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8 Career Mistakes You Should Make In Your 20s
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8 Career Mistakes You Should Make In Your 20s

Everyone makes mistakes. Regardless of how much shame, grief, or agony they may inflict, every mistake we make helps us learn and grow, eventually making us better people.

In fact, you should strive to make some mistakes while you are still young since certain missteps are critical to your future success. Or rather, don't be too afraid to try - even if you fail spectacularly.

So it's okay to make mistakes. Yes, including in your work life. Not that we are encouraging you to make these common professional mistakes, but be aware that if you do, you should be able to rebound stronger than before.

No matter how long you’ve been working or how recently you just started your employment, mistakes are inevitable. 

However, learning from your mistakes especially early in your career is critical for your professional, personal, and emotional development.

1. Get Fired 

Losing your job may appear to be the end of your professional career. But, before you panic, consider how many successful people had their employment terminated when they were just beginning out. 

For example, Oprah Winfrey was fired as a news reporter when a producer declared her "unfit for television journalism." Years later, she brilliantly demonstrated how wrong that producer was. Losing your job is undoubtedly a setback, but it may also open up new opportunities that you would not have had otherwise.

Losing a job might even be a warning sign that you were on the wrong career path, something you'd better discover in your twenties rather than your forties. 

It will also teach you the value of having a backup plan.

Read Also: Should I Get a Job Or Start a Business After College?

2. Fail to Negotiate a Good Starting Salary

According to CareerBuilder, the largest employment website in the US, more than half of workers (56%) do not bargain when offered a job opportunity.

After a long and laborious job search, or maybe a lack of knowledge, accepting the first offer looks like the ideal solution to bring the uncertainty to an end. 

Nonetheless, you can learn from this mistake. If you took the initial job offer and discovered it wasn't a good fit, remember that every bad job experience teaches you what you want and don't want in your ideal job. You may also look for new job opportunities in the safety of your new position. Just keep in mind that as you earn experience and relevant skills, your worth will also rise and you can negotiate better.

Being paid lower than what you are worth very early in your career will undoubtedly spur you to build excellent negotiation skills that will not only work in your professional life but in your other life interactions.  

Read Also: How to Negotiate an Entry-level Job Salary

3. Blow an Interview

No matter how adequately prepared you are for an interview, you could be caught off-guard and end up blowing it up. That’s okay. Don't beat yourself up. Some things are just beyond your control.  

Even though you may not always feel great after the interview, going through it will become easier the more you do it.

If you take this unpleasant experience as a learning opportunity - coupled with the fact that you would not want to undergo the same again - you can build solid interviewing skills that will benefit your career far better than the often insignificant initial interviews of your ealy career days. 

Interviews, at their heart, are just dialogues, and a good one is dependent on both the interviewer and the interviewee.

Read Also:  7 Habits of Highly Effective Job Seekers

4. Fail to Establish Career Goals

Accepting the first job you are offered without properly knowing your professional ambitions is easy.

According to Jennifer Boyd-Pugh, vice president of human resources at Barry University, every young professional should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What elements of a career are most important to me? 
  • What types of jobs do I love or find tedious? 
  • Which of my strengths stick out the most? 
  • What are some areas in which I need to improve? 
  • Will accepting this first job provide me with information, skills, and experience relevant to my future professional goals? 
  • Where do I see myself in 5, 10, or 20 years, what is my final career path? 

Remember, your 20s are a good time for trial and error. Accepting the first opportunity that comes your way may be frowned upon, but it could be what helps you truly understand what you want in life. 

Read Also: How to Change Your Career When You Don’t Know What to do Next

5. Fail to Develop a Personal Brand

When you don't yet have a solid reputation to fall back on, creating a personal brand is critical for striking out in the professional world. This might be useful if you did not develop your own distinct brand at the start of your career. 

You may build a far better personal brand by building on your previous work and experiences rather than starting from scratch without the necessary competence.

Read Also: Personal Branding: Creating the Brand Called You

6. Hit Burnout 

Finding a healthy work-life balance may be difficult. In order to impress your boss and coworkers, you may be inclined to forego taking vacation days and frequently remaining late at work. 

Burnout will eventually catch up with you if you overwork yourself. When your productivity begins to decline and you find it difficult to push yourself to go to work, you will quickly learn to guard your breaks. 

Burnout in your twenties is fairly common in high-pressure offices. This mistake, on the other hand, teaches you the importance of self-care and taking some time off when you need it so that you can return refreshed and ready to tackle any hurdles that may arise.

You will realise that there is more to life than just excelling at work - especially when this comes at the expense of your physical and mental health. 

This can be very empowering when you venture mid-career, are evaluating opportunities, getting more responsibilities and it becomes even more crucial that you be able to say ‘no’ without any remorse. 

Read Also: 5 Ways to Practice Financial Self-Care - Money Psychology 

7. Pretend to Know What You're Doing

There will always be a learning curve if you attempt something new. Be it a new position or surroundings. When entering the workplace, it's natural to want to appear capable and intelligent.

This can in turn lead to the "impostor syndrome" whether you are just beginning in your career or taking on more responsibilities in your current work.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing and you can also learn a lot from it. First and foremost, recognise that everyone sometimes feels the need to act like “they know it all.”

"You'll feel like an impostor if you're making a transition and learning new skills, especially if you're in a leadership position," says Jessica Bacal, director at Smith College's Wurtele Center for Work and Life and author of Mistakes I Made At Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got Out of Getting It Wrong.  It's an important part of the learning process.

However, it is incorrect to assume that the work is unsuitable for you simply because you are uncomfortable there. Finding your stride takes a lot of time. It is normal to feel this way, and it does not signal a problem.

If you give yourself enough time to acquire confidence, the impostor syndrome will fade and you will be confident in your ability to carry out your responsibilities." she adds.

Read Also: College Life: 7 Red Flags You're Making a Bad Financial Decision

8. Ignore Your Personal Projects

Working a 9 to 5 job could be exhausting. After a long week at work, you just want to curl up in bed and relax. 

Many people frequently have to forego some of the things that are essential to their creativity and happiness due to the challenges of coordinating a packed schedule.  Oftentimes putting a personal project on pause can be necessary to help you recollect yourself and reignite your excitement for it. 

If you do this and commit 100% to your job, you will soon realise that you may be becoming a very different person that you barely recognise, you are disconnected from your passions and that whatever it takes, your personal projects are part of what makes you whole and cannot be neglected. 

The amazing thing about discovering this early in your career is that you are able to not just choose the right opportunities, negotiate well for flexibility, but also that you can come up with your own bespoke schedule that allows you to keep your personal projects going even when you are putting out multiple fires at work. 

Successful people make time to explore their interests.

Read Also: Campus Money: The Success Story of Maureen King’ori   


It's not the end of the world if you've committed any of these professional flubs.  It is more important to prevent them in the future or shift your direction to ensure that your career is on the path you desire.

All the best!

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Sheila Brenda Andoi is a dedicated journalist, meticulous editor, and skilled communicator with a profound passion for maternal health. Her journey in the world of media and communication has been marked by a commitment to shedding light on crucial issues. Sheila's writing not only informs but also inspires and educates

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