Playing it safe? 10 career moves people regret

It's never too late for employees to make bold decisions

Playing it safe? 10 career moves people regret

With most people spending a third of their lives in the workplace, making a bad career decision isn’t something they’ll just ponder on – it’s a reality many of them will live to regret.

From failing to build a professional network to playing it safe and not taking more chances at work, regret and self-doubt can take on many forms. The repercussions, however, are almost always the same: they tend to limit an employee’s potential for success. 

READ MORE: Thinking of taking a career break?

In a survey of more than 1,000 people, career advice website Zety examined the notion of career regret, and identified the 10 biggest disappointments people carry around for most of their life:

Top 10 career regrets

  1. Not taking more initiative
  2. Not having enough mentorship or guidance
  3. Playing it safe or not taking more chances
  4. Not maintaining their network
  5. Not quitting a job they disliked sooner
  6. Not negotiating hard enough for raises
  7. Not focusing enough on advancing their career
  8. Not networking enough
  9. Not negotiating a higher starting salary
  10. Not working harder in school

Only 2% claimed they had no regrets. For the majority, however, differences in job dissatisfaction came down to how female and male employees experienced the workplace differently:

Top 3 career regrets women have more than men

  1. Not speaking up about a problem at work (34%)
  2. Not negotiating a higher starting salary (32%)
  3. Working in a field where they don’t make enough money (30%)

Top 3 career regrets men have more than women

  1. Not working harder (28%)
  2. Not maintaining their network (20%)
  3. Not taking more initiative (15%)

All in all, nearly four in five respondents (78%) said they wished they had taken more calculated risks such as pursuing their passion.

Top 10 career risks people wish they had taken

  1. Pursuing a passion (28%)
  2. Negotiating a higher starting salary (26%)
  3. Negotiating for a raise (24%)
  4. Going back to school (21%)
  5. Starting a business (20%)
  6. Changing fields or industries (16%)
  7. Speaking up about a problem at work (12%)
  8. Choosing a challenging profession or field (12%)
  9. Quitting a job they disliked (12%)
  10. Moving for work (12%)

But is it too late in the game to make life-changing career decisions? Not yet, according to 52% of respondents.

“A career can be a winding road, and no two journeys look the same,” said Bart Turczynski, editor-in-chief of Zety.

“Over half of respondents felt it was not too late for them to make the career changes they’ve been dreaming of,” he said. “While the under-25 crowd felt the strongest about their potential, each demographic had a glimmer of hope in their hearts to some degree.”

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