Even though two years have passed since I graduated from undergrad and was evicted from the comfortable college bubble where my biggest concerns were skipping 8 a.m. classes and putting off papers until two hours before they’re due, I can vividly remember the overwhelming feelings of hesitance, helplessness, and impending homelessness when looking for a real job post-graduation.

Leaving your college job is like breaking up with someone you actually kind of like sometimes (when you aren’t busy hating them or plotting to steal all of their printer paper out of some misguided notion of passive aggressive spite). Sure, you don’t feel as fulfilled as your probably could, and you’re still a little embarrassed to introduce this job to your resume and LinkedIn profile, and sometimes you might daydream about leaving with all your worldly possessions (the mini bagels you keep in the break room) and never coming back, and okay, maybe you’ve fallen asleep at inopportune moment once or twice, but there have been some good times, too! Besides, you’re mostly content. At a real job, it’ll take a solid six months to a year before you’ll be comfortable covertly passing gas and wearing the same slacks two days in a row. Unfortunately, the needs of your dwindling bank account will quickly surpass your lackluster work hygiene yearning.

Professionals talk a lot about the skills job seekers need to land a good job and keep it–like the sweatshop internship experience guaranteed to secure you a competitively-salaried career, the Cirque de Soleil choreography of Adobe Acrobat, and of course, the expert proficiency in Microsoft Office, ostensibly the easiest program suite to learn and the most sought-after nonetheless. Your years of experience in your field and software familiarity notwithstanding, there’s one skill that will benefit you in every interview you attend and every position you hold: tenacity.

That’s right, tenacity. Not calling yourself a rock star or a ninja or claiming you can wear many hats or work well as part of a team. If you want to find a job and succeed at that job, you need to be tenacious.

It might not occupy a hallowed spot on your resume like Photoshop or Microsoft Office, but when you’re leaving behind the safety net of college and your familiar part time job, the best thing you can do to help yourself is be strong, determined, and persistent.

Your tenacity will be there when suffer the first, “We decided to go with an applicant with more experience,” email. It’ll be there when you submit an application for a job and never hear anything about it ever again—or worse—when you receive a rejection letter several months later, at the exact moment you were finally getting over the fact your dream job ignored your carefully crafted cover letter. Tenacity will be there when your well-meaning family members and friends bulldoze your pride with well-meaning questions like, “Have you gotten any more interviews? And what happened with that job you had a good feeling about?” Being tenacious is what will empower to hold out for a job with the benefits and compensation you deserve. Tenacity will help you answer that weird interview question you never expected with poise and aplomb.

Sure, it doesn’t hurt to “know someone” at a company or have more expert knowledge about Microsoft Word than that smug cartoon paperclip we all hated, but there’s more to getting a job than what you know and what goes on your resume. We sometimes get caught up in determining the “most valuable skill” or “the one skill that’ll get you hired.” Skills are important, but personal qualities can be every bit as useful because those are what compensate for the skills you may not have.

Be tenacious, be interesting, be (a politically correct version of) yourself–cultivating yourself as a job seeker is every bit as important as cultivating your skills.

17 thoughts on “The Most Valuable Skill for Job Seekers

  1. Goodness, that’s a lot of wisdom packed neatly in this one post/word/concept. Are you related to Yoda or something? I couldn’t agree more, but now the pending question: Have you find your dream job already?

    1. If I am, he got all the green (skin tone and money?) I think I’m still trying to figure out what “dream job” would be, but doing this whole blog thing and working full time while I decide has been going pretty well so far.

  2. I agree – as squeaky wheels get grease, so do tenacious job seekers eventually find work. The alternative is lounging on your mom’s sofa eating cheetos and playing video games, sinking into morbid depression while fantasies of that dream job grow ever more distant. Doesn’t sound to bad, actually. Except for the depression part. (Mmmm … Cheetos…)

      1. If only all the world’s woes could be cured with Cheetos. Hey… can they? Omigosh. A largely untapped resource of unbridled happiness. Tell mamma to start clipping coupons, girl… Baby’s gotta be happy, and there are video games waiting to be played! Happiness, here we come…

      2. I’m a puff girl, actually… but I never say no to crunch. Just doing my part to restore the order in the universe. I’m willing to make sacrifices, if that’s what it takes.

  3. I made it easy on myself out of college. I had a family friend pretty much arrange a job for me, and with no other options, I took it. Then I stayed for almost seven years, mostly out of laziness.

    1. Knowing someone in a job you wouldn’t totally hate is a huge advantage. I wish I had known more people or done an internship to make it easier on myself. It was seven long months of job applications, for me.

  4. Great post! The skill I had to nail my current job was something I can’t actually state, no it wasn’t sexual. If it got back to my employers that I said it, I’d be sacked in a minute. But tenacity is a great skill!

  5. This is exactly how my blog actually started – documenting all of the horribly heartbreaking rejections I got in the six months before I got a retail job and the six months before I got my current job (which still isn’t in my field, but at least I can put a roof over my head and eat). I feel like you summed it up so well though – tenacity is what will get you there eventually. I can’t even remember how many writing, editing jobs I applied for in the early days after college, and the ones I’ve come an inch short of in the past few years. It’s frustrating and sad but it will happen someday.

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