Careers advice I wish I knew in my 20’s

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Professionals might make it look easy now, but if given the chance to turn back the hands of time, most of them would do a few things differently. 

So we asked our recruiter’s one piece of careers advice they wish they’d known at the age of 20. Below are some of the answers we received...

Understand your strengths and weaknesses and play to them

"Understanding yourself means those weaknesses will become developmental areas and this can only serve to improve your chances in a competitive market”

- Shelley

"I would say 2 things –one, your degree doesn’t determine which field of work you need to go into. I have a science degree and it doesn’t mean I need to be a scientist, I was already worried that I wouldn’t be suitable due to having a degree in that field but that’s not the case at all.
My second piece of advice is really cliché but it's the phrase "no question is a stupid question". I always used to worry about looking silly , but I've learnt that you'll never learn anything if you don’t ask – also you can’t know everything so ASK always!"

- Sam

Just chill out and go with the flow. Good things will happen

“ They’re all making it up. Meaning that I used to worry a lot about getting things right and over time I’ve realised that no one ever really knows what they’re doing anyway. It’s best to just chill out and go with the flow. Good things will happen. ”


"I wish I 'd known there were opportunities for me at organisations as big as Nationwide even though I didn’t have the strongest academics. I believe making a move to a large business earlier would 've seen me be further in my career than I am currently.”

- Dave

Stop comparing yourself to everyone else 

“Stop comparing yourself to everyone else, and set much shorter term goals. Things can change dramatically in just a few weeks - nothing has to be final. Setting 6 months goals meant that I got to try lots of different jobs I didn’t realise I’d enjoy- from bar work at festivals, to digital and eventually marketing.”

- Steph

"When I was in my 20’s (feels like they were so long ago now), I wish I knew that it was ok to say “not right now”. As a yes person I would find it very hard to say no or even not right but now but I can do this tomorrow for example through fear of being seen as un-cooperative."

- Tracy

"Know and adapt to your audience." 

- Missy 

Don't be afraid to try new things

“ Don't be afriad to try new things. If you don't challenge yourself, you'll be bored, and you never know, you may find an unexpected career you love. ”


"Don’t be afraid, venture out and explore what your company has to offer. Shadow different departments, get an understanding of what makes you happy and what your key strengths and skills are."

- Gemma

It's never too late to change career direction

"It's never too late to change direction!"

- Tracy

"Don’t settle, do something you love. In my early twenties I had a job taking letters out of envelopes, I constantly watched the clock counting down to the end of the day, I felt like I was stuck there forever . One day enough was enough and I made the decision I needed something more challenging & rewarding, I devoted my evenings after work to updating my CV and thinking about what I really wanted from a job. Now I am in a job I love and have realised you don’t need to be stuck doing something you don’t enjoy but it’s up to you to go out and get it."

- Becki

For more careers advice take a look at our Advice & How to section.

What's the most important piece of career advice you'd give your 20 year old self?