Do you want to get ahead in your career? Then don’t spend all of your time on networking, your appearance, and writing the best emails and Tweets. There’s another important thing that you need to incorporate into your personal brand.
You need to be known as the person who solves problems.
It’s pretty simple, really. At its core, any job assignment is simple: do work. People are hired into jobs to perform tasks, deliver projects, and achieve ever challenging goals. On the surface, it sounds rather simple. No sweat.
But… there’s one small but mighty fact that makes jobs complicated: the differences that emerge between plans and actuals. Problems emerge in our path much like weeds grow in fields and flags slow down skiers on a slalom course. People get busy, sick, or quit your company when you need them the most. Suppliers are late. Customers are early. Requirements, poorly defined at the beginning of a project, suddenly evolve in scope and complexity. Nothing ever goes as planned.
But you may already be a problem solver. In fact, it’s highly likely that you already are.
You solve problems every day. You find lost objects. You substitute ingredients when you’re baking. You inflate flat tires. You mend broken toys and torn clothing. You settle differences and heal wounds. And that’s the stuff outside of your work life. There are tons of additional opportunities to solve problems at work.
Defined and refined by the problems they solved
If you’re still on the fence about the value of problem solving in the workplace, let’s look at some real life examples of how problem solving enhances your personal brand:
Thomas Edison – Edison is famous for his innovation and many inventions were created under his guidance. The incandescent light bulb is just one example. After many (many!) attempts, Edison and his team finally solved the problems that vexed them and were able to make a good working model of the incandescent light bulb, leading to many products that we all enjoy today.
The Apollo 13 spacecraft crew and ground crew – Talk about problem solving at its best! After a major explosion on the Apollo 13 spacecraft, with loss of oxygen and power, these crews worked together to keep the astronauts alive and get them safely back to Earth under challenging conditions. Imagine what it must have felt like to be one of those crew members following their successful return to Earth. They all became legends.
George Lucas and James Cameron – When technology didn’t support their visions, these two legendary producer/directors made plans to achieve their goals. They invented, bought, or even waited long enough until the technology came along to meet their needs. When Lucas’s droids had problems in the Tunisian desert, his team worked until it was fixed. He even founded a company, Industrial Light and Magic, to provide the special effects he needed. When Cameron’s vision for a 3D movie couldn’t be realized by conventional filmmaking technology, he waited until the right technology came along instead of diluting his vision. Both of these gentlemen are extremely successful by any measure. If they were gamers, they’d be at Level Infinity on the personal branding scale for movie directors and producers.
Coaches and mentors – Was there someone in your life who intervened when you were down, in trouble, or needed help? Did they give you critical advice, a helping hand, or remove a stressor from your life? How do you regard them now? Are they successful? I’ll bet the answer is yes.
And, last but not least…
You – You’ve helped other people solve their problems. Look back over your life and think about the times that you’ve helped other people. There has to have been at least one time when you solved a problem for someone else that benefited your personal brand (not to mention your self-esteem!) Think of these feats as stepping stones to new heights of personal branding
It’s true that it’s important to work well with colleagues, make customers happy, and achieve your goals in your career. Problem solving skills are a key part of doing these things. An excellent way to build your personal brand is to become known as a problem solver. Make sure that your organization and your peers learn about your skills at solving problems.
Mark Dykeman (@markdykeman) is an IT professional with several years of blogging experience. He writes the award-winning blog Broadcasting Brain and recently started Thoughtwrestling with some friends to help you wrestle ideas to the ground, overpower problems, and become the champion of your great ideas.