Ever made a complete idiot of yourself in a meeting? Completely fluffed up a presentation? Sent an incriminating email to the wrong recipient? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. These mistakes are not only common, they’re priceless in every sense of the word.
Yes, career-slip ups are toe-curlingly embarrassing and the source of much future comedy at your expense. But there’s no denying how useful they can be. After all, nobody ever falls into the trap of getting too drunk at the office party twice.
In fact, it’s better to make these slip-ups in your twenties whilst you’re learning lessons. Or, to borrow the much wittier words of Oscar Wilde: “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” So, with that in mind, here’s 7 career mistakes you should get out of the way before you turn 30…
- Turning up to the interview unprepared
Ouch. There’re not many moments more excruciating than the moment you’re sat lost for words in a crucial job interview. Usually, these moments are entirely avoidable.
Most interviews are fairly straightforward: you’ll be asked a series of questions around your skills and experience; you’ll have your knowledge of the company tested and you’ll be expected to speak about some of your behavioural and personality traits. There’s never an excuse not to be prepared for that…you KNOW it’s coming.
And yet we’ve been all there, stumped. We’ve all sat there in a cold sweat, desperately trying to cobble together a sentence which sounds even half-intelligent, knowing that this is a question to which we should definitely know the answer. We’ve all spent several long moments after the interview cringing about how monumentally bad it was.
After that mistake happening even once at the start of your career, you won’t be making it again any time soon.
- Not dressing one level up
You’ve probably heard people say that you should always dress for where you want to be professionally, not where you’re currently at. Well, these people aren’t lying. Like it or not, what you wear to work every day has an impact on your future success.
Your clothes are an extension of yourself. A sharp, smart outfit says that you’re sharp and smart. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what a sloppy outfit says.
Whilst you’re still in your twenties, you might think you can get away with wearing jeans to work or slouching around increased clothes. It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll regret it, however, when promotions come around and the suited and booted person pips you to the post. So, learn the lesson as soon as you can and dress forever more like you’re rocking up to the biggest interview of your life, so go and search now.
- Being too scared to negotiate your salary
Business is ruthless, and you need to be too. Yes, it’s daunting trying to negotiate a higher salary without a wealth of experience under your belt, but it still has to be done. Did you know, for example, that not negotiating salary causes the average person to miss out on some $300k by the age of 60? Pretty staggering, isn’t it?
You’ll inevitably fall into the trap of not negotiating pay when you first start out in your career, but experience will quickly make you realise the error of your ways. Let this be a mistake you make once and only once. At the risk of sounding corny, you’re generally always worth more than you realise.
- Neglecting your networking
How many times have you heard people sagely declare that: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know?” Whilst this is very possibly the most clichéd adage in the working world, it’s also valid. As you get older and more professionally experienced, your network becomes an increasingly valuable tool.
It’s fairly safe to say that most of us don’t enjoy networking. It’s not always the most riveting past-time, but it’s perhaps the most necessary of all necessary evils when it comes to your career. Not having a thriving network might not seem too bad when you’re starting out, but it will matter further up the line when you’re looking for those big breaks.
So, grit your teeth, practice exchanging those pleasantries and get yourself at those key events. Ever forgotten to water your houseplants and had them stagnate into a sad, brown, straggly mess? Well, don’t do the same with your network.
- Picking any old job
It happens to the best of us. You’re finally done with education, you’re about to break out into the world of work and you’re terrified that you won’t get that all-important first job. So what do you do? You pick the first offer that lands at your feet.
You’re not alone: according to one leading economist only 5% of people pick the right career at the first try. It’s only after three months of mind-numbing boredom that you realise what an appalling life choice you’ve made. So, let those first few fumbling forays into your career teach you a valuable lesson about rushing into any old job. After all, you don’t want to be sitting there dissatisfied for the 90,000 hours (yes, 90,000!) of your working life.
- Forgetting about your personal brand
You know that one person who shares a little too much during water cooler moments? Who tells you all about their sordid activities and how drunk they got during the weekend? Don’t be that person.
Your twenties is a great time to make work friends, but don’t do so at the expense of your personal brand. Informing your colleagues about every aspect of your personal life is a great way to get pally: not such a great way to get taken seriously for promotion. As you might well have experienced, those water cooler moments can spread through the office like wildfire and result in some pretty embarrassing Chinese whispers.
All it takes is one ridiculous office rumour to hammer this lesson home…learn it sooner rather than later!
- Failing to explore
There’s a big old world of work out there, and no better time to explore it than your twenties. You’re still finding your feet and establishing yourself, and your eyes and ears should be constantly open to opportunity.
Now, nobody would advise you to hop from job to job every three months. It is, however, a great idea not to hit the big 30 having experience from only one role in one company. You don’t want to look back at your career thinking ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda.’ As we all know from the Beverley Knight song, they’re the last words of a fool.
It’s simple: in your twenties you need to grow branches, not roots.
Career slip-ups are inevitable. Just make sure you get these avoidable ones out of the way as soon as possible if you want to avoid long-term career injury!