Tag Archives: Problem solving

Different problems, different people, different solutions

This past weekend, two of our appliances broke down. They were our lawn mower, and our gas grill. Two different people, myself, and my wife, had to make “spur of the moment” decisions on how to proceed with our different tasks. No, my wife was not attempting to mow our lawn; that is my job. Needless to say, her task was to cook two steaks, which she had hoped to use our grill for.


She had opened the valve to the propane gas tank, and was attempting to ignite the burner when she noticed a flame coming up along the outside of the front of the grill. She quickly closed the valve to the propane tank, which extinguished the flame, but not before it melted one of the two ignition knobs.


The immediate solution to her problem, that is, cooking two steaks, was simple; turn off the gas, take the steaks inside, cook them on our stove, and then tell me what had just happened.


The immediate solution to my problem was more complicated.




The problem with the lawn mower was that the lower handle broke while I was actually mowing the lawn. The handle broke where it is connected to the upper handle, making it necessary to try to apply a quick fix so that I could complete the job. My first attempt, “plan A” if you will, was to cut the neck off of an empty plastic bottle, slip it onto the two parts of the broken handle, and clamp that assembly to the end of the upper handle. It fell off after about 3 feet of mowing. For my “plan B”, I used duck tape (remember the MacGyver television series?) instead of the clamp. That tape held up for most of the rest of the job, so my “plan C” was to put a thick, heavy glove on my hand, and physically hold those parts together while I mowed the last 20 feet of the lawn.


There were two different appliances, two different problems, and two different people, each with their own unique way to solve an immediate problem in order to complete a job.


In a way, both job-searching and networking are similar to the situations I just described. The tactic that works for those job-seekers who are in one line of work, say healthcare, might not work for those who are looking for a job in construction. This can also apply to those looking for jobs within the same line of work, because some may have more current skills than others.


Even though the long-range solution of a job search is to get employed, there is no “magic tactic” that will get you your next job. If there was, every job-seeker would be using it, and eventually, it would get overused, and job-seekers would have to start looking for another “magic tactic.”


Just like in a job-search, the long-range solutions for my two appliances both involve one thing: replacement. But that is the only similarity. The gas grill will be replaced, and maybe by one which uses charcoal. On the other hand, the replacement part for the lawn mower has been ordered, and should arrive next week.


So, for our two different problems, we have, again, and two different solutions.




Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

The Elephant in the Room

Oh dear, something has gone just a little off – you spilled something on yourself just before the interview started, you were a tad late, you have a tickle in your throat, you suddenly blanked on what you were about to say, you have a tight schedule and the interview is running long and threatening your next appointment – on and on the list goes…


Any number of unplanned little things can attempt to derail our plans and throw off a situation.  When we are with friends or family we laugh them off and go on, writing them off as part and parcel of life – but somehow in an interview we, in an attempt to be the perfect candidate, don’t quite know how to address this embarrassment.  The little something can grow to be the elephant in the room that no one mentions but everyone knows is right there.


public domain image

As the interviewer I have felt pained for an interviewee who is dealing with a small peccadillo of some sort and as a fellow human wanted to help them to be at ease.  But part of my role as interviewer is to see how this person will handle the untoward things that happen in life.  That something a little off is a boon in an interview, a real test of this person’s problem solving and life skills.  Will it become the elephant, or will you call it out so that we can get past it?


As an interviewee I have experienced all of the things that I listed above and more, and dealt with them in a variety of ways – admittedly quite badly early on in my professional experience, before I sat on the other side of the table.  I let them become the elephant in the room, growing more and more embarrassed until I completely lost focus on the interview and put almost all of my energy on wishing the thing would just go away.


Please keep this in mind when you are in an interview.  We are all human and therefore subject to mistakes and all sorts of little issues.  If something goes wrong, take a deep breath and briefly acknowledge it.  Refocus your thoughts on the question at hand.  If the interviewer doesn’t respond positively to your humanness that reflects more upon that person than upon you.  If they cannot accept a small, unexpected issue during an interview then imagine trying to relate to them once you work together.


We don’t have to be perfect, and the interview is meant to work both ways – you are testing each other out for suitability.  A little something going off gives both parties the opportunity to show their human side.  It doesn’t have to be the elephant in the room.


Beth Anne Reed has a background in Customer Relations, Process & Project Management and a deep interest in Written Communications.

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