9 Things I Wish I’d Done Differently When I Started My Career

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Author: Kayleen Schaefer
Source: Fast Company

Ever wished you could go back and talk to your younger, twentysomething self? You know, the one who was just starting out and could have used some sound career advice–or at least a bit of reassurance that you were doing the right thing?
While you can’t go back in a time, you can pay it forward. Hindsight is 20/20–and some of the best insights come from past experiences.

That’s why we asked well-established professionals across the country to share their career lessons learned, everything from wishing they’d saved more of their paychecks to taking the plunge with a riskier job and, of course, what they didn’t know then that they’d pass on to their younger selves now.

1. Weigh That Career “Growth Opportunity” Carefully
“I was six months into my first job out of college in the mortgage industry and flourishing. I was making great money while living in Dallas, and before long, I was offered an opportunity to join the New York branch. On paper, it seemed like a great chance for growth and it included a healthy raise. I was so excited that I didn’t ask the questions necessary to understand if the opportunity was a fit for me and where I was professionally.

By the time I reached New York, that $8,000 raise all but disappeared, and based on the cost of living, I was actually making less money. From a cultural perspective, I traded a nurturing environment full of seasoned professionals who were invested in my professional success for a bottom-line-driven environment full of young sharks trying to make their mark.

[I learned] it’s important to carefully evaluate every “growth opportunity” against your skills, values and personal opportunity cost. Sometimes when opportunity knocks, we have to look through the peephole before we answer.”

–Brian Lawrence, 32, career counselor, St. Louis, Mo.

2. Start Saving Your Pay as Soon as Possible
“Like most young professionals, I heard this message but thought, I’m young and still have time, and instead told myself I would start saving consistently when I earned more or finished paying for this or that.

In retrospect, I should have saved 10% to 15% of every paycheck. I’m actually a very frugal person, but frugality doesn’t necessarily equate to money in the bank if you’re not actually putting it there. I could have saved thousands upon thousands of dollars by now at age 35!”

–Chaz Pitts-Kyser, 35, author of Careeranista: The Woman’s Guide to Success After College, Alexandria, Va.

3. Acknowledge When It’s Not a Good Career Match
“When I was in my 20s and working at my second job out of college, I realized three months in that it wasn’t the right place for me. But when I was offered a great opportunity to move from the Bay Area to Boston for another opportunity that I was excited about, I decided to stay at [my current] job because I thought [leaving] would make my résumé look flaky or noncommitted.

My advice to my younger self? If a job really isn’t working out, find something new and change. Life is too short. It’s the random experiences that make life exciting and will lead to new opportunities.”

–Jennifer Hill, 38, cofounder of Sixty Vocab, Hoboken, N.J.

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