Essay: Solutions

Mar 16, 2018

I stood in the doorway of Art’s office, asking for help.  Art Maha was my boss—a corporate sales star who’d been promoted to advertising manager for the whole company.  It was a big manufacturing company—and he wanted to make us look as good as we were.          

I was in my mid-twenties with a master’s degree in English and no advertising experience.  But Art had hired me as a writer—to help his engineers describe our products in ordinary language.  Which meant I had to learn about those products—high-precision components of materials handling equipment.

It was fascinating and I’m always happiest when I’m learning.  But sometimes I ran out of ideas or confidence—and found myself standing in the doorway of Art’s office, asking for help.

Finally one day, he said, “Karen, I didn’t hire you to bring me problems.  I hired you to bring me solutions.”

He could not have been more clear.  And after I got over my embarrassment, I realized it was the best on-the-job advice I’d ever received.  It still is.

Whether I’ve been the employee or the boss, I’ve quoted Art Maha’s wisdom as a guideline and a reminder.  We hire people—and get hired—to bring solutions.

It’s an empowering idea and meant to be.