Strong Skills: Why Grit is Important

Posted In: Soft Skills
Posted On: 10/26/2015

determination Recently, I have been doing quite a few one-to-ones with recent college graduates and soon-to-be graduates.  I have to admit that it has taken me back to the months after I graduated with a Russian Studies degree, no business classes under my belt and no marketable skills, like typing.  In this blog, my 22-year-old self reflects on that first year out of school and the grit it took to keep going.  Spoiler alert:  this story has a happy ending!


Jane’s Imagined Diary.  Summer 1981.

Lost. Lost. Lost.  When I first graduated from Knox College and moved down to Dallas, Texas, I just couldn’t understand it.  How did I go from second in my class in high school to a successful college career to being turned down for job after job?  Why was I getting a “no” before I even have a chance to talk about all of my accomplishments thus far?  Sure, my work experience was limited to being a salesgirl at the Hickory Farms kiosk at the Galesburg Mall and a cashier at a discount store in my hometown of Peoria.  But add on top of that good grades, extracurricular activities, and helping to support my family after our dead-beat dad left us.  I knew I had a great story to tell, and I just needed one person to listen!

I wasn’t even looking for some dream job.  I just needed to make it for a year so I could take the LSAT and sail into law school, my real dream.  I was willing to do whatever it took and as the days turned into weeks, I was panicked. I had little savings and with every rejection, I was becoming a little less confident in myself.

Then, one day, I saw an ad for a receptionist at Hillcrest State Bank.  It was a locally owned bank within walking distance of my apartment near the Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus.  Cathy, the hiring gal, was looking for someone to greet customers with a friendly face and to do some minor typing.  She turned the other way when I took my “official” typing test, and she hired me on the spot.  I had finally made it!  A real, full-time job!  But since it didn’t pay very much, I found myself also working at Lord & Taylor at Northpark Mall in the men’s department, selling ties to snooty, rich Dallas women.

My dream of becoming a lawyer felt like it was slipping away as I worked two jobs and took a few business classes on the side.  But I hung in there, because I just knew that a strong work ethic and the determination to not let the bastards get me down would prevail!

Jane’s Imagined Diary.  Fall 1982.

I was right!  In the last year, I took on every assignment that Cathy gave me and asked for more.  I went from the gal at the front desk to the gal in charge of benefits.  And I learned in the course of the last year that business is really interesting, and I think I could be good at it!  I took the LSAT to get into law school with mediocre results while I took the GMAT for business school and rocked!  Plus, who would have guessed but the Zales Corporation offered me a full scholarship to get my MBA at SMU because of my retail experience at Lord & Taylor.

I start classes at the Cox School of Business tomorrow, and I don’t know where it will lead, but I am excited about the possibilities.  I am back on track!

Jane’s Real Diary.  Fall 2015.

Yes, I was quite lucky to come across Cathy at the bank and the Zales Corporation at SMU.  But, neither of those lucky chances would have turned into anything if I hadn't had the grit to get through that year and work hard to give it my best.

If you are feeling like my 22-year-old self, hang in there.  You have got what it takes to succeed, and trust me, your Cathy is out there!