15 Amateur Moves Women Make When Starting Their Careers

15 Mistakes Women Make at Their First Jobs
by Isabelle Miner
Photos Jenn Anibal | December 23, 2015
Sure, your 20s are partly about exploring your freedom and discovering yourself. But they're also the decade when you dive into adulthood—and that's far more complicated than we like to admit.
In an effort to ease into your next decade and a more stable period of your personal and professional life, here are 15 mistakes you're probably making and some ways to break the cycle. Trust us, it pays to fight those bad habits.  


“Just wait until you turn 30 and your metabolism slows down.” How often has that been said to you as you shove that third slice of pizza in your mouth? Unfortunately, they’re not lying—those poor eating habits will catch up to you. But we're also talking binging in general beyond what you put in your stomach.

Young people often feel invincible. We can consume excessive amounts of food and alcohol but see little change in our bodies. But we’re putting habits into place that our bodies can’t sustain long-term.

Then there's the psychological form of binging including running ourselves down by working too many hours and staying out too late, treating ourselves to things we can't afford (see Mistake #2), engaging in unhealthy relationships because we assume they won't affect us or they won't last (see Mistake #6)...

Eat with care and your body will thank you. Make decisions with care and your future self will thank you, too. 

Avoid It

While we don't recommend tracking everything, sometimes a little self-reflection helps. If you're having trouble with your eating routines, try out My Fitness Pal, a convenient way to track your intake and energy outtake. If you feel like you're being unhealthy about work hours, try keeping a work journal. It pays to be mindful.


When we're young, we've got minimal financial responsibilities. We’re mostly worried about simple expenses: rent, car repairs, food, and entertainment. With fewer stresses on your bank account, you may find yourself wandering into Marshalls or H&M unwittingly and thinking, “I’m just going to look!”

Put down that on-trend acrylic sweater. It’s never too soon to put aside savings for your future. Life can throw you unexpected financial burdens your way and trust us, you’d rather be prepared. This may seem challenging, but think of it in simple terms—pack a lunch to save $10 or pass on that cute tunic and squirrel away that $30. There are always little opportunities in your routine to save a few bucks. It can make all the difference.

Avoid It

If you’re considering buying something new for your wardrobe, make the decision into a math equation. Divide the price of the item by the number of times you’ll realistically wear it. Does it make up for the cost?


Your 20s are incredibly exciting—you’ve succeeded in graduating college, you’re embarking on a journey completely independent of your parents, you’re living on your own terms. But are your eyes and ears open to it all?

It sometimes happens that we are unaware of opportunities that lay ahead of us. We are focused on our day jobs and exploring our social lives that we are hesitant to add extra to the plate. This is a reasonable concern, but those additional activities can be a pathway to a place we never knew we wanted to be. Make sure to remain open to doors that are unexpected or possibly require additional effort.

Avoid It

Even if you’re perfectly happy with your job, check listings every 3-6 months. Doing so keeps you abreast of trends and patterns in your field, even if you’re not interested in applying. Are employers increasingly looking for candidates with Photoshop experience? Time to take a Lynda class.


It’s never too early to begin meeting people that could change the course of your career. We often establish a strong network in college but then neglect to build relationships after graduation.

Your peers can be essential in your career, but it doesn’t hurt to practice networking. It’s important to be proactive in building professional relationships. Especially as a young person, when you’re in a position to learn and have an aptitude for growth, reaching out to leaders in your field for advice is never a bad idea.

Avoid It

Consider joining a professional development organization. Not only will this allow you to network, but a place to challenge yourself in a way you current employment does not.


Too often, we think we can do it all ourselves. Finally loose from our parents’ grasp, we find ourselves suddenly free to explore the world all on our own. But we are still young, limited by our lack of experience, and we always have more to learn.

Ask for help, and we don’t mean from your parents. Trust in the power of a mentor. This person can be objective and has a greater amount of experience in your desired field. Finding a mentor can be an experience in itself. It requires you to consistently expand your network and remain open to opportunity (see mistakes 3 and 4)!

Avoid It

If you’re without a mentor and stumped as to who to turn to, Hire a Mentor! Career Contessa conveniently offers career coaching on the website. Now you have no reason to go at your career alone!


We all want to find that special someone, which can often make us anxious and distract us from other priorities.  Dating takes time and energy and quite often, significant others can distract us from our personal goals. “I” quickly becomes “we,” making it challenging at times to make decisions solely in our own best interest.

It’s important that we maintain our independence during this transitional period in our lives. That’s not to say a relationship will inhibit you from reaching your potential, but it’s crucial that you find a partner who is wholly supportive. Relationship or not, be certain that you’re exploring your needs and wants in a way that’s independent of other people.
Be certain that you're exploring your needs and wants in a way that's independent of other people. 

Avoid It

A relationship can be time-consuming, but don’t let the search be! Find that special someone efficiently and effectively.


Risky behavior can come in all shapes and sizes. Often 20-year-olds take risks with their health, well-being, and relationships. Not good. But there’s actually a more conservative approach to risk-taking when it comes to our professional pursuits.

We’ve been told job-hopping is a dangerous game to play. Supposedly it makes us look unreliable, inconsistent, and reinforces the perception of millennials.

