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4 Career Mistakes To Avoid In Your 20s

Your twenties are a time of growth, and this includes in your career are well. Your twenties are also a time to make mistakes, and for the most part, mistakes are good! We learn from them, we grow from them, and we don’t repeat them. But some mistakes, especially when it comes to your career, can have long-term negative effects and these are the mistakes we want you to try to avoid as best as you can.

We learn from our own mistakes and other peoples mistakes. Especially when it comes to learning from other people’s mistakes, we know from the get-go not to follow and do them too. Not all of the below are my mistakes (some are though!) but mistakes I saw my peers make that I learned from. Try to avoid these common career mistakes in your twenties and your professional life will flourish even more.

Career Mistakes To Avoid In Your 20s

1. Not Speaking Up

As a professional in their twenties, there is a great chance that you are one of the youngest — if not the youngest — in your office or on your specific team. Because of this, you may be afraid to speak up.

You may think it’s best to sit in meetings and simply listen and not participate. You may not want to vocalize your own thoughts and opinions, because who cares anyway? If everyone more senior than you thinks one thing, why should you bother speaking up?

This is something to avoid. You need to speak up! They hired you for a reason, and show them why they did. Of course, this doesn’t mean getting into arguments over everything, but if you have an idea you think would benefit the business, share it!

By staying quiet, your colleagues are forgetting about you and will never take your opinion seriously. By speaking up, you are showing them that you are an expert in your field too, that you belong in that meeting, and that you also know what’s best for the organization. There are books listed here to help you with this!

2. Being A Know-It-All 

There can be a fine line between speaking up and speaking up too much. If you are working with colleagues who have been at the company for years, maybe even decades, they have been there for a reason.

Respect their opinions and expertise, especially in terms of knowing the business. Ask them questions and for guidance. It shows them that you want to learn and that you want to grow.

If you go into a job or profession with a narrow mindset of “I know what I’m doing, I don’t need help from anyone” that is going to get you nowhere. People appreciate when they are asked for their advice. It shows you respect them and it shows you care even more about the business.

Plus, going to people in this way makes them more likely to want to take care of you and your professional growth. It is always good to have a mentor, especially someone who can guide you through the organization you’re already part of.

3. Sticking To One Job 

We hear all the time that job-hopping is bad. And to a certain extent, it can be seen in a negative light, especially if you have been at four different companies in less than four years. But, your twenties are the time to try new things, and this applies to your professional life as well.

If you are happy with your job, that’s great! But if you aren’t or you are unfulfilled, find a new one. It is just as simple as that! Of course it may take some time to find a new one, but, do not settle in a job or position you are not happy with.

Starting out in your career is the time to test the waters and see which industry or job works best for you and that you enjoy the most. Try new things. Try a job you may have not thought you would apply to. Now’s the time.

Plus, if you are looking for that larger salary, changing jobs tends to result in a higher increase than promotions from within the same organization. That is a plus for many!

4. Not Investing in Your 401k 

If your company offers a 401k option and matches, take advantage of it from the start! We all have bills, rents, mortgages, student loans, etc. but if your company matches X amount of your 401k contribution, try to contribute that amount. It’s free money!

You may not think much of your 401K now as a young person, but when it comes time to retire in the future, that money is going to be yours to live on.

Why wouldn’t you want to start investing in yourself from now if you can? The earlier you start contributing to your 401K, the more money you will have in it when it comes time to require.

Plus, most jobs match up to a certain percentage. For instance, if your company matches up to 4%, try to put at least 4% of your salary into your 401k. Your company’s match is free money that will help you out in your older age. Future you is going to be so thankful you took advantage of this!

We’re all going to make mistakes, it’s human nature. But it will help propel your career forward if you avoid making these career mistakes in your 20s. 

About the Author

Michelle Ioannou

Michelle graduated from Fordham University with a Bachelors of Arts '13 and a Master of Arts '14. She's currently working in corporate America with a side of freelance writing. She wants you to learn from her experiences and mistakes so your 20s can be your best decade. When she's not working, she's likely planning her escape to a tropical island.