8 Career Mistakes to Avoid Now That You’ve Graduated

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the other side of school! It’s your last summer “off” before “real life” starts and your career (and student loans) kicks into full gear! If you are one of those that opts out of a summer break and is lurching into your career now you’ll want to make sure you don’t make these 8 career mistakes to avoid them early on to ensure a successful trajectory in your company.

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Photos by Dasha Crawford Photography

One: Not adopting the company culture. 

Every company has a set of values that it operates under that is projected into the office climate. Some of these values will typically be called out as you read your company’s code of conduct but there will be non-verbal values that will become obvious within your first week upon observation. If it isn’t obvious among your peers, try observing senior management’s behavior (your bosses boss) to piecemeal what behavior they exude. Some questions to ask: do they value collaborative meetings? Are you expected to have working lunches? Is your performance directly related to the number of hours you “put in” regardless of the quality of work? Is your office chatty and expecting you to contribute to water cooler talk? These are things you should be paying attention to when you first start and adhere appropriately. 

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Two: Overspending on your work wardrobe before you start your job. 

Since most offices are transferring over to a corporate casual dress code, skirt suits and pantsuits are rarely seen in the office unless you are in a banking/ financial role, client facing sales role, or interviewing with the c-suite. In the early years of your career opt for clothes that can play double duty at both work and play, HOWEVER that doesn’t mean you can wear boutique quality clothing to work and call it corporate casual. Try dressing up a silk cami with a blazer and non-distressed jeans for a smart corporate casual look, or pair a pencil skirt with a chambray top. Your company will typically call out what is not appropriate for the dress code in their code of conduct. While looking to your peers is a good indication of what is acceptable at the office, it shouldn’t be what you rely on when determining what to wear for work. Remember, first impressions matter, especially to senior management. 

Three: Letting your wardrobe outshine your quality of work. 

Some people love channeling their creativity into their work outfits. I’m not saying that you should dress in muted colors and drabby clothing, you don’t have to take your personality out of your clothing, but you have to be mindful of not letting your wardrobe outshine the work you do in the office. It’s a non-verbal way of saying “I care more about how I look than the work I produce at my job.” Understated is always a safe way to go when determining wardrobe and it’s much easier to get ready for the day when you stick to a consistent color scheme and avoid “loud” prints. 

Four: Not getting involved in internal company sponsored groups. 

If you have aspirations of getting to a management level position in your company, you’ll need to be highly visible which means you need to get involved. Managers determine early on who is a high performer and worth promoting in the company within your first ninety days of you being in the job. If you start at a small company, there may not be a lot of groups within the company to join so you have a couple of options: start one related to the field you’re in, or join a regional group that your field is in. Typically there will be some sort of “Insert your City Here” Area “whatever profession you’re in” group that meets regularly. While going to these are completely optional, letting your manager know that you’re attending these are subtle “bonus points” showing that you care about your career and are looking for ways to interact with your industry. To your management team, it shows that you’re committed to the practice you’re in and not at risk of leaving. Remember, as much as you’re looking for job security, employers are looking for people to stay too. 

Five: Not making friends in the office. 

This one alluded me when I started my career, partially because I was the youngest one in my part of the business by 10 years and partially because my team was pretty isolated from people my age in the company, so I didn’t interact with people and didn’t have the opportunity to interact with others my age. The day a girl my age (who I found out was actually in the same 3rd-grade class as me and is now one of my close friends) showed up at the office, I jumped at the opportunity to get lunch with her. Even though we were on two different teams, it was nice to bounce off of someone your age and talk about work with who worked with you. I will say be very cautious about being too chummy with your coworkers right off the bat. If you find someone you really mesh with at work, don’t let friendship interrupt your working habits. In fact, my friend I met at my first job and I didn’t get really close until after we had left the company. We were able to really loosen up with each other now that we didn’t have the watchful corporate eye looming over us at work. 

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Six: Dating someone you work with. 

You NEVER EVER EVER get your honey where you make your money. Most companies have a policy in place that warns employees of dating each other in the workplace because of the awkward tension it could create if a break up happens. Look I get it, work crushes are a totally real thing, but you have to take your emotions out of it for a moment and think “suppose this doesn’t work out, how will that affect my work atmosphere?” Sometimes it works out. I know a few couples who have gotten married after meeting each other at work, but for the most part, they don’t. I know too many girls who end up leaving good jobs because they can’t stand to see their ex dating “the girl from accounting” in the same office. 

Seven: Moving in with your boyfriend after college. 

Sure it’s romantic that he wants to make that “commitment” to you. Magazines say it’s “the next step” these days before marriage, but moving in with your S/O out of college is EXTREMELY limiting. You may have to compromise on the style of rental you want to move into, or the part of town you both can afford to move into isn’t your ideal location. Your early to mid-twenties are a great time to experiment living on your own. It teaches you a lot about personal finance, you have the freedom and flexibility to do whatever you want whenever you want, and you don’t have to settle into some weird gender dynamic of marital duties without the marital status. Not having to clean up anyone’s messes besides your own and the satisfaction of taking care of your own bills is extremely rewarding. I highly recommend living on your own, even just for a year before you commit to having a roommate again. 

Club Monaco Trench Coat

Trench Coat || Red Backless Blouse (order one size up) || White Jeans || Sunglasses || Espadrilles 

Eight: Not knowing your job worth and low-balling your salary to get a job.

Arguably the second largest mistake I made when starting my career was not knowing exactly how much I needed to live on my own. In college, I was on a scholarship that took care of my basic living needs and then worked 30+ hours a week to make some “fun money” for the weekend. When I got a real job, I realized that my annual salary was actually less than what I was making in college with my scholarship and part-time work. I forgot to plan for the implication of taxes and 401(k) deductions on my annual salary, so the first two and a half years out of college was a financial struggle living paycheck to paycheck. As they say, know your worth then add tax.

Did you like this series? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! Or if you have any career advice, drop me a line so that I can include it. 

Author: Cynthia

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