But times have changed! We are of a different generation, one that embraces career exploration and pursuing a job that you love. By remaining risk-averse, you’ll actually risk becoming complacent in your career.

Avoid It

Don’t make mistake #5, ask for help! There are millennials (or mentors) with greater experience than yourself and can guide you through these transitional periods. A solid pros and cons list never hurts either!


We are limited by our youth. We’ve only been on this planet for so many years and in the workforce even fewer. Because of this,  you may think you have little to offer but as a millennial, we are inherently more skilled than our superiors.

Some of our experience is innate thanks to our post-Facebook upbringing–we’re comfortable with most devices, social media encourages us has taught us to be creative as well as concise, and we have unlimited access to information. However you learned them, these skills are a strong part of your arsenal and increase your value as a young professional. Never sell yourself short.

Avoid It

If you’re feeling inadequate, it’s never too late to gain further skills. Try General Assembly, which offers a strong curriculum of online classes to help equip yourself with new, unique skills. 


Sometimes as young women, we often feel we need to compensate for our age. That number doesn’t usually reflect our maturity level.

As true as this may be, we are still young. Don’t feel pressured to be someone you’re not. We need to bask in our youth while we still can. It’s like using the “new person” card at work. Cut yourself some slack and make these 15 mistakes, you have another 60 to 70 years to make up for it.

Avoid It

Make sure to let yourself go from time to time. It’s important that we indulge ourselves for the sake of stress relief. Being selfish isn’t a crime, it’s often times a necessity.


Young people are often considered irresponsible with money. I often find that my friends are without credit cards because their parents do not trust them to use it responsibly. With little obligations, that money is lost to clothes, rent, and liquor (see mistake #2). A credit card can too often be seen as “free” money to shortsighted young adults.

A credit card (used responsibly) is a terrific way to build credit as a young person. Once leaving college, it will be important to have been building credit in order to rent an apartment or buy/lease a car.

Avoid It

Before applying for that credit card, sit down with your parents and discuss the pros and cons of a credit card. Talk through the best ways to manage your payments (hint hint: paying the minimum is not the best technique).


We don’t blame you for heading home when things get rough, but are you doing it because you have to or because you want to?

Going home is never a bad thing, but it’s important that we head there for the right reasons. We need to spend our 20s learning how to recognize when times are challenging and do what we can on our own—within reason. It’s the only way to know we can stand on our own two feet, ready to take care of ourselves.

Avoid It

Surround yourself with friends you trust. They can provide guidance and might just be living down the street rather than in your hometown. You’ll provide each other mutual support while going through similar experiences.


When you’re first living on your own, decision making becomes a crucial skill. Life begins to move at a faster pace and we need to decide bigger and better things. As overwhelming as it may feel, we often blow these moments out of proportion.
It’s crucial that we’re conscious of the importance of our decisions,  but keep in mind that hard choices are not the end of the world! You’re going to go on living for another 60 to 70 years so you have plenty of time to make amends for any bad decisions. Even heading down the wrong career path can be fixed. When you feel burdened by life’s choices, do your best to keep in mind each one is just one of the many decisions you’ll make.
When you feel burdened by life's choices, do your best to keep in mind each one is just one of the many decisions you'll make. 

Avoid It

With each decision, big or small, use a pros and cons list. This will allow you to organize your thoughts and you might often find the answer is right in front of you!


Without a doubt, your 20s are made for fun. Let loose, celebrate your youth, and burn the candle at both ends – you’re certainly resilient enough. But there comes a point when you’ve stayed at the party too long.

It will sneak up on you, but it’s important to learn how to recognize when the time has come. We all understand how crucial it is to get the appropriate amount of sleep and how excessive drinking can affect our bodies. So call it a night. It doesn’t make you old or less exciting, it makes you responsible.

Avoid It

No one ever wants to volunteer to be the designated driver, but see it as an opportunity! It’s the best and most responsible reason to say no! Who would disagree? It means your friends can drink to their heart’s desire and you can wake up without a headache.


We’ve all been told at some point what success “should” look like. Often, we base our notions of it on our friends’ or parents’ experiences. Although your parents may be successful in their own way, it’s a mistake to consider this the only acceptable way forward.  Success is an independent pursuit. You decide what it looks like for you.

Avoid It

Create a vision board. By making a physical version of what success looks like to you, you'll recognize your current priorities and be able to add new ones as you evolve. Post it in a place where you often spend your time, it will keep those goals at the forefront of your mind.


Lastly, self-care is crucial. Are you putting yourself first? No matter what happens in your 20s, you’re given one body, and it’s your responsibility to take care of it. Whether you’re in your 20s, 30s, or even 40s—self-care should never take a back seat.  

Avoid It

Take one night a week to head home from work and spend time alone. Use this time to think through your thoughts, concerns, stresses, whatever it may be. It’s funny how we often aren’t listening to our needs because the noise of life gets in the way. Silence your surroundings by heading home and give yourself alone time.

Did we miss one? Let us know what mistake you'd tell your younger self to avoid. Because hindsight's 20/20, but maybe you can help another reader out.