+44(0) 113 322 9234

Using Executive Coaching and Mentoring – Top 5 career regrets

1. I wish I hadn't taken the job for the money. By far the biggest regret of all came from those who opted into high-paying but ultimately dissatisfying careers. Classic research proves that compensation is a "hygiene" factor, not a true motivator. What was surprising, though, were the feelings of helplessness these individuals were facing. Lamented one investment banker, "I dream of quitting every day, but I have too many commitments." Another consultant said, "I'd love to leave the stress behind, but I don't think I'd be good at anything else." Whoever called them golden handcuffs wasn't joking.

 

2. I wish I had quit earlier. Almost uniformly, those who had actually quit their jobs to pursue their passions wished they had done so earlier. Variable reinforcement schedules prevalent in large corporations, the visibility of social media, and the desire to log incremental gains are three reasons that the 80% of people dissatisfied with their jobs don't quit when they know they should. Said one sales executive, "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. As their personal finances shored up, professionals I surveyed yearned for more control over their lives. The logical answer? To become an owner, not an employee in someone else's company. But in the words of Artful Dodger, wanting it isn’t enough. A recent study found that 70% of workers wished their current job would help them with starting a business in the future, yet only 15% said they had what it takes to actually venture out on their own. Even Fortune 500 CEOs dream of entrepreneurial freedom. Admitted one: "My biggest regret is that I'm a 'wantrepreneur.' I never got to prove myself by starting something from scratch."

 

4. I wish I had used my time at school more productively. Despite all the controversy currently surrounding student loans, roughly 86% of students still view college as a worthwhile investment. This is reflected in the growing popularity of college: In writing Passion & Purpose, my co-authors and I found that 54% of Millennials have college degrees, compared to 36% of Boomers. Although more students are attending college, many of the group's participants wished they had thoughtfully parlayed their school years into a truly rewarding first job. A biology researcher recounted her college experience as being "in a ridiculous hurry to complete what in hindsight were the best and most delightfully unstructured years of my life." After starting a family and signing up for a mortgage, many were unable to carve out the space to return to school for advanced study to reset their careers.

 

5. I wish I had acted on my career hunches. Several individuals recounted windows of opportunity in their careers, or as one professional described, "now-or-never moments." In 2005, an investment banker was asked to lead a small team in (now) rapidly growing Latin America. Sensing that the move might be an upward step, he still declined. Crushingly, the individual brave enough to accept the offer was promoted shortly to division head, then to CEO. Recent theories of psychology articulate the importance of identifying these sometimes unpredictable but potentially rewarding moments, and jumping on these opportunities to non-linearly advance your professional life.

 

Far from being suppressed, career regrets should hold a privileged place in your emotional repertoire. Research that regret can be a powerful catalyst for change, far outweighing the short-term emotional downsides. As famed psychologist Dr. Neal Roese recently stated, "On average, regret is a helpful emotion." It can even be an inspiring one. But it means that we must articulate and celebrate our disappointments, understanding that it's our capacity to experience regret deeply, and learn from it constructively to ultimately frame our future success.

 

Taken from an article by Daniel Gulati

Suzanna Prout