As the year draws to a close, it’s natural to take stock of our lives, and make resolutions to do better in the coming year. Mostly, we focus on developing healthier habits — we want to lose weight, maybe, or quit a bad habit that’s affecting our physical health. But if this recent informal survey by tech entrepreneur Daniel Gulati is anything to go by, maybe we should be thinking about our careers as well as our waistlines.
Gulati spoke to 30 workers between the ages of 28 and 58, and asked them what their biggest regrets were. The sample size is obviously too small to be statistically significant, but what’s really interesting is how much these folks had in common in terms of what they’d do differently. Regrets, it seems, are similar for Fortune 500 CEOs and freelance photographers.
“Disappointment doesn’t discriminate; no matter what industry the individual operated in, what role they had been given, or whether they were soaring successes or mired in failure, five dominant themes shone through,” Gulati writes.
1. I wish I hadn’t taken the job for the money. This one topped the list for many, especially for those far up the corporate food chain, many of whom felt trapped by their commitments.
2. I wish I had quit earlier. Gulati quotes one executive as saying, “Those years could have been spent working on problems that mattered to me. You can’t ever get those years back.”
3. I wish I had the confidence to start my own business. Even the Fortune 500 CEO expressed regret that after years of longing to be his own boss, he remained a “wantrepreneur.”
4. I wish I had used my time at school more productively. One person in the survey, a biology researcher, lamented the fact that she’d spent her college years “in a ridiculous hurry to complete what in hindsight were the best and most delightfully unstructured years of my life.”
5. I wish I had acted on my career hunches. Many expressed regret that they didn’t make a leap during one of those rare “now-or-never” career moments.
So there you have it. For 2013, maybe we should all resolve to be a little bit braver in our career choices.
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