In order to claim you’re good at solving problems, you must have not only had problems arise in the past, you must have successfully resolved them. If you claim you’re an expert at resolving major problems, it logically follows that you’ve not only had major problems in your life, but again, you’ve eliminated them.
What however, defines ‘major problems’? When an interviewer asks you to share examples of having resolved some major problems in your past, you have to hope that your definition of a major problem and theirs is a shared understanding. If you share something they perceive as a relatively easy problem to have faced, and you view it as a major challenge, you might not be up to the demands of the job being discussed.
You have to also be mindful of what you perceive as an acceptable compromise in resolving challenges and problems compared to the person you’re speaking with. When they don’t tip their hand or react in any way to how you describe the steps you took to resolve the problem you’re relating, it can be difficult to know if you’re on the right track with your answer. There may be no way to amend your answer, provide additional commentary or even move to a better example altogether.
One of the poorest things you can do is claim to have none whatsoever in your past that come to mind. This response either comes across as a flat-out lie or if you somehow come across as believable, it only serves to prove you’re inexperienced when it comes to resolving problems. Neither of the two responses to your claim will help you if they want a problem-solver.
Having had problems is a given in your personal or professional life. I’ve yet to meet the person who has sailed along without having had any problem come up. Owning up to having problems in your past is not a weakness. What is of significant interest is your reaction to the problem(s) you’ve elected to share. So faced with a problem, did you a) ignore it, b) face it, c) tell someone else to fix it, d) make it worse, e) make sure the circumstances that led up to the problem were changed so it didn’t recur or f) give up or give in and let it overwhelm you.
One key to dealing with big problems is learning how to tackle small ones; and I mean small ones. Finding yourself ready to go to work but being unable to find where you left the car keys for example. Hardly a life or death problem, but nonetheless at that moment, a problem that must be resolved. Retracing your steps, asking for help from other family members, checking the usual places, the pockets of whatever you wore the night before, all good. Finding them still in the outside door where you mistakenly left them overnight, maybe the lesson learned is hanging up the keys in the same spot from then on as your usual practice so the problem does not arise again.
Building on the idea of adjusting your behaviour and hanging up keys each time in the same place, you can apply this lesson to other situations. You learned to act in a way that anticipates a potential problem and head it off before it occurs. If nothing changes in your behaviour, you’ll repeat misplacing your keys. While that might be frustrating, the leap in reasoning is that you’ll repeat behaviours that bring on self-inflicted problems in other areas too, and that could be costly for an organization when your problems become theirs.
All problems have two things in common; a goal and one or more barriers. There’s something to be achieved and there’s one or more things which need to be addressed and resolved to remove the problem and reach the desired goal.
Successful people are often viewed as people who face their problems head-on, tackling problems before them and reaching their goals. When they do so, they not only reach the goals they desired, they reinforce their belief that they can solve problems. Their confidence rises, other people come to regard them as capable and recognize their problem-solving skills.
People who struggle often hope problems will go away if they ignore them, or they fail to resolve the problem even when they try because they lack the resources or skills to do so. Their past experiences with problems did not prepare them sufficiently to handle the current problem, so they make what others see as poor decisions which either allow the problem to continue or even become bigger.
If your confidence is low when it comes to solving problems, asking for help is a smart thing to do. There’s no shame in knowing your limitations and seeking help but do make an effort to learn from the person helping you. When someone does something for you, that may resolve the problem this time, but it may not prepare you for when the same problem or one of a similar nature comes up again. Having someone guide and support you while you solve the problem will improve your confidence in not only resolving the immediate problem, but similar ones as they arise.
You’ll likely experience failures and setbacks when facing problems; this is normal and okay. Problems will always come along in life. They really present opportunities to grow.