The Biggest Career Mistakes You Can Make

student tip Dec 31, 2020

You’re probably reading this and thinking “I don’t even have a career yet! Why should I care about career mistakes?” 

But so many career mistakes can be avoided by making a thoughtful career decision early. You can help yourself skip so many common career mishaps just by making purposeful decisions early on. 

Need more convincing? Let’s take a look at four major mistakes people make early in your career - and why you want to avoid them. 

Mistake #1: Choosing a Career for the Money

It’s easy to look at all the career options out there and immediately think, “Which one will get me the highest salary?” 

We get it! Money can feel like independence, and as you’re thinking about being on your own, it probably seems super important. 

Paying your bills and being able to live the life you want is of course important, but money isn’t everything. Seeking the highest paying job without thought for whether you even like it is sure to bring stress and dissatisfaction to your career. (In fact, there are even studies showing that money does not buy happiness.) 

There are tons of career paths out there that can bring financial security and be something you enjoy and are good at. 

Mistake #2: Relying Too Much On the Opinions of Others

Choosing a career or finding a new job can be overwhelming and emotional at times, so it’s only natural that you ask trusted friends or family for their input. They can provide a neutral viewpoint or ask questions that you hadn’t considered. 

The trouble comes when you make career decisions based entirely on what others think. This can look like choosing a career that will make your family happy (like those stories of parents who want nothing more than for their kid to be a doctor) or deciding on a field that all of your friends will be in. 

Your career is yours, and yours alone. So why should anyone else decide what it should be? Only you can know if a career will truly be a good fit for you in every aspect of your life, so hold on to what you know to be true. You’ll have a more fulfilling career that way. 

Mistake #3: Avoiding a Challenge

When high school or college work gets difficult or frustrating, it can be tempting to think that once you’re done with school, you’re only going to do easy work for a long time. When you can choose what you want to do, why would you choose something hard? 

As it turns out, we need a little bit of a challenge in our work to make life a bit more interesting. Easy jobs quickly become boring, and boring jobs quickly make us unhappy

This doesn’t mean you need to become a rocket scientist or do something way beyond your skill set. But it does mean your job should push you to learn more and think differently, a little bit at a time. The right level of challenge will depend on a lot of other things about you, but whatever you do, don’t seek out a job where you can coast. 

Mistake #4: Ignoring Your Gut

When it comes down to it, you know yourself and your career choices best - and you should trust your instincts. Sometimes, a career path, a specific job, or a particular project or promotion will just rub you the wrong way, and you might not be sure why. Often, this is a sign that something is wrong, and it’s important to pay attention to that feeling. 

Everything about a job or career path could feel right: it’s challenging, it pays well, and you’re good at it. But if there’s something telling you this isn’t the right fit, there’s usually a good reason. Studies have shown that good intuition is a marker of success at any scale. 

Of course, to really trust your intuition, you have to have a good understanding of yourself. Practice self-reflection to hone those instincts - they’ll come in handy. 

Prevent These Career Mistakes Now

These mistakes might not sound like a huge deal right now, but when your career takes up a good chunk of your life, small things can have a much bigger impact. That’s why it’s crucial to make career decisions carefully, thoughtfully, and with tons of self-reflection. 

You might have heard a saying about prevention being easier than a cure. That’s extra true here. Knowing these mistakes now and using them to help you make your first career decision will set you up to avoid these mistakes throughout your career.  


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