7 Biggest Mistakes 20-Somethings Make When Starting Their Careers

ByMeredith Lepore

Being in your 20s is tough. You are done with college, arguably some of the best years of your life, and then you find yourself in the real world.

It won't be easy finding that career that drives you but also pays the bills at the same time. Below are the biggest mistakes 20-somethings make when starting their careers.

1. Doing what we think we're supposed to do, instead of pursuing our passion.

Megan Broussard, founder of Profession Gal, a career site for women, says this line of thinking sets up 20-somethings for a career mid-work-life-crisis. "Because those passions, feelings, interests don't go away, but [you] think the money will make up for that void [you] feel, it doesn't and then they find [yourselves] 30 years old, possibly with a family in some cases, and [you're] used to a certain financial lifestyle so it's hard for [you] to just quit and start anew."

2. Comparing your careers to others.

TheeErin via flickr

Broussard told PolicyMic that she sees this a lot with 20-somethings. "I think the comparison with friends when you're in your 20s is especially difficult to deal with because all of a sudden, some of your friends are engineers and accountants with a starting salary of  amazing and if you're in a creative field for example or in grad school, your salary is most likely not. That can change your relationships with people."

3. Not tapping into your alumni network enough.

With the ease of LinkedIn and Facebook, there's really no excuse to not reach out to someone who went to your school and is now in the field you want to go into or who even works at the company you're interested in working for, advised Broussard. Yes, it can be a little intimidating to cold message someone, but people are usually happy to hear from someone who went to their school. 

4. Not cleaning up your social media profiles.

Yes, your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles are ways to show everyone how many friends you have and how good you are at taking pictures of sunsets and just YOLO-ing it up in general. But they are also a really great way to market yourself to potential employers, Broussard told PolicyMic.

Social media profiles should have easily accessible information about your educational background and include some information about what you're looking for (internship, full-time position). Also, if you like a company, follow it on social media! 

5. Thinking you have time to start your career later.

A decade ago, you might've been in good shape if you were interning during junior year in college. Today, young people are getting started younger than ever.

Obviously take time to figure out what you want to do, but once you know, you should definitely go after it full force. It's never too early.

6. Refusing to be flexible.

Simone N. Sneed, a strategist and social entrepreneur, told PolicyMic, "Sometimes, early in our careers we attempt to disguise our youth with faux expertise. Asking questions and being curious shows your commitment to improvement and allows you to learn and grow. Being a know it all will not help you in the long term."

7. Not negotiating aggressively enough.

Charline Tetiyevsky via flickr

Negotiating is always hard, which is why you need to practice so you can get better at it, said Sneed. "Negotiate more aggressively and remember that your compensation includes your salary and other benefits like remote work, etc. Where you start can dramatically shift your long term earnings so be sure that when you accept your first job you pause to negotiate your offer."