young chemist

Once you’ve decided what you want to do for a living, completed whatever education or training is required for you to pursue your chosen career, and landed your first job, your biggest priority for the rest of your life is going to be figuring out how to keep the job you have in the career that you love.

One skill that employers will consistently appreciate and look for in new hires is the ability to solve problems. There are four key components to problem solving:

1. Recognize and identify problems

Unless you happen to be extraordinarily lucky, it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to be solving very many problems if you don’t even realize they exist. Fortunately, being able to spot problems in your workplace is pretty easy to do, provided you know how to communicate with your peers: most problems will surface as complaints. “I hate that [our boss] never gives me feedback on my presentations,” or “We waste so much time trying to fix that stupid printer,” are statements that are easily overlooked, when in reality, they can be a golden opportunity for an eager employee.

2. Consider all possible solutions—even the “crazy” ones

The solution to your problem may be as plain as the nose on your face, or it could be complex, or just downright creative. It’s important when trying to solve a problem to give at least some consideration to all of the solutions you can think of, no matter how crazy they may seem. The obvious answer isn’t always the right answer, although it may be. A complicated or creative solution to a problem may be more work than it’s worth, but once in a while it will be more than worth the effort to pull it off.

3.Research your options

Once you’ve come up with a list of 3-5 solutions to your problem, it’s time to put in the real work. Brainstorming is fun and all, but you need to be able to explain to the boss why you made the choice you made. Sometimes an informal poll of your co-workers is all the research you’ll need. Other times you’ll need to do some consulting with the vast network of information that is the internet. And sometimes you’ll need to call in the experts. It’s okay to say you don’t know all the answers.

4.Present your findings

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to present your findings to your coworkers, supervisor, or whomever your problem-solving skills are meant to be helping. Of course you’ll want to be able to tell them which solution you’ve selected as the “best” option, but be prepared for them to ask questions about how you arrived at that solution. You’ll want to be able to tell them about the other options you considered and carefully researched to explain your reasoning.

Being willing and able to put in the extra work, without being asked, to solve problems others in your organization are aware of but not interested in solving will make you a valuable asset to your company and help ensure that you move forward in your career.