by Aisha Taylor
We’ve all been there. Fresh out of college, eager to find a job, and ready be on anybody’s payroll. It’s the American Dream. You go to school, you graduate, and you start your career. Simple, right? Well, somewhere along the line many young professionals make mistakes that can have long-term effects on their careers. While none of us are perfect, it’s important that we try our best to make the right decisions when first starting out in our careers. The ability to avoid these common pitfalls when attempting to establish your career can prove beneficial in the long-run.
1. Your College Days Are Over – Many young professionals make the mistake of forgetting that they are just that…young professionals. When the excitement of being a college graduate meets the stress of finding or starting a new job, many young professionals seek relief at the nearest club, bar, or lounge. Of course there’s nothing wrong with a little recreation. But when that celebration interferes with your ability to interview well or perform on the job, you may want to consider cutting back on your social calendar. It’s hard to transition from college life to adult life. The key to doing so successfully is to make smart choices about how much you drink, who you hang out with, and how in control you are of your faculties. There’s nothing worse than being labeled as the new “kid” who parties every night and can’t make it to work in the morning. That’s one accomplishment that won’t look good on your resume.
2. Social Media Mayhem – It’s no secret that this is the age of social media. We tweet it, we post it, we share it, and we like it. It’s all fun until our social media pages lead to our professional demise. It’s so important that we are mindful and careful about what we post and share on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And now, it’s not just the things that we post that can put us in career crisis. But the photos and statuses that our friends tag us in can be just as detrimental. Be sure to check your privacy settings to ensure that people who aren’t your friends can’t see your posts. Remind your real friends not to post anything that could cause someone to question your character or maturity. And as much as possible, keep your personal life separate from your work environment. Don’t accept friend requests from co-workers and supervisors who really don’t know you well. They are likely just interested in investigating what kind of person you are outside of work. Feel free to respectfully decline their request to connect via social media, letting them know that you’ve made a decision to keep your personal life separate from the workplace.
3. Sincerely Sucking Up – No one likes a “suck up” or a “kiss a*s.” Some young professionals think that the only way to move up fast is to agree with everything their supervisor says, even when they’re wrong. Managers can tell when you’re genuinely motivated or if you’re just kissing up to gain brownie points. Additionally, co-workers will respect you less and resent your role in the organization if you don’t earn it. Yes, you should take initiative. But it’s equally important to be a team player and not just connect with someone because you think they can get you a promotion. As a young professional, you want your work and your skills to be what colleagues and managers remember…not how much you kissed up to the boss. That’s not the legacy you want to leave.
4. In and Out – We all want more money and a better job. Young professionals tend to want that right away. And so, we often move around from job to job. Instability in one’s work history makes employers question your commitment and reliability. No one wants to invest the time and resources in training someone who will be gone in a year. Having multiple past jobs makes it hard to sell yourself as a candidate who is seeking a long-term career. When first starting out, be sure to stay at least 1.5 to 2 years in a position. Yes, there are exceptions to this. However, this standard allows you to gain enough experience and make enough contacts before moving on. It’s also easier to justify to a potential employer why you are seeking to leave after two years, rather than just one year. It’s important for young professionals to realize that success doesn’t happen overnight. We have to put in the work and take the time to get to where we want to be. Changing jobs every six months isn’t going to get us there any sooner.
5. Back to the Future – When young professionals start earning a salary, the first thing we think about is buying all the things we couldn’t afford before. We shop, we vacation, we get our own places to live, and we become independent adults. What many of us forget to do is save. When you’re young, you aren’t really thinking about the future and definitely aren’t thinking about retirement. We just want to have enough to last until the next time we get paid. These poor spending and saving habits can be detrimental to us down the line. Most young professionals don’t take advantage of the retirement and savings plans offered by their employers. As a result, we’ve wasted several years where we didn’t invest in 401Ks or pensions. Remember that you aren’t always going to be young. Seek the expertise of a financial advisor and learn to start saving early. Your future children will thank you.
About the Author, Aisha Taylor
Aisha Taylor (@realTAYLORmade) is co-owner and chief consultant at TAYLORmade Professional Career Consulting, a Web-based, full-service career consulting company committed to “equipping, preparing, and empowering today’s professional” globally.