10 Career Lessons I’ve Learnt As I Approach My 30’s 

Travelista contributor Emily Hope reflects on career lessons from her 20’s which she will be taking with her into her 30’s. 

Your twenties can be a whirlwind of self-discovery and challenge, am I right? Balancing your identity, career aspirations, and dealing plus the pressures of society and social media can make things feel like you’re behind or out of your depth. 

For me, navigating my working life has always been a huge hurdle to overcome and in my relatively short time on the career ladder, I have done many things in pursuit of my dream job. From stints in hospitality and wedding coordination to dabbling in marketing and then following my heart to the radio and broadcast industry, my career journey has been anything but linear. 

But hey, they say with age comes wisdom and looking back, I can proudly see the growth – both professionally and personally. So, if you’re nodding along to the challenges of carving your career path, or you’re just starting in the world of work looking for some pearls of wisdom, here are 10 career lessons from my twenties that have shaped my journey so far. 

10 Career Lessons I’ve Learnt As I Approach My 30’s - Emily Hope

Image credit: Cedar Cottage Creative

10 Career Lessons I’ve Learnt As I Approach My 30’s 

1. A proactive boss is a respected boss

Throughout my career, I’ve encountered a variety of managers and in my own experience, I’ve found that the ones who stood out the most were those who weren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in. Whilst of course you’d expect a level of delegation and sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do, these bosses didn’t just avoid the tedious jobs, they actively got involved, listened to feedback, took decisive actions and held themselves accountable. I remember once, a manager initiated a salary review for me off their own back, just because they felt I was due one – I didn’t even have to ask – sorry what.

 A proactive manager who recognises and appreciates their team’s value is absolute gold. 

2. Set your boundaries and stick to them

Creating boundaries in the workplace is so important for maintaining a healthy work-life balance and enhancing productivity. If you’re ever struggling at work, for example, it’s crucial to be able to advocate for yourself and communicate openly with your employer about your needs. 

Whether it’s adjusting your workload, taking breaks, or not working constantly beyond your designated hours, establishing clear boundaries is empowering and fosters a positive work environment. If you don’t feel comfortable for a face-to-face conversation, sending a polite and respectful email is also totally okay. 

Just remember, setting boundaries isn’t selfish, it’s self-care and a good manager will respect this. 

3. It’s not a step back, it’s a side step

No matter what stage you are at in your career – it’s okay to explore different job opportunities and change career direction. Rather than sticking to a role out of obligation or because it would look ‘better on the CV’, it’s essential to prioritise your happiness and fulfilment. Whether you’re seeking your true calling, escaping toxic work environments or discovering your passions, don’t be afraid to venture into new experiences to enrich your professional journey. Sometimes, people are too scared to leave or take the leap because they fear starting over. Remember, you’re not taking a step back and you can never unlearn what you have already learned – you’re simply sidestepping to another route. 

4. Your job gives you an income, not an entire identity

Losing or leaving a job can lead to an identity crisis. I know this, because I left my job just before the pandemic, and was jobless for a chunk of time. The whole experience was exceptionally uncomfortable and I had to take time to get to know who I was outside of my job. 

No matter what situation you find yourself in, a job title does not define your worth. Take time to work out what you enjoy; your hobbies, likes and dislikes and your values. Building a sense of self beyond your job can be empowering and provide a renewed perspective on your identity.

5. A supportive workplace is essential

An ideal workplace prioritises employee well-being and follows through on its commitments. It’s important to be in an environment where your needs are acknowledged and respected. Whether it’s receiving the necessary support or having open communication channels, a supportive workplace cultivates a positive and inclusive culture that values its employees.

 If your workplace is toxic, it’s time for a serious conversation. If nothing changes – protect your peace and find a way to get yourself out of there. No job should cost you your mental health and wellbeing.

6. Make those notes

It’s okay to take notes when having an important discussion or making agreements to avoid misunderstandings and protect your interests. I’m not saying that you need to keep every single conversation on file, but just a follow-up email or jotting down notes with your employer will provide clarity and transparency for both of you.  This will also set the basis for a more productive and positive working relationship. The main things to note down are the things you need to action when you walk away from the meeting itself.

7. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

How many times have you caught yourself saying “Sorry if this is a silly question, but…”?

Firstly, why are you apologising? Own your question and your curiosity. Don’t hesitate to seek clarity in the workplace. Showing curiosity and a willingness to learn demonstrate your dedication and commitment to personal and professional growth. Asking questions not only improves your understanding of tasks but also shows your proactive approach to problem-solving.

8. Embrace transition jobs as learning opportunities

During my career so far, there’s been a lot of stigma around transition jobs, or ‘stop-gap’ roles – but these should never be viewed as a source of embarrassment. These experiences provide valuable insights, skills, and perspectives that contribute to your overall professional development. Embracing transition jobs as learning opportunities allows you to expand your expertise and explore diverse career paths. One of my favourite jobs I ever had was a short-term role, where I met amazing people who I now consider some of my closest friends. 

9. You don’t have to love every job you do

Although it’s amazing if you find a job that you adore, your passions don’t necessarily have to align with your job. Your hobbies can just be your hobbies, and your job can just be your job. Perhaps you’re taking steps to become a freelancer and you need a second income. Perhaps you’ve started a family and need to find income to support them. Or maybe you’re simply happy with the 9-5 office job that pays your bills and lets you have that perfect work-life balance. 

Whatever your reasons, it’s okay to not be in love with your job. However, as long as that job helps you to reach your goal (whatever that may be) in some way or, it’s helping to make room for other passions of yours, then you’re golden. 

I’ve felt so behind in life at times when I’ve not enjoyed my job, but in retrospect, often those jobs were necessary stepping stones to get to where I am today. They also made me appreciate the good in the jobs that I’ve loved.

10. Networking is so valuable, but it doesn’t have to mean going to that awkward event

I know that the prospect of networking is some people’s worst nightmare, especially if describe yourself as an introvert. But if that’s you, that’s okay – you don’t have to attend awkward networking events to make contacts. Just get creative in other ways to connect with new people. You may be surprised by meeting people and making valuable connections in other ways, such as through mutual friends, social media, striking up a conversation in a co-working space or even at a gym class.

And if networking events are your thing, then all the more power to you. Go and work the room and be your brightest, boldest self.

We like this Beginner’s Guide to Networking by the Harvard Business Review.

A final word

From all of these valuable career lessons, if you take one thing away with you, it is that everyone is on their path and the biggest thief of your joy and productivity is comparison. No matter what stage you’re at in your career during your twenties, whether you’re a serial job-hopper or someone who’s worked in a role for multiple years, there is no right way to ride the wave that is the world of work. Do what feels right for you and not just because you think other people would want that for you, or what you think will look better on the CV. 

Within the world of work, you get back what you put in. Work hard, stay true to yourself and just remember that ultimately everything you have to give – your experiences, your worth and your prospects – far surpasses anything written on a piece of paper. 

Read more articles from Em Hope on Travelista.

Jessica Ruth Gibson is the Founder and Editor of Travelista and an award-winning travel content creator of 10 years. She lives in York, UK with her son and has travelled to over 50 countries; her favourites being Italy, Canada and Vietnam.

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