No regrets. A great mantra to live by. Yet, as we all know, it’s easier said than done. If we’re truly honest with ourselves, we all have some career regrets. Leadership challenges that we would have handled differently. A job offer we should have taken (or not taken). We can’t turn back the clock but we can use these to learn …and grow.
Like everyone else, I have some career regrets as well. Ok, maybe ‘regrets’ is too strong a word. I think of them more as ‘things I would have done differently’ now that I’m older and wiser. Conversely, if you stay with me till the end of the article (which I sincerely hope you do), I’ve also listed 3 things I’m so glad I did for my career.
So, here’s what I would have done differently …
I would have taken better care of myself
We all do it. Work relentlessly to build our careers. Foolishly believe that without us leading the charge, the world would grind to a halt. No project would ever finish on time…much less be brilliantly executed….as only we can do. Sound familiar ?
But working 50, 60 hrs a week without minding your physical and mental wellbeing eventually catches up to you. If you ignore the early warning signs, your body will find a way of showing how perilously close you are to the edge.
In my case, I would quite literally ‘hit the wall’. Like clockwork, it would happen once or twice a year. A relatively minor flu bug would knock me over like a feather. I’d emerge from my walking zombie state only after several days of unavoidable bed rest. So if I were to do it all over again … my physical and mental wellbeing would be at the top of my priority list.
I would have looked up more often to be inspired outside of work
There wasn’t a shortage of invitations to attend conferences or talks … or even networking events. Yet every time I considered going, I saw it as taking time away from work that had to be done.
Sure, I did go to some and there was plenty of inspiration from within the company. But I often wonder what new ideas would have sparked if I had taken more time to look up and step outside my regular environment.
I would have asked for help more often
When we step up into a bigger role; it’s natural to feel a little bit out of our depths in certain areas. But it’s hard to admit. After all, we don’t want to look as if we don’t know what we’re doing.
So we do as best we can, learning along the way, as our stress and anxiety sky rockets. I know now that I would have done myself a favour by swallowing my pride and asking for some extra coaching or mentoring to accelerate my learning curve. Hindsight as they say is 20/20 – ain’t that the truth !
I would not let my identity be so wrapped up with my job title
This is a big one. And something I didn’t realise until I left my corporate career and was figuring out what I wanted to do next. You are not your job. And you are certainly not your job title.
Figuring out what you stand for, what matters to you, how you’d like to contribute and make a difference …. regardless of your job title ..… will increase your resilience and leadership agility as roles change rapidly in today’s business environment.
On the flip side, here are the 3 things I would do all over again –
I’m so glad I went overseas to work. I cannot encourage this enough. If you have the opportunity to work abroad, take it. It will open your mind and you will leap frog ahead in your growth and learning.
I’m so glad I stepped up to take on bigger roles. No matter how terrified I was at that point. Put your hand up for bigger projects especially if it leverages your strengths. Have the self belief that you are good enough…. and get support to speed up your learning curve.
I’m so glad I took the ownership to direct my own career path. Be clear about what you want (and don’t want). Make your career goals your own ….not what you think you should be aiming for. The average person is expected to spend 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. That is reason enough to own managing your own career.
Much has been written about the most common career regrets. But I think what matters most is what you wished you had done differently ….. and how you will apply that learning going forward.
What are your “I would have done differently’’ or “I’m so glad I …” ?
I would love to hear your thoughts.