Professional Development

9 Myths That Can Sabotage Your Career in Your 20s

Written by Peter Jones

You’re in your 20s and hoping to set yourself up for a lifetime of success. Trouble is, the media portrays you as a useless wanderer, unable to move past adolescence, and not able to get it done as older generations have. But none of this is true. Here are 9 of the most common myths you hear about changing careers in your 20s, and how you can start working against them to get yourself on track.

1. Your twenties don’t matter

Stop thinking of your twenties as a practice ground for your real work life, which will begin at 30. The choices you make now can have an impact, positive and negative, on your professional future. Don’t delay starting your life and career by someone else’s arbitrary calendar of when you can and cannot be serious about things. Start being the person you want to be when you grow up now and get a head start.

2. You need to find your perfect career first

You don’t actually have to hold out for your absolute dream job. It’s okay—crucial even—to take jobs that are less than ideal but which have the benefit of being a good stepping stone for you. Can a job lead to a better opportunity down the road? Can it build a valuable skill relevant to your dream career? Can it give you necessary, if unorthodox, experience that will help you in your path? Consider taking some of these, rather than waiting indefinitely for the golden ring.

3. You can do anything you want to do

Nope, not if you don’t have the right skills or experience. Make sure to be honest with yourself about your particular strengths and weaknesses before setting your goals. That way you won’t spend the next few years of your life laboring over the impossible. You can do anything you want, provided it’s also something you are capable of doing.

4. Work isn’t supposed to feel like work

Yeah, yeah, you’re supposed to do what you love and love what you do. But the fact remains that even one’s dream job is still, at the end of the day, a job. If you follow your passion and find work that is really meaningful to you, that’s fantastic. Most people don’t get that in a lifetime. But that doesn’t mean it won’t sometimes feel like work, because it is. The sooner you prepare yourself for this, the better off you’ll be.

5. You can pursue your dream job later

While this is true, and going after what you really want is always an option, it never hurts to start making the moves and taking the risks now, when you don’t have mortgages or family to hinder you.

6. If you don’t like your job, you should quit

Contrary to popular opinion, it is time to start being responsible with your decisions. Before you make any rash decisions because you just don’t like something, think first about whether you can financially handle such a leap. And second, examine why you don’t like your job. Figure out why you wanted that job originally, what you do like about it, what could change to make it better for you, and only after answering those questions should you think about where else you should look.

7. Run from all bad bosses

Bad bosses can be toxic and make your work life unbearable. But they can also be an extremely valuable learning experience. If this is a really good position for you, consider sticking it out. Get what you can from your current job, and mine it for everything you can to use in your next job, with your next employer.

8. Job hopping is bad

More and more, the stigma around job hopping has disappeared. This is the time in your life when it is okay to try new things and new positions and new fields. Just remember to try to keep some coherent factors similar across the different jobs you take. And always keep in mind how you will answer the question, “How have you spent the last five years?” Keep a close hold on your narrative arc, and you’ll be fine.

9. Twentysomethings are entitled

You’re not necessarily narcissistic or entitled, you’re just inexperienced. As long as you keep moving forward, trying to develop yourself and your career, you can just ignore these voices—in your head or in the media—and go after the life and work you want.

About the author

Peter Jones