Leverage Ourselves to Enter the Workforce Part 2: Critical Thinking/Problem Solving Skills
Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
This month, we focus on critical thinking/problem solving skills. This skill, while necessary in all areas of life, can be easier said than done. Critical thinking/problem solving skills showcase how you make rational decisions in the face of obstacles and challenges.
This is arguably the most important skill any potential employer seeks in ideal candidates. In each step of the application process, recruiters and employers are assessing whether or not you’re a good fit for the company and position based on your perceived problem solving skills. In your application materials, they want written accounts of how you solved problems in past roles you’ve held via personal anecdotes in your cover letter and succinct resume bullet points. In one-on-one interviews, hiring managers may ask you to elaborate on your experiences or give you a problem in order to gauge your thought process when unpacking the issue.
According to the blog Staffing Advisors, if you’re unsure how to exemplify this skill either in person or on paper, formulating a C.A.R. story is perhaps the most helpful “template” to start you out. This is a concise and succinct way to recall a time you had to problem solve. C.A.R. stands for Challenge (or Cause), Action, and Result. You want to explain the circumstances surrounding the issue you faced, what you chose to do to resolve the issue, and what impact it had not only on you, but also on the larger community you were supporting.
Once you get the job, it’s even more important that you exhibit critical thinking skills in the workplace. According to principal at Process Design Consultants Inc. and author Jen Lawrence, "Using a structured thinking process will actually save employees time in the long run because they avoid making mistakes such as jumping to the wrong conclusion or making a decision that others reject down the road." It’s argued that critical thinking may be hard to show at work since the U.S. workplace often prioritizes quantity (and speed) over quality. This leads to hasty decision making, which can have detrimental impacts on efficiency and productivity.
In the broader scheme of life, students should aspire to develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills earlier than later as it can drastically improve one’s way of life. This is a skill you can continue to learn about over time, and the greater you are at problem solving the less likely you will be to face negative events at work and in life. This is why a critical component of education is the development of critical thinking skills. Learning how to apply effective reasoning to solve issues in school paves the way for this to be done in work, which will contribute significantly to the wellbeing of your employer and even marginally, society.
The following are a few Conway activities that can help you fine tune your critical thinking and problem solving skills:
Stay tuned for parts 3 and 4 which will discuss Leadership and Teamwork, respectively.