Career mistakes you seriously need to avoid in your twenties


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DISCLAIMER: This post is sponsored by the Association of Small & Medium enterprises (ASME). All opinions are our own. 

When we first entered the workforce in the early 2010s, there weren’t a lot of Singaporean sites offering career advice. 

That’s why after five years in the workforce, we thought we’d look back to and write something for our former selves.

We’ll be the first to admit it. Some of these lessons were not easy to learn and even harder to accept. We would have scorned some of them when we were younger, more prideful versions of ourselves. 

But as the saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher appears.

We spent close to a decade being clueless salarymen.

Don’t repeat our mistakes. 

Being afraid to leave a toxic job because you ‘haven’t stayed long enough’ 

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You joined a company only to find out within a week you were sold a false dream. The boss doesn’t keep his word. Company culture is terrible. Pay is miserable, and everyone works long hours. There’s almost no room for progression. 

Under these circumstances, you’d think anyone might quit. 

But when you’re a fresh twenty-something, there’s a real fear that leaving a job within a year, or two years, ‘will look terrible on your resume.’ 

Here’s the thing – it’s okay to leave. There are actually many valid reasons why people leave jobs. Family reasons. Health reasons. Maybe the job just wasn’t a good fit.

If your future employer can’t recognise this and writes you off as flaky and incapable, then they’re probably traditionalist and old-fashioned.

(That said, please don’t leave your job repeatedly, because yes, leaving jobs multiple times after a short time will raise some serious red flags.) 

Not negotiating or asking for a pay increment or other benefits TWS mistakes 20-1-3.jpg

Too many young people just accept the salary that they are offered without negotiating. You want a higher salary, or think you deserve more, you gotta ask for it. 

Because few bosses will ever proactively offer you one.  

As a start, here’s how you can ask for a pay raise: 

  • Have a desired salary in mind 
  • Go approach your boss, and tell them about your desired salary 
  • Ask them what you must do to deserve said salary, and set goals based on that 
  • Reach goals 
  • See if your boss fulfils their promise. 

Giving up early and becoming a Private Hire Driver. 

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We’ll get lots of flak but we’ll say this again. We firmly believe the only people who have any business being a long term, full-time Private Hire Vehicle could be: 

  •  people using it to supplement their income while they work out their career path (in-between jobs, or while you try to start a business) 
  •  people who have zero intention to re-enter the workforce. 
  •  people who have no other choice 

We get that the pay can be pretty attractive compared to some entry level jobs, but if you’re fresh out of school, you should reconsider being a taxi driver for the next 5 years.

In a few words, here’s why:

  • No job progression. 
  • Job might not exist in a decade or two due to self-driving cars
  • There’s more but you can read em here.

Blindly joining MNCs with the wrong expectations 

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MNCs are decent places to work. For starters, they tend to have more prestige, job security (iron rice bowl!), higher bonuses and higher salaries than joining a startup or your typical Singaporean SME.

That said, there are trade offs. 

Despite what all the recruitment campaigns might say, these organisations can have a pretty structured promotion/increment system. That means even if you’re expecting to soar quickly through the ranks in a few years or overhaul tried-and-tested systems, you might want to keep your expectations in check. 

Conversely, SMEs and startups might not pay as well, but they tend to be more flexible with progression and job responsibilities.

Now, we’re not saying one is better than the other. But we’ve seen too many people become disillusioned with their jobs to know that expectations are important. 

At the end of the day, know this – whether or not you’re in a MNC, SME or Startup won’t stop you from success.

But self-limiting beliefs and defeatist attitudes will. 

Expecting work life balance and high pay to go together 

Wanting work life balance is completely fine. Wanting a high salary is okay too. 

But put those two together, and suddenly things are not that simple, especially if you are a noob in the workforce.

Why? Because whether or not your boss gives you work life balance or not tends to  depends on the value you bring to the company. Most people don’t start off as great workers, so you need to prove yourself worthy before you demand either. 

Make no mistake, work-life balance is not a right people magically confer upon you when you are new with zero experience. 

It is a privilege you earn. Some might earn that privilege in a couple of months. Some might take years, and it’s a privilege some might never have.

(That said, a small but increasing number of companies are beginning to see the benefits of worklife balance and its effect on employee productivity. If you are lucky enough to work in such a company that provides both decent working hours and attractive salary, please hang on dearly to your job.)

TL;DR: Be prepared to work harder and smarter than your peers if you want more attractive remuneration.

Having a ‘wage slave’ mentality

We’re not sure about you, but we think a job today is not what it used to be. Job security is no longer guaranteed for decades. The fat, one-year bonuses during our parents era are now an exception, not the rule. 

If your job pays you enough, then great.  But if having a full-time job no longer pays you enough no guarantee a future, you have to take matters into your own hands. 

In today’s era, we firmly believe in side hustling. If you’re paid to work from 9-6, don’t spend the best years of your life working 9 -2 am. If you’re going to work that hard, we rather go back home at 6 and work for yourself.

Learn a new skill. Practice what you learnt at work on a personal project. Pick up a new qualification. Build your portfolio. And then get paid for it. 

If you are willing to work the hours outside work while people are catching a movie or watching Netflix, it will put you far ahead of your peers.

But you gotta be working for yourself, not your boss. 

Stay Woke, Salaryman

About our sponsor:

This article was sponsored by the Association of Small & Medium enterprises (ASME).

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4 replies to “Career mistakes you seriously need to avoid in your twenties

  1. I dislike my job and am very demotivated. Could u write an article on how to overcome this? At this rate I can’t foresee myself working for years to come

    1. Good idea, we’ll write about this!

      For now here are some things to consider:

      There are different degrees to disliking your job, it could be:
      bad working conditions
      bad social dynamics
      lack of meaning
      Mental stress etc.

      So it’s hard to give big picture advice, because it’s kinda normal that work is unpleasant. But in some situations it might be too much where you should leave, like if it’s affecting your mental health.

      Putting that subjectivity aside, the objective steps you can take are:

      1. Have enough savings so you can afford to take a break

      2. Make yourself valuable enough so you are constantly in demand and you can choose to work somewhere else if things get too bad.

      3. Always be on the look out for other opportunities. This might seem like you’re being disloyal to your company but looking up potential jobs at other places is important from time to time. You can also see this as a way to update your notion of what’s in demand in the industry and how much you are worth.

      Thanks for the suggestion and hope you pull through!

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