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Avoid These 4 Common Career Regrets

We’d all love to live a life free from regrets. Ideally, we’d focus on the fact that we wouldn’t be who we are today if we’d made different choices in the past. Some days, that’s easier than others.

What’s always true is that we’d like to make the best possible decisions for the future. Perhaps examining common career regrets can help us navigate around potential pitfalls. Learning from the experience of others is always at least worth a try. So, here are a few common career mistakes that you might consider trying to avoid in your own professional life.

career regrets
Image Credit: Josephine Wentholt/Unsplash
  1. Not quitting even sooner.

When all is said and done, deciding to let go of a job or career that’s become uninspiring in order to purse a path that allows you to follow your true passions is usually a good thing.

Daniel Gulati recently wrote a piece for Harvard Business Review about his findings regarding common career regrets. After sitting down with 30 professionals between the ages of 28 and 58 and asking them what they would change about their careers if they could, he noted that some themes emerged regardless of industry, age, or perceived level of success. After having made a change, people only seemed to wish they’d done it even sooner.

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“Variable reinforcement schedules prevalent in large corporations, the visibility of social media, and the desire to log incremental gains are three reasons that 80% of people dissatisfied with their jobs don’t quit when they should,” Gulati wrote.

  1. Not negotiating starting salary.

Negotiating your starting salary is extremely important as it sets up the pay growth you’re likely to experience during your time with the company. When it comes to compensation, nothing pays off (literally) quite like negotiating. Take PayScale’s Salary Survey and find out what you should be making, and then see our Salary Negotiation Guide for some tips before you finalize your next offer.

  1. Allowing fear to make or break a career decision.

Fears can hold us back from all kinds of things and in many different parts of our lives, and our careers are no exception. Kathy Caprino, a career coach and contributor to Forbes, recently wrote a piece in which she discussed a few career regrets that she feels are common for mid-career professionals. She noted that many look back on their careers and realize they halted their own progress by not facing a fear. Maybe they were afraid of change, or of the unknown, but in any case, many mid-career professionals wish they could go back and accept that new challenge, despite their fear. Often, she notes, fear is rooted in too much concern for how others will react to our decision.

“The fears mid-career professionals have, particularly women, often emerge from a lack of healthy boundaries, from intense people-pleasing behavior and a drive toward “perfectionistic overfunctioning” – doing more than is necessary, healthy or appropriate,” writes Caprino. “Until we can get in the cage with our fears and address them head on, fear will keep us stuck in quiet desperation.”

  1. Working too much.

It turns out that old saying might just be true: “on your deathbed, you’re not going to say ‘I wish I’d spent more time at work.'” According to Bonnie Ware, an Australian nurse who’s worked with the dying for years, working too much is a very common regret. Also common among the regrets she recorded was, “I wish I’d let myself be happier” noting that many people seem to realize in the end that happiness is actually a decision one can make.

When all is said and done, we want to enjoy our work and we want to be free to be ourselves. When our career decisions are motivated by our passions and not held back by insecurities or fear, we might just be on the right track for happy and rewarding future, and one that’s free of regret.

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Do you regret any of your past career decisions? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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