10 Career Mistakes
Being a young professional can be exciting or terrifying.
For most 20-somethings, the professional world is a place filled with potential and danger, opportunities and threats, and their professional inexperience often manifests sooner or later.
There’s no easy way to condition yourself as a perfect professional, nor is there a shortcut to a perfect career path.
For the most part, you’ll learn the ins and outs of building a career as you build one, but there are a number of common mistakes you can avoid if you simply look out for them.
Take these 10 common mistakes of young professionals, for instance:
1. Thinking that your 20s don’t count
At age 20, you’re still very young, but that doesn’t mean your decisions don’t count. When you’re 50 years old and looking back on some of your most significant roles and positions, you probably won’t think highly of the position you held in your 20s, but it’s still going to be the first step you take on the long journey of your career.
How you manage that role, what you take away from that position, and what you do to plan for the future will all be extremely important in the next several years of your career development. Don’t procrastinate your career planning.
2. Failing to network early
Professional networking is a major key to success in the business world — in part because other connections are how to learn more about yourself and your business, and in part because it will give you more potential career paths when it comes time to look for a new position.
College juniors and seniors can leverage the power of their universities by connecting with their alumni network and professors. New professionals can start attending networking events and meeting new people as often as possible.
The sooner you start, the better — having access to a wide range of job options and learning experiences at a young age is invaluable.
3. Writing self-centered resumes and objectives
John F. Kennedy immortalized the words “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” In this case, look not for what your potential employer can do for you, look for what you can do for your potential employer.
When you’re in your 20s, you’re a small fish in an incredibly big pond, and companies are looking for ways they can improve their business — not ways to help the lives of a few recent grads.
Start your resumes, cover letters, and even your inter-office emails by looking for ways that you can benefit others, not the other way around.
4. Quitting a job too soon
There’s nothing wrong with quitting a job as long as you’ve thoroughly considered and understood the benefits and repercussions. Too many young professionals face a major obstacle in their line of work and immediately think of quitting to solve the problem.
For example, one tough assignment or one annoying coworker could be enough to push them out the door. Instead of quitting your job anytime you face a hardship, do a thorough pro/con evaluation.
Take everything into consideration — you may not like your boss, but if you’re learning great skills, it may be worth sticking it out for as long as you can.
5. Failing to invest in yourself
You are the most important element of your career, and you have to put yourself first. Finding ways to make more money or gain more status might seem like good ideas to move up in the professional world, but the better option is always to find ways to improve yourself.
The more valuable you are, the better career options that will be available to you much later in life. Invest in yourself by attending classes whenever possible, taking the time to learn and develop new skills, and find new avenues for professional development.
6. Thinking you know everything
Few people would own up to their own arrogance, but it’s important to recognize your potential to overestimate your own abilities.
Professionals in their 20s are often young and inexperienced, and even if you went to a great school and got excellent grades, there’s still a lot you’ll need to learn in the professional world before you’re going to make a substantial impact.
Learn to be OK with not knowing everything, and be open to learning from others. Listen to new ideas, hear other people’s advice (even if you don’t take it), and respect everybody.
7. Ignoring the natural pecking order
In line with that humility, understand that your opinions may not be respected or heard as much as a senior member’s. Walking into a meeting with the expectation that you’re a peer of someone who’s been at the company for 30 years is the fastest way to lose the respect of your coworkers.
Instead, pay careful attention to the pecking order, and know your place in it. Don’t be shy to express your opinion, but don’t try to bite off more than you can chew.
8. Neglecting to set goals
It’s unfortunate, but many young professionals fail to take the time to set goals for themselves. Without career goals, you’re essentially an aimless wanderer in the professional world.
Even in your 20s, it’s important to have a set of goals dictating your professional moves and guiding your career path — for starters, try and set goals for the end of the year, the end of five years, and the end of ten years.
9. Rushing into a job
Too many young professionals prioritize the notion of getting a job above anything else in the job hunting process. As long as they eventually get a position, they’re happy.
While it’s important to start getting a paycheck so you can afford living expenses and get your foot in the door somewhere, it’s not a good idea to rush into the first job you’re offered.
Instead, take your time as much as you can, consider your options, and evaluate each potential job for its short-term and long-term benefits.
Competition with other peers can be a good motivator in school and in sports, but in the professional world, it’s only going to hold you back. Every individual should have a different set of goals, ideals, and values, and that means no two individuals should have the same career path.
If you start comparing yourself to others around you based on things like your title, relative position, or salary, you’re going to lose sight of what’s actually important in your career — your own satisfaction. Pay attention to your peers, but don’t try and measure your own success against theirs.
Avoiding these mistakes alone won’t guarantee you a straight path to a career you’ll love forever, but they will help you alleviate some of the growing pains that come with entering the professional world as a recent college graduate.
Stay flexible, learn from your mistakes, and remain focused on your goals. If you can do that, there should be nothing to stop you from achieving your dreams.