This is main regret most people have about their careers

Shouldn’t have quit that job in a huff back in 2010? Regret that year of freelancing and all the money lost? We all make mistakes. Zety conducted an online survey 1,000 people about career regrets.

The number one career regret was “Not taking enough initiative,” and all the regrets that followed it seemed to flow from that same theme – not putting in the effort where it was needed, not taking action sooner, not working at something that would pay off later. To wit:

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

Everyone, everyone would have done something differently over the course of their career: only 2% had zero career regrets.

But would this list of regrets look different depending on whether you’re a man or a woman? Of course, it would!

Perhaps not surprisingly, the top three regrets for men and for women are completely different. Interestingly, the second two items for women dealt with money.

Do you wish you’d taken more career risks?

The answer is a resounding “Yes” from the respondents.

  • 78% saying “Yes” to more career risks
  • 22% responded “No”

The biggest risk people wish they would have taken? Pursuing a passion (28%). Other coulda-wouldas include going back to school (21%), starting a business (20%), and changing fields or industries (16%).

Those who took the leap

Then there are those who took those career risks. How did it work out – and how did they feel about it?

Of the people who took the risks – not especially high in numbers, except for those who quit jobs they didn’t like – things turned out pretty great for them.

Although only 23% pursued a passion, 84% said they didn’t regret it.

Although only 21% started a business, 78% said they regretted nothing.

While only 27% went back to school, 85% said they wouldn’t take back a thing.

And the risk with the best payoff was negotiating a higher raise. While only 34% asked for more, 87% walked away happy.

Lessons learned – take the chance

While “taking more initiative” – the thing that most employees wish they do more of – is all fine and good – the action with the biggest payoff is taking risks. (Calculated, of course). Plan one for this quarter and see what happens.