What is the problem you can solve?

I recently read an article in a funny-but-true Slate.com series called "Our One Fight," in which a married couple discusses a disagreement they have repeatedly. As described at the top of each article, the premise is simple:

Every couple has one core fight that replays over and over again, in different disguises, over the course of their relationship. In this series, couples analyze the origin and mechanics of their One Fight.

Each article in the series always starts the same way: 

Every time we fight, we’re replaying an old argument that... 

It's the kind of series that makes you cringe because if you've been in a long-term relationship, you can relate so well! (I was tempted to email the author and tell her that I was totally on HER side in their particular argument.)

This blog is about career development, not relationships! What's the deal?

Well, I've got a theory. My theory is that most organizations have their version of a persistent, intractable conflict that they struggle with.

Find the problem, and be the solution.

If you can identify the struggle and position yourself as the candidate who can address it, you've got a great chance of being hired! Think about the meetings, conferences, and industry panels you've attended. Was there a recurring problem that the thought leaders in your field addressed? Was there a systemic conflict that reappeared and was frequently discussed among leaders, or debated among team members?

To paraphrase the One Fight premise, think of a way to finish this sentence:

Every time we meet, we’re rehashing the issue of...

In every field, regardless of industry or experience level, there are thorny problems that the professionals in that field wrestle with on a regular basis.

Here's an example. Small organizations rely on word-of-mouth advertising, because they don't have the resources to, say, buy airtime during the Superbowl.

However, if they don't have anyone on the team who understands how to leverage social media, they may be losing out to competitors who are taking advantage of the marketing potential of these platforms.

You've got a solution.

That's where you come in! In your pitch, identify their conflict or challenge, then propose how you would address it. If you see a lack of focus and engagement in the company's social media platforms, outline your strategy to remedy that issue.

You don't have to give away all your secrets - the interview should not become a free consulting session! - but share enough to show you know your stuff.

What if there is no solution?

Sometimes an intractable problem really doesn't have a solution. 

For example, you've probably read that self-driving vehicles are predicted to eliminate a large number of jobs. There can be debate about how soon this change will take effect or how widespread it will be, but there are no doubts that at some point, many trucks will operate autonomously, and the role of the "driver" will change dramatically.

Accepting conflict, adapting to change

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has given this impending transition a great deal of consideration. In the fall, the ATA approved a policy for the development of automated trucks. They laid out their case for prioritizing safety, improving the wellness of human operators, and advocating for interstate regulations. They showed they can adapt to the change and remain relevant.

In this example, the conflict itself may not have an easy solution, but the ability to manage that conflict is critical to the survival of an organization.

If you're preparing for a career transition, think beyond the skills you have or the experience you bring to a company. Think about the problems they face, and be the solution.

If you know of someone considering a career transition who would benefit from speaking with a career coach, feel free to refer them to me! You can sign up for my email list as well, and I'd love it if you followed me on Twitter

Interested in the relationship stuff after all? Check it out! http://www.slate.com/topics/o/our_one_fight.html