If you've looked at a lot of job descriptions, it is likely you have come across at least one that indicated "critical thinking" as a qualification. Thinking critically simply means using logic or rational thought processes to connect problems and solutions or to work through facts and opinions to come to a conclusion. Understanding the application of critical thinking to various work situations may help you decide whether you have strength in this area.
Critical thinking goes beyond rudimentary decision-making. It often involves the ability to analyze multiple data points and make an intelligent, practical interpretation or decision. Many research professionals, including marketing analysts, scientists and academics, using critical thinking to put research to use. In marketing, for instance, analysts gather evidence on products or customers and use it to make rational decisions about the best target customers and which promotional methods and benefits to emphasize.
The ability to think critically is especially useful in work groups or teams. In fact, a key reason a company uses a work team structure is to incorporate the element of critical thinking in decision-making. Individuals can often act on emotion and impulse. In a team, a critical thinker may encourage everyone to step back, analyze the facts of a situation, remove emotion and recognize the long-term implications of a decision.
Workers in a variety of job scenarios face ethical challenges. Often, ethical problems arise when employees have opportunities for fast personal gain or the ability to help someone else cut corners. A social worker, for instance, might feel compelled to make false reports on a client's living conditions to help her get more assistance and support for her family. Critical thinking skills help someone in this situation detach from the emotional pull, realize the inherent flaw with an illegal or ethical action and consider the long-term implications for her career.
You can also apply critical thinking abilities when working through personal or professional conflicts with others. As you build a career, it is highly likely you will come across colleagues or coworkers with whom you have personality clashes. With critical thinking skills, you can step back from the personal emotion of such conflicts and logically determine the pros and cons of expressing your feelings. By doing so, you may rationalize that walking away or staying detached emotionally is your best move. Other times, you may want to share feelings and critical thinking allows you do so calmly, rationally and more effectively.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.