I made a lot of mistake, career wise, in my twenties. Honestly, I was in a field I had never even considered for myself, in a job that I hated (and would eventually lose), and (worst of all) I wasn’t making any progress toward where I actually wanted to be in my life.
Consider these seven career mistakes people often make in their twenties. In fact, I probably made them all—but that doesn’t mean you have to…
YOU FOLLOW SOMEONE ELSE’S PLAN
Many of us have expectations thrust upon us by parents, family members, friends, or mentors. All too often, we allow them to influence the track we’re taking in our lives. A huge career mistake would be to enter a job or field that you have absolutely no interest in pursuing (even if it makes Mom happy). Yes, it may satisfy those around you, but you’ll never love, or feel fulfilled by, the work you’re doing.
Try This: Start by writing down a list of your career must-haves, and refer to it whenever you’re considering applying for a company or accepting a job offer. For some this may be salary, for others it might be work-life balance or company culture.
When family members offer opinions on your career path at the family reunion, smile but remind yourself they’re not living your life. When you’re offered a position that interests and intrigues you, your happiness will be evident to everyone around you, even those trying to steer your career.
YOU GET COMPLACENT
When I accepted my first full-time position, I was ecstatic. I could pay my bills, put a little away, and even had enough left over for a social life. However, getting comfortable in that position is exactly where I went wrong. Although I loved the work I was doing, and my colleagues, not focusing more on my own growth ultimately hindered my career. I ignored the red flags, and the more I did, the more I failed to listen as my career screamed for change.
Try This: As fabulous as your funds and your social life may seem, always trust your gut. You know when you’re ignoring the signs. We all do. Get out of your comfort(-able) zone and start looking for new challenges. Set weekly reminders to scan job boards, follow-up on outstanding applications, or reach out to people in your network for informational interviews. Make it a goal to acquire a new skill each month. Update your LinkedIn summary. Taking action, however small, will keep your career from atrophying.
YOU’RE DESPERATE SO…YOU TAKE A JOB YOU DON’T ACTUALLY WANT
Searching for a job is a full-time job, so when you do get an offer, the pressure to take it can seem insurmountable. But, taking a job you know you don’t want, just to have a job, will only lead to unhappiness. Think about it. You spend most of your time at work, so if you’re not happy, it will affect your life outside of it.
Try This: If you’re strapped financially, and need to take the job, do it, but set a deadline foryourself. And then? Hustle. Head directly home after work to write some cover letters or update your portfolio. Remind yourself this process is only temporary and accept that you may need to spend a few months scanning job boards rather than going out with friends. Make sure that you don’t find yourself procrastinating in a job you don’t want. Do the work, but make sure to keep working towards your end goal, whatever it may be!
YOU STAY IN A JOB YOU HATE
When it comes to your career, the word “trapped” should never enter your vocabulary. Similar to taking a job you don’t want, staying in a job you hate can wreak havoc on your life outside of work. Whether you’ve outgrown the position, are burnt out, or are just bored, it’s time to go.
If you’re unhappy at work, your attitude and personality could suffer, which inevitably affects your personal life and relationships. If you’re feeling this way, you should launch a search for a new position, immediately.
Try This: Recently, someone told me, point-blank, that I needed to change my mindset. And that’s exactly what anyone in this position needs to do. Get to work by shifting your focus. Rather than complaining to friends about your current situation, reach out to them for ideas on how to find a new one. Ask them what they think your strengths are or whether they know of a company that might interest you. You want a job that will add to your life, not detract from it.
YOU WAIT FOR THE PHONE TO RING
Your dream job isn’t going to miraculously appear in your life. In fact, it’s kind of like dating. You meet a guy and after talking to him, give him your number. Then, you wait for the call. But, if you hadn’t gone to that party and met him in the first place, he wouldn’t even be an option. Jobs are the same way; if you don’t actually apply for other jobs, you won’t be on anyone’s radar. Your dream job isn’t going to come knocking at your door, you need to chase it.
Try This: Be proactive! Instead of waiting for recruiters or potential employers to call you, call them. Or, better yet, do a little research on companies you love, find the best contact for the role you want (maybe an HR person or someone in the department you’d like to join), and send them an informational email or in-mail on LinkedIn. You never know, a little bit of communication might just lead to your dream job!
YOU DON’T JOB HOP (OR YOU DO IT TOO MUCH)
Don’t be afraid to hop from position to position, it might just get you closer to your dream job. But, don’t overdo it.
Having a few different positions under your belt isn’t a bad thing, but if an employer gets the impression that you’re likely to spend only a year or two at any job, you may become a less than stellar candidate. Feel free to search and experience, but make sure you’re always working toward your goal and not hampering your future opportunities.
Try This: Once you’ve found a job that meets your basic requirements, stay put for a bit, take a deep breath, and write-up a plan. Figure out where you want your career to go and what positions will aid in your growth and ascent. Staying put doesn’t mean letting your career get stagnant. While you put your time in at your company, continue to network with anyone and everyone that can help you reach your goals.
YOU LET FEAR DICTATE YOUR CAREER
“I can’t apply for that job, I’m not qualified.”
“I already have a job so why spend time looking for a new one?”
“They’ll never give me that promotion or a raise. I should just be happy with what I have now.”
Sound familiar? The problem, for most of us, is nothing more than us giving a voice to our fears. Never let your fear dictate your career track. How do you know if you won’t get the job unless you apply? You don’t, and can’t, know. If you deserve the promotion or the raise, go after it. You should never feel settled; try to take risks that will allow you to challenge yourself and get you closer to where it is you want to be.
Try This: Apply, apply, and apply again, for any position that sounds interesting to you. Never let the requirements of a position, or even your own self-doubt, stop you from going after what could be your dream job. Recently, a friend posed this question to me: “That wouldn’t stop a guy from applying, so why should it stop you?” Go for it.
When you’re in your twenties, you’re seeking a better understanding of what you’d like to spend your life doing. Make sure that you don’t coast through those years and that you’re always making moves that get you closer to the career you’ve always dreamed of.
This Post Originally Appeared on Career Contessa, find it here!