Sandy Curry and me (seated) at the Carolina Union Information Desk, circa 1983. (Photo by Stretch Ledford or Scott Sharp)

Back in college Sandy Curry and I used to joke that we should rent a storefront and hang out a shingle that read, "Ask Us" because people were always seeking our help solving problems and finding answers. "Where can I get some dry ice?" "Where was the 1942 Rose Bowl played?"  "How do you get a Purple Jesus stain out of a rug?" And not just because we worked at the Carolina Union Information Desk. We had resources and networks.

Creating a career

We each managed to turn this talent for problem-solving into a business opportunity, no storefront required. Sandy became a production assistant, then coordinator, then manager for ads, TV shows and movies. And now she's a life coach. I've built my post-graduate life as a journalist and consultant around fixing, procuring and connecting.

(While still in college, I parlayed my prowess at procurement into a gig setting up the dressing rooms and feeding band and crew at the campus concert venues. This is how I was able to introduce U2 to the Southern culinary delicacy, hushpuppies, at the Carolina Concert for Children).

Getting an edge

Everybody needs at least one problem-solver, that go-to person who makes things easier. And not everyone has an information desk at their disposal (although the Internet comes close). In those situations when all other things are equal, being known as the source for solutions and suggestions can be the difference between getting the job or the promotion and, well, not. Being a valuable resource also can spare you the pink slip when layoffs are considered. Your ability to contribute more than just the duties in your job description can help you keep working in a tricky economy.

What problems can you solve for the people in your world? Do they know it? How might you build your reputation as a trusted go-to person?