What Are People’s Biggest Career Regrets?

career regrets

Have you ever started a new job, but then immediately regretted it? You may have even wished you could get your old job back.

Or maybe you regret the time you let an interesting opportunity pass you by because you didn’t want to leave the comfort of your current job.

Do you ever wonder if you’d be further along in your career if you had only fought for the promotion you thought you deserved a few years ago?

If you have a regret about your career, you’re not alone. A recent survey recently revealed that 66% of respondents have work-related regrets.

Top 5 Career Regrets

Let’s look at some of the most common career regrets people have and the lessons that can be learned from them.

1. Not asking for a pay raise

The most common career regret that people have is not asking for a pay raise when they feel they deserve one.

Some people work for years feeling undervalued and underpaid, and it’s just not necessary. A whopping 70% of people who have asked for a salary increase have received one, even if it’s not as much as an increase they wanted. Studies show that people who ask for a raise will get at least a 3% bump in pay.

Lesson learned: If you feel you deserve a pay raise, then definitely ask for one. But before you go busting down your boss’s office door, be sure to check out our article “How to Ask for a Pay Raise” for tips to help increase your chance of success. 

2. Choosing money over happiness

career regrets

While many people may regret not asking for more money, there are also those workers who regret choosing higher salaries over their own happiness or well-being.

Almost 70% of those earning $250,000 or more annually report feeling stressed out due to work, compared to just 38% of those making between $50,000 and $75,000 annually.

The stress that high-income earners feel can negatively impact their sleep habits and physical health. This is becoming so common that many high-income earners are willing to take a smaller paycheck if it means they can reduce their work-related stress.

Lesson learned: It can be hard to resist a large paycheck, but be sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before you do so. Understand what your employer is expecting from you in exchange for a generous salary.

If the high salary comes with unrealistic expectations or the list of job demands fills you with anxiety, then it’s best to look for something less lucrative, but also less stressful.

If you do decide to pursue a job with less stress and a lower paycheck, then here are a few ways to help make your salary go further.

3. Not prioritizing work-life balance

Fifty-nine percent of people say that they regret not prioritizing work-life balance.

Increasing employer demands and advanced work-from-home technology means that workers are finding it increasingly difficult to separate their home life from their work life. About 80% of workers say that stress at work is negatively impacting their relationships at home.

Lesson learned: Achieving and maintaining work-life balance is all about setting clear boundaries between work life and home life. Here are a few tips to help you do just that:

  • Decide when work is done for the day. For example, you may decide that at 6:00 p.m., you’ll shut down your computer and not answer any work-related emails or texts.
  • Don’t leave family fun to chance. Make plans ahead of time to go on hikes, visit amusement parks, or even plan simple movie nights at home. Adding these activities to your calendar will increase the chance that you follow through.
  • Stay focused on your marriage. Scheduling date nights away from the kids is important to keeping your marriage strong. Small daily rituals like chatting before bed or having coffee together in the morning can go a long way in keeping you connected to your spouse.
  • Take care of yourself. Make sure you’re taking time to exercise, meet with friends, read, and pursue hobbies that are important to you.
  • Use your PTO. Use all the personal time off that you are entitled to each year. Even if you don’t want to go away for a vacation, a week-long “stay-cation” can be a wonderful way for you to recharge your batteries.


4. Staying at a job too long

career regrets

When you’re cruising along in your career, it can be tempting to stay the course, and make no sudden moves. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

While we can certainly appreciate the appeal of feeling confident and comfortable in your job, it’s also worth asking yourself “Am I too comfortable?

Staying with the same employer for too long could mean that you are missing out on opportunities to learn new software, grow your network, and gain relevant skills that could propel your career forward in ways you wouldn’t have thought possible.

Plus, the longer you stay at any one company, the more likely your salary will stagnate. No matter how you slice it, the fastest way to give your salary a boost is to find a new employer.

Lesson learned: If you’ve been at the same employer for five to seven years, you owe it to yourself to see what’s out there. Update your resume, brush up on your interviewing skills, and apply to jobs that catch your interest. You never know what you’ll come across.

5. Neglecting Your Network

Your network includes the people you’ve met during internships, at conferences, and while going to school or working. These are the people you’ll turn to (and who will turn to you) for referrals, references, job leads, career advice, and more. In fact, up to 70% of employees received their current position through their network.

However, many of us can be guilty of ignoring our network at times. We all may have hundreds of connections on LinkedIn, but what good is that doing us if we’re not actively reaching out to them?

Lesson learned: Creating an active network begins with you. Start by commenting on posts made by members of your LinkedIn network. If someone in your network is looking for a job, a resource, or advice, then step up to help.   

Also, remember that networking isn’t just about LinkedIn. Make a point to attend industry conferences and networking events to help grow your network. When you’ve met someone interesting, be sure to follow up with them shortly after the conference. Ask them to meet you for coffee or lunch to continue the conversation.

Do You Have Career Regrets?

career regrets

If you’ve been working for any amount of time, then you certainly have one or two career regrets in your past. Feel free to share your career regrets in the comments section below. But also share the lessons you learned from your experiences.

When it comes to work-related regrets, try not to get caught up in what could have been. Rather, ask yourself what you can learn from these regrets and how to make more positive choices in the future.

One choice you will never regret is hiring Empire Resume to create a winning resume for you. Our resume experts are standing by ready to help you land your dream job! Contact Empire Resume.

Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.

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