5 Common Career Mistakes to Avoid in your 20s

Common Career Mistakes to Avoid in your 20s

They say 20s are the years when you are supposed to find yourself. You are at the cusp of adulthood, the real one and not just the one which makes you eligible to vote overnight, and the lingering years of childhood. It is the time when your education comes to a concluding halt and your productive earning years commence. These are the times that you learn from, on-the-job and pretty much on-the-life.

But these are also the times that can create a lasting impact on the rest of your life. Ironically, even though the 20s may seem like a transition, the decisions and choices you make in your 20s can determine the course of the overall satisfaction from the rest of your career. Perhaps that is why people share their been-there-done-that wisdom so you can avoid the mistakes that can derail your lasting happiness. Keeping up with the trends, here we are to share our wisdom on common career mistakes to avoid in your 20s.

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What are the Career Mistakes you should avoid in your 20s?

 

Unexamined Career Choice

Tall, dark and IT Engineer is generally the path of scores of Indian job newbies. There was a time when the son used to take on the profession of his father. In the past few decades though, young men and women alike, have chosen to follow on the profession that has spelt success for most of their peers.

You get an engineering degree from a certain Mandakini Institute of Technology, or another MIT, and follow the crowd, behind a desk, and slouch in a bullpen staring at a computer (Read Downside of being a software engineer in India).

Don’t get us wrong. If that’s your thing, then sure you are ideally placed. But if your heart and soul wishes to design noir style comics, you have made a serious mistake.

Sure, you can change your career down the line, but the luxury of starting off on something you like with barely any other responsibilities or hang ups, can almost only be afforded when you are young. It allows you to venture into risks early on and work your way to establish yourself in the career of your choice.

When starting off on a career introspection, ask yourself – What do I really want to do? If you have a ready response, go for it. If not, work your way back through a process of eliminating the kind of jobs you don’t want to do. If your spirit feels stifled at the thought of strangling your creativity for the sake of the popular recipe for success, consider some career counseling and career coaching.

Here are a few tips to help you along.

  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses.
  • What makes you interested in a particular job, or kind of job, and why.
  • How do you see yourself becoming a productive addition to a workplace.

Once you are somewhere further along your introspection, and after networking with the right connections and sources, you should be able to foresee long term career satisfaction. So what if takes a few missteps along the way. As long as you are able to examine your choices, you are far better off than many.

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Peer and other pressures

For most of the early years of your newly acquired adult life, you are surrounded by your peers and their decisions. Unless you are able to hold your own, it is easy to succumb to their wishes or the charm of following suit with their wishes. Call it an instinct for most follower personalities. But this too, plays into the former mistake, we discussed – the lack of a sound knowledge of your own desires.

Let’s not just put the blame on peers. Often parents, uncles, aunts, or even the overly concerned neighbor’s concept of a successful career choice may be imposed from loud to subtle ways. Falling into an ever-pleasing personality type can turn out to be costly. The current higher education system is far more open to unconventional career paths than was available to our baap-dada’s zamaana.

Rather than giving into practical arguments for the sake of a perceived notion of stable career, you should start working for your passion early on. If you have clarity about your desires and are reasonably well-informed of the ways to get there, the opinions of others will be nothing more than what they are. As the Dude said, “That’s just like, your opinion, man!” (The Big Lebowski anynone?)
 

The Aftermath of finding a Job

Even with all the planning that should go into starting a new career, what comes after should be just as carefully evaluated. Speaking broadly in terms of the work, life, and work-life styles, there are usually two extremes that young employees often find themselves in. Ones who immerse themselves in the task so deeply, aiming to make the most success the quickest, that they burn out by their 30s. And the second kind who set about on an extended celebration of having landed a job, often ignoring the development that comes after the offer letter.

A well-balanced career life outlook, even in your 20s, can help your development and financial security, for the future. Every so often people discover new interests while pursuing a familiar passion. Many even venture on to fulfilling career moves, later, or simply continue enriching their experiences with activities that make them happy. And a prudent lifestyle with early financial investments, and planning, can really form the insurance for hard times or even career breaks for those other pursuits.

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Seeking the wrong Mentor

Harvard Business Review surveyed 45 successful CEOs a few years back and found that a majority (84%) reported that their professional success was greatly accelerated by their mentors who helped them avoid costly mistakes. What’s more, 71% of them had some form of formal mentoring arrangements in their organizations and claimed that their companies where certainly better off for them. Clearly a good mentor can propel your career path towards success.

On the flip side, if you are not careful about the choice of your mentor, as a young employee, your professional development may just get steered towards an untenable situation. Not all successful senior employees care and not all relationships can be forcefully forged. Instead of jumping into a mentee relationship with the first suited flashy executive you fancy, you should put some thought into choosing the person who can make you more productive and inspire you to develop.

  • Understand your goals and need from the relationship. Do you simply need someone to tell you a bunch of instructions or someone who can unlock your potential?
  • Reputation matters. Network with your colleagues and seek out the individual who resonates with what you want. If he has been a mentor to another, with success, he may be willing to lead for you too.
  • The most successful guy on the floor may not be the best coach. Your mentor needs to be not only successful but also attentive to your needs.
  • Mind the gap in your age and seniority. Someone who is too up the ladder or from a good two generations away may not understand your desires from your career. Choose someone who can meet you half-way, experienced yet sympathetic to your situation.

Read Where, how and with whom to network
 

Leaving out opportunities to explore and learn

You are young. You are vibrant and full of energy. This is the perfect time to seize the opportunities to learn more, whether from within or outside your company. Invest in exploring various interests and activities. Volunteer to learn new tools and take on responsibilities.

This is the ideal time to build a good reputation and a vibrant resume. So, don’t fall into a rut of an office routine this early in your career. A rigid career path will only limit your versatility for the future. And as we can all agree, if there is ever any good investment for a secure future, it is the ability to stay relevant and needed.

Read Self-Development lessons from Buffet and Munger

The rest of the sermon goes as rinse repeat from any other discourse on good employment and career development practices. However, the essential for this topic boils down to having a constructive outlook from the very beginning of your career. Yes, you will make mistakes then and guess what, even later.

But the quality of effort you put in in your 20s can very well define how you want the rest to turn out. Even if you end up changing your career, years down the line, your decision will be driven from self-awareness, one that you practiced since the day of your first job.

Here’s to the forever young…


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Rakhi Acharyya //
Rakhi Acharyya
Rakhi is a freelance writer, a Physics PhD from Michigan State University, an ex-teacher and a former employee of Corporate America. Follow her on Twitter.

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