Regret. That’s one heavy word. It can sit in your stomach with the weight of a thousand stones. Some would argue there is no avoiding it as long as one is still living. Here are some common career regrets people have.
1. Not taking more initiative and/or playing it too safe
Have you ever wanted a promotion or raise but were too afraid to ask certain your boss would say no? You ever had a great idea but kept it to yourself because you didn’t know how your boss or colleagues would receive it? How about this one, have you ever seen an ad for a job that’s basically your dream job but you ended up not applying? One of the significant career regrets people have is not negotiating hard enough for a raise and not even asking at all and not going for opportunities like their dream jobs.
The lesson here, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Be bold, power through the fear, and speak up, send in that application and take your shots.
2. Staying for the money and not quitting sooner
For most people, the only positive thing about their careers and job is their paycheck. Research shows that 85% of employees are disengaged from their jobs. People are motivated by achievement, recognition, advancement, responsibility, and growth not just money. Things like pay raises and benefits are less impactful to a person’s sense of fulfilment.
This is a tricky regret. Living in a capitalist economic system necessitates staying for the money with most people being paid poverty wages. The only people who get to regret staying for the money are largely those who had the option to leave. Not enough people have this option though. If you find yourself among those who loathe their jobs and are staying solely because of a cushy paycheck and you can leave, perhaps, gather courage and develop an exit strategy and leave.
3. Not quitting a job you hate or not quitting early enough to pursue your passion
Related to staying for the money, one of the common career regrets is not quitting a job they disliked sooner. These jobs end up becoming a source of stress and great unhappiness. People also regret not quitting early enough to pursue their passion. People who had jobs that are not related to their passions also report significant regrets. The majority of those who did quit their jobs to pursue their passion wished they had done it sooner.
This is all well and good but is also an option available to very few people. Most people don’t really have careers, they have jobs. Only a privileged few have careers. Only a privileged few can afford to take the risk of quitting their jobs in pursuit of an uncertain future and their passions.
4. Not having enough mentorship or guidance
There is this assumption that because you are an adult and you have undergone some training whether through attending college or university or through other forms of training you know what to do and how to focus your career. This of course is not the case which explains why one of the people’s biggest career regrets is not having enough personal mentorship or guidance in their careers and in general. People need guidance and when they do not have access to it from people who have gone before them there is a lot of flailing in the dark and winging it with their careers and lives in general suffering for it.
You may have to seek out personal mentorship and hope someone says yes to taking you under their wing. If you have made any strides in your career, it may be worth considering offering mentorship and guidance to people or someone around you who is just starting out.
5. Not maintaining networks and not making an effort with your coworkers
People have many reasons for distancing themselves from their colleagues and not wanting to engage in office matters. People however report regretting not making an effort to bond with and create a genuine relationship with these people who they spend hours on end with day-to-day. Plus, bonding with them can make it easier to go through tough projects and long days together.
Related to this, another common career regret is not maintaining your networks. Previous coworkers and bosses can be an important part of building credibility and a professional support system. Not maintaining these important connections and relationships can lead to missing out on countless career opportunities. Make an effort to build relationships with your coworkers and maintain those networks in a way that’s mutually beneficial to both of you.
Here’s to learning from those who have gone ahead of us and avoiding the mines they have pointed out. Power through the fear and go for what you want. Send in those applications. Make great connections, being of help to those in your circles having faith that your people will reciprocate. Offer help and guidance to those coming after you and boldly ask for mentorship from people you look up to.
If you’re in any way moved to make some job applications and career changes in general, check out: