The Most Important Job Skill Anyone Can Have

By Shawn McKibben

October 27, 2014   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Man and Woman Talking

We get caught up so much in what we should do, we often neglect the skills that all of us can develop – the ones that actually will improve our lives and get us ahead.

I don’t blame anyone – it’s only human nature to do things that feel safe or are quite frankly, easier to do. I’m guilty of this myself.

It’s a lot easier to sit behind a computer, remove ourselves from the real world, or blame other people for our situation. Think about all the people who love to complain online.

With an anonymous username, one can complain about something without any filters. It feels safe. Let’s look at one area in life where this applies. I see it all the time in the career space.

Most people searching for jobs peruse the internet for open positions. They are on sites like Craigslist, Indeed, or Monster applying for jobs online. They send out a certain number of resumes a day and feel like they are productive.

The next day the same story goes. By the end of the week, they most likely haven’t heard back from anyone or if they have, it’s for a job they aren’t so thrilled about. After weeks or months of this cycle, it can start to become demoralizing.

You either blame yourself or convince yourself that it must just be the economy right now. After all, times are tough.

Even though this approach feels productive, is it really getting you anywhere? What if there was a better way? I believe there is and it’s worked for me and others who truly want get ahead in life.

I’m talking about taking control and using our innate ability to connect with other people.

Obviously, sitting behind a computer and blindly sending out resumes is not connecting with other people. If some person sees your resume and often they look for just one thing, they still don’t get to know who you are.

Yet, we are continually told that you just need to keep sending them out. It’s also just the easiest thing to do and still feel like we are productive. It’s a nice feeling in the short term, but it often doesn’t get us anywhere.

A different approach is to leverage the people you already know. Think of all the people you know, worked or work with, friends, or family who know someone who knows someone in the career space you are interested in. Reach out and ask for an introduction.

Let them know you are genuinely interested in a career or company they work in and ask to get coffee to pick their brains. Not everyone will say yes, but keep at it and just one coffee meeting can prove invaluable.

Rather than blindly sending out resumes, use the computer to build better relationships through LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media. Research people or companies in your area and reach out to them via email.

There are ways to reach out to people that put the other person’s interests ahead of your own. Whenever you are reaching out to someone, imagine you are in their position. They are probably busy, get a lot of emails, and don’t want to read through a long story.

So, keep emails short, approach them in a genuine, honest way, and show genuine enthusiasm to learn from them. You’d be surprised how willing people are to share their expertise with people who care less about themselves, and more about a willingness to learn. Always be authentic and curious.

It’s also important to be realistic. Don’t expect that the CEO of a company is going to respond to your email. Always be asking yourself who is the next best person I can connect with that can get me closer to where I want to be. More importantly, what can I do for them?

There are many ways to connect with other people in all facets of life – relationships, careers, fitness, and community. Even though it’s tempting and easier to hide behind your computer, challenge yourself to get out there and connect with other people.

You can meet more people who are surprisingly, a lot like you. We can all develop ways to tackle our fears, do the hard work, and build better relationships.

The work may be harder, but the results can be disproportionately better. Instead of working harder and getting nowhere, let’s work harder in the right way to get more of what we want.

Shawn McKibben

Shawn McKibben is the founder of, a website teaching ambitious introverts how to tackle social anxiety. You can download his free eBook here.

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