Solving problems

I had a conversation recently about solving problems.

My aunt and uncle were visiting London and we met in my lunchbreak, then somehow ended up on the topic of problem-solving.

I can’t remember how it came up, but we were talking about how important it can be to just change one element of your approach or thinking and amazing things can happen.

It’s so easy to get frustrated and stuck in a rut, especially when the problems you’re trying to sort out are big ones, or you feel like you’re in someone else’s hands.

I’ve got two examples connected to pretty big life changes.

Getting a new job

In early 2015, I made the decision my next step would be moving to London. I left the job I was in, because I knew interviews in London would mean taking whole days off work, so wanted to give myself the time to job hunt properly and avoid the awkward questions of requesting whole days of work with little explanation. I was looking and applying, but role after role wasn’t quite right.

I spoke to recruiters, having had good experiences with them in the past, but was let down by just how poor some recruiters can be; calls would be missed, or recruiters would match me with jobs completely irrelevant to my skillset. I was starting to get really frustrated, as I was ready to move and just get started. After one particularly cross rant on the phone to my parents, I decided to call just one more recruitment company.

They specialised in the field I was looking to work in, and the initial conversation just felt different. They were finally asking the right questions, and I felt that they had a real sense of who I was and what my skills were. I felt like they were actually listening to me. Over the next couple of days, they started to send me job descriptions, and sending my CV to those that looked promising.

Within days, I had a day of interviews lined up and booked my train to London. One particular company was one I have followed for a long time, and didn’t think I would ever have the opportunity to work there. After a promising telephone interview, I headed to their offices on this day in London for another interview and a test.

The next day, I was offered the job.

I had been so ready to give up and moan for a few weeks before wondering whether to change my plans, but that one last push to approach a different recruiter worked.

Finding somewhere to live

For the first month I was in London, a family friend had a room spare in his house, as his long-term lodger was away for the month of August. This gave me a month of living and working in the city to find myself a room to rent. With the speed things move in London, it sounded doable.

After seeing horrible rooms, and speaking to plenty of dodgy-sounding landlords, with time running out, I began to hit that same wall of frustration and despair. London prices are mad, some rooms are just awful, and some landlords don’t exactly make you feel like you’d be comfortable living in their homes.

I had been hunting through lists of rooms advertised and approaching potential places myself, but after this frustration set in, I took another route and put up an ad myself on EasyRoommate, not sure what would come of it. Within an hour I’d had a few responses, and by the next morning I had had 10. Some looked terrible, but there were potentials and I started to line up viewings.

A couple of hours later, I received a phone call from Renee, a woman looking for someone to rent a room in her house. After a quick chat, I arranged to see the room that evening. By the time I got back home that night, I had agreed a move in date.

Again, I had reached the point where I almost wanted to give up, then tweaked my strategy a little and things clicked into place.

I think what that period taught me was that you need to just keep trying. I was so close to giving up and dramatically declaring I was going to stay up north, or live off my parents forever, but realistically I didn’t want those things. I wanted to be in London, doing a role I enjoyed and in which I could grow.

So I kept going.

And it paid off.

Next time I’m getting frustrated about something, I’ll remind myself of these two stories, because things can be achieved if you just stick at them, or change your approach.

I’ve solved these problems, and I will be able to solve others in the future.

Use frustration as a tool to spur you on and make you reassess then try harder.

You’ll find a solution, somehow.


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