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As you reach the midpoint of your career, you may regret a thing or two. No, we’re not talking about that time you made an embarrassing typo on an email – or that one time you worked with an employer whom you want to forget about. We are talking about the regrets that keep you awake at night.

‘What is your biggest career regret and why?’ is a familiar interview question. It is a common job interview question that oftentimes gets side stripped by the answer 'I don't have regrets'.

But for some, it's a pinch of remorse that sends some heartaches down the memory lane of ‘what ifs’.

Everyone's list of regrets is different, depending on their personality, goals and career choices. Here’s a list of some of the common regrets professionals just like you are likely to face during the course of your work life and the best steps you can take to manage them.

biggest career regrets
biggest career regrets

top career regrets you can avoid and how to deal with it

As you read this article, take time to review your career – as well as your happiness. If you can relate to any of these regrets, then it might be time to deal with it and make some changes to your personal or professional life.

big regret 1: not following your own career path

It’s only natural for anyone to want to follow the advice of our mentors and elders whom we trust. After all, they’ve had more life experiences than us and seemed to be doing well.

But when does listening to a good piece of advice turn into following the crowd? What if we have taken a different path? Is it possible that the advice is throwing you off course, instead of placing you on the right career path?

Our career aspirations could be different from others and it is likely that we want different things from our family, friends and mentors. For example, you may have picked the same degree or diploma course as your best friend when you were younger because you didn’t want to be separated from them. However, the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired from the course may not help you get into the career that you want.

Many working professionals play it overly safe, avoiding prospects that could potentially bring them happiness for several reasons. You spend at least one-third of your adult life working, so it’s critical to find a career that you’re passionate about so that you’re more motivated to realise your true potential.

If you dread waking up in the morning for work or are not quite sure which degree or diploma course to sign up for, then take some time to review your options and choose the one that you’re most passionate about. Ideally, whatever you choose to learn or do should help fulfil your personal and professional aspirations.

big regret 2: failing to address toxic work situations well

Everyone runs into some sort of conflict in their personal and professional lives. However, many people have very unhealthy coping mechanisms for dealing with toxic situations at work. They may choose to pretend like it does not exist even though it bothers them greatly, or deal with it in an aggressive way that’s out-of-proportion with the situation.

Some work professionals actually end up resigning from their jobs because they regret how they have reacted to the situation and find it increasingly awkward to work with their colleagues.

You can’t run away from conflicts all the time, especially at work. In cases where the disagreement has escalated, you may want to sit down and address the conflict on your own or take it to your boss or the HR team if you’re unable to resolve it on your own. It’s useful to learn defusing techniques and be brave enough to stand up for what’s right.

Whichever way you choose to tackle your problems, it's the process of learning that helps us mature as a person.

However, if your work situation continues to be more and more toxic over time and you can’t seem to find a viable solution no matter how hard you try, then it’s definitely time to move on to greener pastures.

big regret 3: depriving yourself of the ‘me’ time you deserve

Let’s be honest – no one is going to look back on their lives during retirement and wish that they’d worked more. A career has the potential to get in the way of family, forging great new friendships, travelling and much more. And if we don’t practice good work-life balance by taking time for ourselves, we could risk burnout at work which would have detrimental effects on our physical and mental health.

You should never have to choose between your career and personal life. Not giving yourself the time you deserve is something that we regret deeply in the end. Make full use of your vacation time. It is given to you so that you can rest and spend quality time with your family and friends. You’re a multifaceted person, and the best route for your happiness and having a more fulfilling life is unlikely to just involve working (even if you love your job).

If your bosses are being hard on you for taking paid leave for no good reason, then you should start looking for another boss to work for.

feeling regret is normal in your career, but sometimes it’s not

Your career should give you the job satisfaction you need. Even though it is normal to feel regret, there is a point where it gets difficult to be happy about your life. It could be due to the inherent toxic work environment and culture or losing a passion in a career that you once treasured.

Career regrets can be a constant reminder of what could have been but you also need to remind yourself that regrets can be forgotten. That’s when you move on and give your life the refresh it needs.

regretting career choice
regretting career choice

At Randstad, we provide a range of specialised recruitment and career consulting services. We share a common goal of finding you a fulfilling job that best matches your interests, goals and skills. If you dread going to work and are more motivated to seek a new job opportunity, then take a bold step and apply for a job

If you’re considering switching careers or looking for a new job, download our digital career guide for tips and tricks on how to create an eye-catching resume.

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