Job Searching and Problem Solving

Job Searching and Problem Solving

I have something you want. You have my money. Let’s make the exchange.

Why would anyone want to hire you? What are you selling? These are two questions that I ask individuals when they seek my advice on how to conduct a successful job search. The questions are usually met with moments of silence.

Many of us seldom think of these questions until we are confronted with the need to find a job, one that matches our career and personal goals. For many of us, we may be in a state of shock or in unfamiliar territory. We have been successful in our jobs and never thought that we would be in the situation of being unemployed. We never anticipated that our companies would be acquired, the businesses we serve would be divested, or our companies would create restructuring plans that would not include us.

I center my advice to job seekers on my personal experience, the experiences of colleagues and clients, and the relevance of managing a business to managing a career.

Several years ago, I was faced with conducting a job search. The search had become frustrating. I had applied for several positions, networked, and had several connections to executive search consultants. Nothing was going my way—no phone calls returned, no responses to my applications, responses from network contacts that did not match what I was seeking. As my children would say, no nothing.

I discussed my frustrations with an outplacement counselor. I asked her “What am I doing wrong? What am I not doing that I should be doing?” She pushed herself from her desk and said “Work is a problem to be solved. If you can convince a hiring decision maker that you can solve his/her problem, you will be hired.”

I turned my thoughts to a conversation that I had with a friend of my seven years prior to my conversation with the outplacement counselor. My friend’s name was John. John and I had become close friends as soccer parents. Our daughters were teammates on a youth soccer team. John was a very successful salesman for 3M. He consistently exceeded his annual sales goals. I asked John during one of our daughters’ soccer matches “Why are you such a successful salesman”? The conversation went like this.

John: Linwood, it is all about pots and pans and money.

Me: John, what are you talking about? You sell adhesives and specialty chemicals. You don’t sell pots and pans.

John: There is a saying that captures what successful selling is all about. It says, “I have your pots and pans. You have my money. Let’s make the exchange.”

Me: This is so simple, yet so deep!

John: My products can solve certain types of problems, meet the needs of certain prospective customers. I identify these situations, connect with the companies, and communicate how my products can solve their problems. In other words, I say to myself “I have great pots and pans. Let me connect to someone who wants to cook”.

I thought about the perspectives of the outplacement counselor and John. I thought about the job offers and assignments I had received during my career. They all had a common thread—I offered a solution to a company problem or need.

The job offer I accepted from my first employer after earning my MBA fulfilled the company’s need for talent that it could develop to ensure that the company could continue to execute its strategies.

I had a track record that reflected excellent business analysis skills and the ability to work effectively with different functions. I was hired to collaborate with Marketing, Product Development, Manufacturing, and Finance to develop and launch new products.

My demonstrated ability to relate business analysis and strategy execution convinced the Vice President of Finance to assign me to lead the capital investment analysis function.

My ability to shape financial support for strategic business units convinced the Vice President/General Manager of a strategic business unit to bring me on board. (The company had decided to reorganize around strategic business units.)

These personal accomplishments along with the accomplishments of my professional colleagues and their hiring and promotions nailed home the problem solving/job searching relationship. I developed and used the following formula to guide my job search.

I was connected to a great job opportunity and convinced the hiring decision maker to hire me. I also negotiated a salary and sign-on bonus that was more than the position opening listed.

John’s advice also made me realize that conducting a job search campaign is just like conducting a sales campaign. The product is YOU.

As my career progressed, I realized the importance of the Selling component of The Business of Me.

How would you answer “Why would anyone want to hire me”?

What are you selling?

What problems can you solve?

Why were you hired into your company?

Why were you selected for your current assignment?

What frustrations are you having with your job search?

How does your decision to hire a candidate match with work is a problem to be solved?  

What would you like to share with other readers?

I invite you to share your comments, experiences, and suggestions. This helps me provide information that may help you address your career opportunities and challenges.

Fields of Success offers complimentary coaching sessions. Visit the Contact page on the Fields of Success website to schedule a session.

Over the next six weekly articles, I will explain how you can use the Selling Process to conduct a successful job campaign.

Linwood Bailey is a career coach and the author of The Business of Me: Your Job … Your Career … Your Value. The Business of Me provides a career management process and information designed for today’s business professional. Since 2008, Linwood has enabled business professionals to manage their careers. Linwood, the been there coach, provides innovative career management solutions derived from his 34 years of experience managing functions and people in multiple industries, regions, and corporate cultures.



Founder, Fields of Success, LLC

Enabling professionals to convert career challenges into career success stories.

Our careers are our most important economic asset.