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by Rob Porter | March 28, 2024


Have you ever looked back on a moment in your career and wished you had done things just a little differently? During reflective moments, we often imagine alternative outcomes to past situations based on decisions we wished we made in hindsight. These thoughts can lead to regret, which will cause all kinds of other problems down the road. Today we’re going to show you how to deal with and overcome career regrets. Let’s begin.

It’s important to understand that career regrets can affect just about anyone. Having career regrets can be a fact of life, and in most cases, people will grow to regret the things they didn’t do, rather than things they’ve done. The point is, even the most successful people can dwell on past events and develop regrets. The key is learning how to turn any regrets you might have into positives. First, here is a list of some common career regrets:

  • Not asking for a raise or promotion
  • Not striking a fair work/life balance
  • Not speaking up or advocating for yourself
  • Not negotiating salary during the hiring process
  • Leaving a great job
  • Staying at a job too long
  • Being in a career you’re not passionate about
  • Not changing career paths

At one point or another, almost everyone can relate to one or more of the regrets listed above. Often, these common regrets can go hand and hand with one another. For example, not asking for a raise and failing to negotiate your salary during the hiring process might fall under not speaking up or advocating for yourself. This brings us to our first strategy in dealing with career regret.

Be Honest with Yourself

The first step to overcoming career regrets is being honest with yourself. It can be easy to lump regrets into a broad category such as “I didn’t take enough risks,” but you may not be getting to the heart of the matter. Ask yourself why you think you didn’t take enough risks—were you fearful of the unknown factors that go along with risk? Were you distracted by other aspects of your life and career?

The worst thing you can do is suppress career regrets without ever confronting them. Once you’ve identified the issue, imagine how the more experienced version of yourself might deal with a similar situation in the present. Using the above example, you might have become less fearful of the unknown over time, or perhaps you’re more accustomed to identifying opportunities, even in the fast-paced flurry of everyday life. Remember, mistakes and missteps are necessary for personal and professional improvement, and once you accept that, you can begin to move on from regrets.

Life Lessons

Once you’ve identified the source of your career regrets, it’s important that you don’t dwell on them too much or wonder about “what-ifs.” We can’t change the past, but we can use past experiences as a guide for scenarios we might face in the future. In this way, we can turn our career regrets into learning experiences—it’s all just a matter of perspective!

When looking for clarity on any issue, it can be helpful to step away from the source for some time. For career-related issues, spend less time thinking about work and make the effort to visit friends and family or engage in your hobbies. Another way to relieve stress that’s related to career regrets is to talk about it. Having conversations with trusted friends or family members can give you a new perspective or reveal life lessons that you might not have thought of.

Armed with this information, you can prepare yourself for the future. Continuing with our example about not taking risks, you may find yourself in a more stable situation in the future. Now, when faced with an opportunity that presents certain risks, you may feel more confident in facing those unknown factors, or you may carefully weigh your options and decide that the risk isn’t really worth it. Either way, you’ve used a past experience in a positive way. Indeed, this is how we turn regrets into life lessons.

Let Go of Regret

Career regret can only consume you if you let it. It can be easy to dwell on the past, especially when faced with a difficult scenario in the present. Thoughts such as “If I did that back then, I wouldn’t be dealing with this now” can greatly stifle progress. The point is, don’t let yourself fall into negative thought patterns. When you’re aware of your career regrets and you accept them as learning experiences, there will be a lot more time to focus on the positives in your life, and you’ll feel much happier.