Taking Career Risks in Your Twenties

This post originally appeared on my blog a long time ago. You can find my new writings on travel at The Boarding Call. Also visit my personal site, kchau.co

People say a lot of things that you should do in your twenties. Some I agree with, Some I don’t. I’m 24, and should have taken more risks sooner.

Your career moves or jumps should be reviewed with caution. You will have the most freedom in your twenties, but that doesn’t mean run out and make bad career decisions.

Think About What You Will Gain

No, I’m not talking about money, you’ll have plenty of opportunities for that in the future. Move towards the things that money can’t buy. Experience, networking, the option to fail, things that will build the foundation of what you want to do.

What I’m doing right now at Stride, a sales tracking application, is what I’m seeing as the best possible career move for myself. There really only is a net-positive result from this. Being in an opportunity where the only barrier is yourself, the outcomes are endless. Making a name for myself, networking and connecting with people, having the ability to fail and immediately get back up, there’s so many things that haven’t revealed themselves yet.

The most valuable thing in this age is your time. Trade it for something that will gain you something that can’t be priced.

Risk vs. Potential

Thinking about career moves in a risk vs. reward mindset often removes the color from the decision. You don’t consider a lot of the side aspects of what you’re doing. Will you have the people skills to break out of your industry, if it collapses on you? Will you have the broad skill set that can translate in to other places? These are the things you have to consider, and when you focus on the immediate reward, it isn’t worth it.

It’s why I like to look at opportunities as risk vs. potential. Something like working in retail, or entry-level business roles. They are low risk — low potential. You’re locked in to an industry, given a predetermined growth road map that everyone else in your company follows. You’re defined by your title, not by what you can achieve. But hey, you’re paying the bills right? You can hang out with your friends, go out on the weekends. Life is good, right? Up to you.

Whereas, doing something like Peace Corps, entrepreneurship, or even extended volunteering in developing countries. These are high risk — high potential. Chances are your life will suck in the beginning, but everything you learn will be a total net-positive, and you’re building something bigger than you can currently imagine. You’re doing something where you define your future, and what you’re doing has a near 1:1 impact on your future. You never know what this experience can bring, and how valuable it might be to many industries.

Why in Your Twenties?

I get told a lot that I should be spending this time traveling the world, and seeing everything that life has to offer. I agree to a certain extent. But I don’t want to be slaving myself at a job with no real potential. I want to travel in my 30s and see more of it with a real budget, than going broke doing so in my 20s. If I wanted to travel like a broke post-college kid, there’s no reason I can’t do that in my 30s. Many of you will disagree — saying energy, time, etc. You’re not wrong.

I do take trips here and there, they’re fun, and they’re enough. The world will still be here in 5 years, I hope.

The other thing is, you have more time to create a potential sustainable income flow, more time to network, more time to hustle and make your time worth it. You don’t have a family you need to support and care for, you don’t have a lot of bills to pay.

Doing It

You’ll have to bootstrap your life if you want to do this. If your parents are cool enough, they’ll give you a home and support you a little bit while you figure yourself out. Try to create as little bills as possible. Money has to be spent wisely, same goes for time.

Dream big, but dream wisely.

This post originally appeared on my blog a long time ago. You can find my new writings on travel at The Boarding Call. Also visit my personal site, kchau.co