The Top 10 Mistakes You Make at the Start of Your Career

DSC_0506You’ve just finished your education and you’re ready to embark upon your career. You’re probably either super excited or totally petrified. After just mastering the art of being a student, you now not only have to master the art of your new profession, but also the art of being a professional.

There is no instruction manual that comes with the start of your career. Instead, it oftentimes is a case of trial and error. So naturally you will experience both success and setback. However, there are ten common mistakes that many young adults make as they begin to tread these new waters. Avoiding them will not only give you an edge, but it will epitomize the qualities and characteristics essential in becoming an exceptional career girl.

You procrastinate on planning. What field do you want to work in? What kinds of responsibilities do you want to have? What kind of environment do you value? What qualities do you look for in a boss or co-worker? These are all important questions to ask yourself and answer yourself as you start to plan your career. Don’t rush into a job simply because it was the first one you were offered. Make sure it is truly the right fit for you. Formulating an idea of what you want before you begin your pursuit will help you better spot a perfect opportunity.

You don’t network. Once you’ve done some planning and visualizing, it’s time to start doing. Having a creative cover letter or an exceptional resume is important, but don’t hide behind it. Strut your stuff by attending meetings and networking events that will expose you to new people and places. It may present you with your dream job! Or at the very least, it will teach you the skills needed to find it.

You dress unprofessionally or arrive to work late. So now that you have accepted a position, dress to impress and don’t arrive “fashionably” late. As an entry-level employee, your skills and talents haven’t had the opportunity to shine. So it is important to make a positive first impression. Check out the Career Girl Daily Instagram (@careergirldaily) for some chic inspo.

You don’t ask for help. Asking for help is not code for incompetent. In fact, it is quite the contrary. Reaching out to your boss or to your co-worker demonstrates that you are mature and aren’t afraid to use your voice, especially in times of difficulty. When you first begin a new position, it is expected that you will need some help. So speak up!

You don’t learn from your co-workers. Many times co-workers are seen as competition in your journey up the promotional ladder. Instead, seek to create collaborative relationships with them and take advantage of all that you can learn from more seasoned professionals. It will enhance your own skills and abilities, as well as boost your confidence. So view your co-workers as resources that will help you grow (and make work more enjoyable).

You don’t know how to receive feedback. Channel constructive criticism and use it to enhance your productivity. Although it is easy to become upset or frustrated when you don’t receive the kind of praise you want, transform this feedback into useful information that will help you become an even better employee. Remember, feedback is usually offered because a boss or co-worker recognizes your potential and wants to help cultivate it.

You gossip. Reading celebrity studded magazines may be a guilty pleasure (it is definitely one of mine!), but save this kind of chatter for your friends. By talking about and focusing on others, you are loosing valuable time to pay attention to yourself and to your own success. As the saying goes, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” #SoTrue.

You have a bad attitude. Going to work should be both challenging and gratifying, but having a bad attitude when faced with various obstacles will make your job less enjoyable and you more miserable. This negativity will be noticed by others and will turn important people away. Isolation will shelter you from the positive energy and motivation that can come from working as a member of a team. So don’t hide behind your desk. We all have bad days and your co-workers will likely be there to help you get back on track.

You don’t set goals. Whether you aim to complete a project by the end of the week or decide where you want to be in five years, you won’t be able to achieve these short- and long-term goals unless you set them. Don’t expect success just by showing up and completing tasks. Success happens when goals are created that challenge you and propel you forward. So instead of asking others to do your work for you (another common pitfall), be proactive and not a wandering traveler in the career world.

You don’t invest in yourself. Explore different ways that you can improve yourself. This includes attending classes that will teach you new skills and will enhance your professional development. Or try exploring new hobbies. Not only will you learn from these new experiences, but you will be putting yourself in a position that will enrich your creativity and foster innovation. You are your best resource.

Congratulations if you haven’t made any of these mistakes! But perhaps you’ve made some or even all of them. Regardless of your position on the continuum, it is never too late to change your course. Take responsibility, apply corrections and move forward.

  • Camilla @ Summer Isn’t Over

    This will be very helpful for me as I head into my final year at university! I’ve just completed a work placement year abroad so I’m lucky to have had a bit of a taster already :)

  • Hannah

    I have just finished uni and this is such a apt post for me!

    Thanks for sharing.

    Hannah x

  • The Natural Minimalism

    Your posts always true, motivated me and changed my priorities.

  • Phoebe

    I love the last point. When you start a new job, it can be all consuming – you are so busy thinking about work, worrying you aren’t doing the right thing etc that you forget about the importance of your own development! I know I certainly did this for a few years, but when I started to think about what I had to offer my work more holistically, I noticed a huge difference in where my career started to go.

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