Five Biggest Career Mistakes in Your Twenties

Your 20s can be a pivotal time in your career. You may start your first real job with benefits like a  401(k) retirement savings account, health insurance, and the potential for career growth.

Or you may start off with a few not-so-great jobs, work for a low salary or maybe even work a few unpaid internships to get your foot in the door and gain job experience. 

Either way, the career choices you make in your 20s can affect how your career pans out over the rest of your life. Your choices now can also affect your long-term earning power, since your next salary is often based loosely off your current salary.

That's why it's important to take control of your career in your 20s – even if you are still trying to figure out exactly what you want to do. 

Read on for the five biggest career mistakes you can make in your 20s, and how to avoid them. 

Working Without Clear Goals in Mind

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It is essential to create career goals to reach your dream job. If you want to work up to management or you want to open your own business, you will need a solid plan that outlines the steps that you need to take to reach those goals.

The more detailed your plan, the easier it will be to achieve your goals. You may even decide you need to go back to school to get a graduate degree.  It's also wise to take advantage of any training you can receive at your current job to help you reach your career goals.

Failure to Keep Up with the Changing Job Market

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The world is changing rapidly, and so will the expectations and skillset that go along with your job. Even if you graduate with the most relevant skill set for your industry, that can change quickly. Especially in the technology field, you can fall behind if you do not work on staying current with programming, computer, HTML, and other skills.

It is important that you take the time in your 20s to find conferences to attend and professional organizations to join. This show future employers that you are serious about continuing to learn and grow throughout your career.

Staying Underemployed

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Depending on the current economic conditions, you may not have been able to find your dream job right out of college and you may be underemployed. It's OK to take a job that does not pay well or isn't as prestigious to get your foot in the door at a great company or to gain valuable experience, but you do not want to stay in this position for very long. 

After about a year, you should begin looking for a job that better fits your needs and long-term job goals. If you hear about your dream job before the year is up, apply for it. You should not let an opportunity pass you up just to check a box. Also, keep in mind that it can be difficult to survive while you are underemployed

Staying in a Job with No Future

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Your first job may have decent pay and good benefits, but you may find that it does not offer you the chance for upward mobility or an opportunity to grow your career. You may also find that conflict with management or other coworkers is holding you back for moving forward and landing your dream job.

It is important to move on when you are in a job that will not let you move forward.

Failing to Build a Career Identity

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Though you may still be finding yourself and trying to figure out your long-term career goals when you are in your 20s, you can still build a career identity that will help you build a solid career in the future.

Here's how: With each job you have, you should be able to pull out a list of skills that will help you prepare for your next job. Keep tabs of these skills, successful projects you managed, or any professional training you completed at each job. Then, add them to your resume or personal website

As you move onto your next job, take the time to see how that experience helped you create the professional image you are trying to create.

Updated by Rachel Morgan Cautero