For whatever reason, the world decided that 30 is when things finally fall into place—or, if you’re ageist, when they start falling apart. However you feel about the milestone birthday, there are a few career mistakes you probably made before you got there. Here are the five biggest career mistakes that 20-somethings make and why you need to correct these behaviors STAT.
1. Stop selling yourself short. Whether you’re letting others take credit for your hard work or simply not asking for the pay you deserve in salary negotiations, one of the biggest career mistakes you can make is not knowing or showing your value. Let people, most of all yourself, know your worth.
2. Stop being an idiot on social media. Sure, those campaign memes and keg stand photos make you seem like a hoot to your pals, but they scare the daylights out of potential employers in most industries. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your mother-in-law or boss to see—and if you do, at least employ smart privacy settings.
3. Stop biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say “yes” when you want to say “no.” If you don’t have time to take on another assignment and maintain your sanity, politely but firmly explain that you’d love to help but simply are too engrossed in your own projects right now. Taking on other people’s work doesn’t make you a better team player, it makes you a doormat. A good leader and a responsible worker knows when to turn something down.
4. Stop trying to be everyone’s best friend. That doesn’t mean to stop being friendly. You should always be cordial, if not friendly, to maintain a pleasant office atmosphere. However, it does mean to stop trying to get that jackass Mike who works in the early mornings and is nasty to everyone to like you. He will never like you. He doesn’t even like himself. Spend that energy on someone or something more rewarding.
5. Stop gossiping at work. Keep your nose to the grindstone (hey-yo!), smile, and stay out of the messiness. There are politics in every office, but the best way to deal with them is to excel at your job and be a joy to be around. If you don’t engage with problematic people or in problematic conversations at or about the office, then no one will have a problem with you.