The job world is changing so rapidly it’s next to impossible to know what to do even in the short term to get ahead, let alone five years down the road.
Now, a debate rages between which is more important, hard skills or soft skills. Those for hard skills focus on the need for specific knowledge to meet job performance standards and expectations.
On the other side of the table are those who say the hard skills path can lead to dead ends, to obsolescence. They bet on possessing interpersonal skills, such as the ability to relate to others, being a good team member, and communicating effectively.
A case can be made for a combination of both hard and soft skills. Yet, it may be too narrow a view for dealing with what is arguably the most critical need facing companies today — people who can fix things.
The Need to Fix Things
A U.S. Department of Labor bulletin describes the fix-it problem clearly: “Employers want employees who can work through problems on their own or as an effective member of a team. Ideal employees think critically and creatively, share thoughts and opinions, use good judgment, and make decisions.”
Employers say they need people who not only how know how to do things, but more importantly, they need people who know how to fix things. The goal is not just doing a good job but having the ability to identify, analyze, and solving problems.
“No manager wants to hire someone who can’t think for themselves and comes running every time things go wrong,” writes Courtenay Crawford in Graduateland, while another employer survey named complex problem solving as the #1 desired skill. It also revealed that by 2020, “36% of all jobs across all industries” will require complex problem solving as a core skill.
In other words, business needs people who not only recognize problems but take ownership and fix them:
- “Thanks for letting us know, I can take care of that for you.”
- “If we made this change, we could reduce costs.”
- “We’re replacing this part. It will solve the problem.”
Whether you call it problem solving or more accurately, the ability to “fix things,” the need is clear.
What It Takes to Fix Things
1. Get the message.
“I didn’t see it coming.” Whether it’s layoffs, the closing of a business, the sale of their company, or being fired, it’s surprising how many workers say they didn’t see it coming. Some are totally shocked and speechless, while others sensed that “something” was about to happen. “It was obvious,” they say, “How could you miss it?”
In other words, how can anyone fix something when they’re unable to recognize problems? Anyone who is pre-occupied with themselves and their issues have their antennae are turned off. Lacking awareness, they literally don’t get the message.