists provide therapy to couples, families and individuals who have problems in their relationships.
  • Medical ScientistMedical scientists do research to determine the causes of diseases and develop ways to prevent and treat them.
  • Software DeveloperSoftware developers create software that makes computers, smart phones, video game systems and other electronic devices useful.
  • Computer and Information Systems ManagerComputer and information systems managers direct companies' and organizations' computer-related activities.
  • NannyNannies care for children, usually in their homes. They are often responsible for solving problems that occur while these children's parents aren't home.

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