Career regret – Half of all workers regret their career path

by | Career

Career regret – Are you one of them?

A survey (of 2,000 workers) has found that half of all Britons are unhappy at work and believe they made a mistake over their career choice.
This sounds like a lot, but as a psychologist I want to ask questions about the questions and the survey methodology. It’s like asking us if we are happy with our weight, probably 80% would say they would like to be 5-7 pounds lighter, and that’s certainly doable in a month, but how many people act to lose the weight?

Career regret – I think this headlining doesn’t necessarily lead on from the first sentence. Just because someone says they are unhappy in their work; it doesn’t mean that they regret their career path. It could be the right job but the wrong organisation, or the job now isn’t working for them.

I have a client (let’s call her Eve) who loved the international travel element of her job, but this has now expanded from 5 days a month to most of the time, with about 5 days a month back in the UK. She’s now engaged and planning to get married soon so wants a job that will allow her a more conventional working life.

She’s senior so she may be able to suggest changes and that’s an area we have been working on, developing a business case for why the changes we’ve considered will work. It involves making use of technology but also developing a more junior member of staff, who would love the travel and she can take a more mentoring role.

Career regret – The survey included that members of the legal profession are the unhappiest.
That sounds about right, I work with more unhappy lawyers than any other profession. I think it’s because its seen as a great job, with high status and parents love their son/daughter to move into this area. But young people haven’t always properly thought what the job is like and the impact it can have on a work life balance. They can often find the high targets for billable hours hard to reach.

My ex-lawyer clients have moved to jobs such as law recruitment, NHS manager, management consultancy, golf pro, small business owner and running a stable. Others have retrained – one to accountancy, another into medicine.

Career regret – The survey said that 49% are considering changing jobs.
This may be a general underlying feeling that there must be something better rather than acting to make a move. Its back to the comparison with thinking of losing weight.

Career regret – So, what do you do if you feel this way?
If you do feel unhappy at work, and are considering changing jobs you need to get really clear about why you feel this way.

It can be helpful to list all the reasons you are dissatisfied at work.

Is it the content of the job, relationship with boss, colleagues and customers, something to do with the working environment such as location or travel to work distance?

Maybe there is no scope for promotion and you feel stale?

Career regret – It’s important to understand why you feel like you do.

You then need to decide what you are going to do about it?
Sometimes the benefits outweigh the negatives and that keeps you there. My client (Eve) now hates the travel but loves the high income and share options, and she spends up to the salary she’s on. Is she willing to take a drop in salary, one of the things we discuss in our sessions?

You also need to think about how much time you will have to look for a new job. Some of my clients are so busy that they can’t even find the time to do an hour’s prep work for me, so how will they properly research a new job?

Time is available, we can all be stricter with the time we spend on work tasks, on using the internet, watching TV, and we can get up earlier. But we should be prepared to make sacrifices for the prize of a great new job.

Career regret – And what will you do?

There are so many potential jobs out there, but you may feel constrained by your CV, you may feel you should do more of the same, or a job that is the most obvious step from where you are now.

Talk to a recruitment consultant and they are likely to want you to do something similar, you’ll be easier to place.

Talk to family and friends and you will be subject to their biases and, probably, limited view of the options.

Dream jobs

The study also said that many would like to run a cafe or B&B, become a novelist or run a bar, 70% also said they would consider working for themselves.

These sound more like dreams rather then something decided based on a proper analysis. Its great if you have the money to set up a cafe etc. but before making this move you might like to road test it.

I’ve spoken with another client who wanted to set up a tea shop as she likes making cakes, but there’s more to a tea shop than baking and I suggested she got a job in a cafe to see what she thought about the work, and she would also get more knowledgeable about stock rotation, ordering and so much more.

Working with a career professional can help if you have career regret

I spend a lot of time keeping up with new trends both in more sophisticated use of social media for job search, but also in keeping up to date with changes in the employment market.

I still do occasional recruitment assignments so I can check how well a client will measure up.

Plus, there are so many options and we need to unpick your CV, consider all your strengths and talents. Often to use ability testing to understand strengths you may not be aware of.

This expands your knowledge of options, allowing you to properly explore.

Definitely one option is to move elsewhere, but if you look around and everything feels impossible.

You need someone to challenge your crooked thinking and to help you to see the ways you can make the move. Yes, sometimes it can be challenging, sometimes you need to take an interim step, and there may be a drop in salary, but not always and it can be possible to make a quite radical change, as long as you are crystal clear as to how you measure up and what you offer that is different to the more traditional type applicants.

I help some clients do this, but not all are willing to focus deeply on the preparation they need to do to be a credible candidate.

I like to unpick articles and I hope this has been helpful for you.

As always if this has promoted any questions feel free to make a comment, or to get in touch if your question is more personal.

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