6 Career Mistakes I Made in My 20s That You Should Avoid Like the Plague

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April 15, 2024 at 10:37PM UTC

The 20s are one of the hardest times in your life. I remember feeling like I was in the middle of an ongoing emotional battlefield. The self-doubt, insecurities, and frustration were extremely overwhelming. When it came to my career, there were several mistakes I made. Amongst the worst was acting reactively instead of proactively. But sadly, that was only one of the 6 career mistakes I made. Let’s discuss my mistakes, so you don't have to follow my path. 

Mistake 1: acting reactively versus proactively. 

Tony Robbins said “life is not happening to you, it’s happening for you.” If you view your life from the passenger's seat, you will never feel like you are in control. How can this ever be a good thing? Everything happening in your life is not only purposeful, but you have a direct hand in it. Are there factors that are outside of your control? Of course. But you should never act as if you are a victim in your own life. When I was in my 20s, I should have spent more time focusing on my thoughts, my feelings, and my actions instead of external factors outside of my control. If you focus on what you control, then you can truly take your career by the reigns.  

Mistake 2: lacking mindset.

Does this sound familiar? I am graduating from law school, the economy sucks, I am submitting my resume everywhere, and no one is calling. Your self-confidence is shot, you lose hope, and you slow down your search or settle for whatever job first comes your way. Sadly, this narrative applied to millions of people. Do you know what would have made my job hunt in my 20s so much better? If I stopped seeking a job from a sense of desperation, and instead approached my career from a place of gratitude and fulfillment. Getting a job was going to be a cool new addition to my already complete life. I was not getting a job to complete my life. I now realize that this mindset played a big role in making me feel less confident with the decisions I was making. The feeling of lack kept me in an ongoing cycle of applying for jobs I wasn't passionate about, hearing no responses or rejections, and applying for more jobs. This was a brutal cycle. If you are going through something similar, I want you know to there is a shining light at the end of the tunnel. You need to remember the following: 

  • You are remarkable (job or no job).

  • There is more than one job available for you (the world has endless opportunities).

  • Applying for jobs without a strategy and purpose will yield an undesirable outcome (over and over again).

  • Submitting your resume is not the only way to get a job.  

Mistake 3: networking without a strategy.

I have always been quite a social person. Connecting and networking was something that I loved at an early age (my parents made sure about that). However, networking without purpose or strategy becomes ineffective networking. Going to events and using resources like Fairygodboss, Meetup Groups, or LinkedIn are super important for your personal action plan. How do you get started? Have you answered these questions?:

  • Am I overcoming my personal challenges and fears with networking?   

  • How often will I network (i.e. daily, weekly, monthly)?  

  • What platforms will I use to network?  

  • Am I making a great impact in person and online? 

  • Am I doing more than exchanging business cards?  

  • Am I thinking outside of the box when I am networking?  

  • When networking, am I only interested in taking or am I offering something to the people I speak with?  

After answering these questions, you can create your daily, weekly, and monthly networking goals and move forward with building quality relationships with people online and in-person. 

Mistake 4: caring what others thought.

According to Lao Tzu, “care about people’s approval, and you will always be their prisoner.” Does it make sense to live your life in accordance with another person’s ideas, or your own? In your 20s, it is very easy to be caught up with wanting to be accepted and wanting to please others. However, this is not a road that leads to personal happiness and joy. When I went to law school, I was open to having a career as a practicing attorney or a non-traditional attorney. Was I concerned what my family and friends thought about me being a non-traditional attorney? Absolutely. This was a major mistake. When looking for a job, I should have aggressively pursued opportunities that I wanted, regardless of what other people thought or said about the matter. Your career is your journey, which you are not required to explain to others. When you are in your 20s and you are determining the job you want, you should ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What makes me happy? 

  • What do I like to do? 

  • What are the job titles that accompany my interests? 

  • Where would I like to work? 

  • How have I leveraged my online and in-person network for my job hunt? 

  • What are the companies I am interested in working with? 

  • What are the work cultures of these companies?  

  • What are the benefits that I want and/or need?    

Mistake 5: holding onto fear.

Fear is such a brutal feeling, especially in your 20s. When looking for a job, so many people are scared of rejections, workplace conflicts, or negotiation questions, amongst so many other worries that run through our heads. Do you know what never helps the situation? Fear. This feeling only escalates the situation to feel like a crisis in your mind. If I could go back and advise myself in my 20s, I would have said: 

  • Everything is going to be okay.

  • Be grateful for the good and bad in your life.

  • There is no such thing as failure (everything is a teachable lesson).

  • Fear is a pointless waste of time (time is too important to waste). 

  • Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want to happen .

  • Don’t hold back — live boldly and unapologetically without regret.

Mistake 6: not prioritizing my health.

We spend so much time working and figuring out this game we call life. Amongst everything you do, you cannot forget your health. If you are not well, then you can’t live the life you want or pursue the career you want. Moving your body, eating well and getting enough sleep is not something to just say or use in a hashtag. You must be mindful of the quality of your life. This is how you can ensure that you have the energy for the career and life you want and deserve.  

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Natasha Nurse started  Dressing Room 8 to provide a web-based resource where women can gain personal and professional empowerment through her fashion and lifestyle focused blog. She is the Lifestyle Editor for Plus Model Magazine, a Program Coordinator for Long Island Girl Talk, and she co-hosts a podcast with her husband called WokeNFree. Follow Natasha on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Google Plus.

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