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The Most Valuable Skill for Job Seekers

06/12/2014 01:12 pm ET | Updated Aug 12, 2014
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Even though two years have passed since I graduated from undergrad and was evicted from my comfortable college bubble where my biggest concerns were skipping 8 AM 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 that overwhelm you when you're 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 résumé 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 résumé 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 to be strong, determined and persistent.

Your tenacity will be there when you 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 you 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 résumé. We sometimes get caught up in determining the "most valuable skill" or "the one skill that'll get you hired." Skills are obviously important, but your personal qualities have the potential to get you hired 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.