“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It’s a question we’re all asked a thousand times growing up when talking about future work.
It’s tough to answer when you’re young because your options seem unlimited. Thinking about it just brings up more questions. What do I have to choose from? Is it OK to change my answer later? Will my choice help me make a living? Will it make my family proud? Will it help me make an impact with my life?
Here’s a better question to ask: What problem do you want to solve?
We’re all designed to be problem-solvers. Some just bring more passion and effort to the task than others.
Don’t be like this guy
My washing machine was dying. The drum was beating out of control against the machine walls, creating a loud and unwelcome noise. My wife and I hired a repairman to fix our problem. Within 15 minutes, he made a small adjustment and left. The noise was a little quieter, but the machine still didn’t work.
He came back a few days later. Made another adjustment and left. Still didn’t work.
A few days after that, he came back the third time. I asked him if the stabilizers could be the problem. He gave me the cost and time-frame to replace them. And then he left.
He never solved our problem. He justified his poor service by explaining that he was only addressing the noise problems we reported. Of course those were symptoms, not the real problem.
We just needed a working washing machine!
This guy failed to solve our problem. So, we brought in another service company who recommended we replace it – and we did.
Become a Problem Solver
Not only will focusing on a specific problem bring you more satisfaction, it can also make you more employable. With a problem to solve, you’re no longer just performing general tasks. You’re on a mission. You have purpose.
Employers are looking for people to solve their problems. They’re looking for those who can make their organizations run more efficiently, cut expenses, develop new products and services their customers want and create new technologies that multiply their impact.
Consider these when becoming a problem-solver:
- Know what you enjoy most. Whether your passion is technology, business, music, farming or manufacturing, you’ll find problems that need your solutions.
- Be intentional in looking for challenges and you’ll find them.
- Find a problem that is common in your chosen community – one that impacts many.
- Study it. Look at solutions others have tried.
- Approach it from different viewpoints. Use your creativity to develop one or more solutions.
- Get input from those you respect.
- Test it out.
When you can align your interests, talents and skills with the problem, you’ll bring value and have fun doing it. Your solution may not create a giant innovative organization like a Netflix, Uber, Spanx, WeWork, Rent the Runway, or Blue Apron. Or maybe it will.
“What problem do you want to solve?”
The key to growing a successful career, whether working for yourself or someone else, is to be known as a consistent problem-solver.
So, the next time you’re discussing future careers with a young person, use this question to inspire and challenge her to see problems and solutions, not job titles.
At IT-oLogy, our goal is to inspire students and adults to enter the technology field to solve the world’s greatest challenges. Pursuing a career in IT enables you to make an impact in business, government, agriculture, healthcare, communication, transportation and more. Here are just a few of the programs we offer to inspire individuals to become true problem solvers!
The IT-oLogy Innovation Challenge