Professional Development

20 Things to Do in Your 20s to Build a Successful Career

Written by Peter Jones

Feeling the twenty-something blues? Before you hit quarter-life crisis mode, try crossing a few of these off your pre-30 bucket list.

Here are 20 things to do in your 20s in order to make your future better while you’re still young enough to get a head start.

1. Graduate

No matter what your education goals are—whether an associates degree, a bachelors degree, a masters, or a PhD—complete them. Put the formal education stage behind you and let it bolster you as you move forward in your life.

2. Get a job

It’s much more difficult to find steady work that you like enough to keep doing after a certain point. Get in the workforce while you’re still fresh talent.

3. Quit your vices

Smoking, drinking, partying, drugs: these all seem like fun now, but their time is at an end. This is the age to stop and focus on reality.

4. Save money

Saving now can pay off hugely in the long run. Only spend what you need to spend, and save the rest. Your future (home-owning and retired) self will thank you.

5. Buy a house

Sounds crazy, but can also set you up for a healthier financial life in the future.

6. Stop being boy/girl crazy

Put your focus into building your life and career. The love part will sort itself out without your devoting every spare possible moment to the pursuit of booty.

7. Try out your dream

Before you have a ton of family obligations, now’s the time to pursue a job, or a hobby, or a new city you’ve always wanted to explore. You’re young, you have your whole life to settle down and be responsible. Follow your heart!

8. Travel

Visit at least one foreign country before the big Three Oh. See a new culture, a new world, a new way of life and let it make you a better, more interesting and widely experienced person.

9. Change jobs

Now is the stage in your career when you can hop from job to job and figure out what you really want to do and be, and which industry is best for you. This will get much harder to do later in life.

10. Call your parents

Do it every other day at least. They won’t be around forever, and they took care of you your entire life. It’s their turn to be cared for.

11. Keep your friends close

Relish the people in your life who value you. And be good to them. Love who loves you.

12. Make meaningful friendships

The friends you have and make now are probably going to be your closest circle in your old age. Put the work in now while you have the time and energy.

13. Network

You’re going to need to rely on your network all the time as you get older—both personally and professionally. Get building!

14. Stay healthy

Sleep, healthy eating, exercise, hygiene—these all may seem trivial now, but they are the mark of taking good care of yourself. Aka adulthood. Be kind to your body now and it will be kind to you when things start to fall apart with age.

15. Aim high

If you aim for the stars and fall a little short, you’ll still land on the moon. Start small, but dream big.

16. Push the envelope

Now is the best time to innovate, to think outside the box, disturb the status quo, change minds and hearts!

17. Be respectful

Start shoring up the good karma you’ll need later in life. Be kind, humble, and generous. Do as little harm as possible.

18. Know your limits

Accept your weaknesses and what you cannot accomplish. However small your role, play it with dignity and aplomb.

19. Read and write

These things keep the mind sharp and the intellect afloat. Read every day and write as often as possible. Stimulate your brain and keep your creative juices flowing.

20. Follow your bliss

Figure out what the purpose of your life will be, and then devote yourself to moving in that direction. Your mission: should you choose to accept it.

About the author

Peter Jones