Skip to Content

What I Wish I Knew About My Career In My 20s

At GenTwenty, we stand for empowering twenty-something’s to take control of their futures, choices, and actions. We believe the twenty-something decade is one of the most critical, self-formative periods of transformation we go through in our lives. Not just for millennial twenty-somethings, but twenty-somethings of future generations as well.

We also believe deeply in learning from our predecessors example as a way to improve ourselves. We would be silly not to.

In a recent survey, we asked adults age 30+ to share with us what they wish they knew in their 20s when it came to their careers, family, friends, romantic relationships, and finances.

Below we have broken down their responses and statistics on what respondents said they wish they had known about their career in their 20s .

Passion, Heart, Dreams, and Happiness

Of the 20 participants in this survey, nine of them (45 percent) mentioned following their dreams, hearts, and passions early on instead of waiting when they were older. 

In this survey, 45% of respondents wish they had made career happiness and passion a priority in their 20s.

See the individual responses below:

“[I] wish I would’ve listened more during career fairs and took an interest in some sort of career at a younger age instead of jumping from job to job.” — Scott Schoeneberg

“[I wish I had known] that every job that I had and every person that I would meet would bring me one step closer to what I was suppose to be doing in life.” — Joshua Aikens

“I wish I would have followed my passions and interests instead of money. Loving what you do is so very important.”

“I wish I had known that in my 30s, I’d walk away from my 11 year banking career to pursue my dream to be a professional artist.” — Jane Lupia

“It’s ok to take time off to follow your dreams… work will still be there.”

“There are two tracks: The career track they tell you about in the college career center and the professional life track that allows for interesting diversions, doesn’t ask for conformity, and won’t jam you into the hierarchies bottle neck for the second half of your career.” — Vince Skolny

“I wish I would have known to follow my heart on my career.” — Lori

Additionally, 22% of those responses touched on happiness in relation to their career:

“Being happy with the work you do everyday and the impact you have on others is more important than the amount of money you make.” — Danielle

 “That the path wouldn’t be straight and that it’s okay. Also, when you finally arrive where you thought you wanted to be and are unhappy, it’s okay to change path again.” — Geraldine

Resources for you:

Networking, Career Relationships, Manners, and Respect

Of the 20 answers we received, five of them (25 percent) discussed networking, your attitude, and how to treat the people you work with.

In this survey, 25% of respondents say they wish they had networked more in their 20s.

See the individual responses below:

“[I] wish I knew more of the in’s and out’s of the job… also that I had more contacts as I do now.”

“The days of staying at a company for 30 years are over. Be agile, flexible, and seek opportunities to expand your skill sets. Be proud of your achievements, but don’t brag. People will notice the work you do. Network actively with the intent to learn from others, not to gain something as everyone wants something so giving of yourself will get you a better reputation than any other tactic.” — Kris Giere

“Fancy titles don’t mean much. Be respectful without surrendering your ideals.” — Mark Salke

“Not everyone has common sense.”

“It’s better to admit what you don’t know and come with a willingness to learn and grow than it is to pretend you know everything and put up a facade. Most places want to teach you and see you thrive for them. Don’t ever talk about people, even if you’re away from work. It’s a small world. You never know if the new hire was once the college roommate of your jerky boss. Don’t make unnecessary enemies.” — Erica

Resources for you:

Risk Taking, Experience and Education, and Putting In The Work

Six of our respondents (35 percent) discusses experience, education, and the value of hard work.

In this survey, 35% of adults age 30+ wish they had taken more career risks in their 20s.

See the individual responses below:

“Don’t be afraid to take chances while you still don’t have a lot of financial responsibilities. Once you have a mortgage and children, it’s much scarier to make career changes whether you are happy in your job or not.” — Jacquie O’Rourke

“Your career does not need to be a linear path. Take chances.”

“[I wish I had] invested more in my 401k.” — Bobby Kidd

“I wish I’d known it would be well worth the time, money, and effort to pursue the advanced degree I thought I’d do later. I didn’t expect ‘later’ to be decades later.” — Fran

“It’s dirty, hot ,often labor intensive work, [and[ more often than not, thankless. Many hours spent in planning and doing things right. Wouldn’t trade it for anything else!”

“I should have gone to school right away in my 20s instead of waiting for the 40s to roll around.”

Resources for you:

Does anything surprise you? Shock you? Did you expect any of these results? Share your thoughts, comments, and responses with us in the comments.

Share this!

[Tweet “What I Wish I Knew About My Career In My 20s”]

 Knew About My Career in My 20s

About the Author

Nicole Booz

Nicole Booz is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of GenTwenty, GenThirty, and The Capsule Collab. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and is the author of The Kidult Handbook (Simon & Schuster May 2018). She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably hiking, eating brunch, or planning her next great adventure.