We all have regrets in life. Regret after eating those tacos at 11:30 last night. Regret over not asking that perfect person on a date back in college. Your career isn’t immune to that same level of “what if?”, but by identifying some common areas of potential regret, you might be able to change your professional destiny a bit.
1. Playing it too safe
Did you avoid asking for a promotion because your manager might say no? Have you waited for colleagues to speak up with their ideas because you weren’t sure how yours would be received? Being bold and taking a risk (or a stand) once in a while can lead you to workplace opportunities you might never have noticed otherwise.
2. Staying for the money
A large salary can be hard thing to walk away from—but if you think about your current career path and the biggest (or only) positive is your paycheck, you might want to reconsider. Without the fulfillment of a job that challenges you and makes you greet projects with enthusiasm, your 20-years-from-now self will likely be stressed and unhappy.
3. Staying for the friends
As with the money, if your awesome colleagues are the only reason you’re excited to head into the office in the morning, you might want to rethink your job. Sure, the friendly chats, goofy emails, and bonding over office absurdities can get you through the day, but don’t let that cover up your relationship with your job.
If you’re not satisfied with your day-to-day workload or the way you’re managed, friends may not make up for that in the long term. And what happens when your buddies move on to other jobs and opportunities, leaving you behind at a job you don’t especially like?
4. Not making an effort with your coworkers
On the flip side, we’ve all seen coworkers who have zero interest in being one of the gang. If you’re that coworker (you know, the one who wears headphones 24/7 or awkwardly avoids small talk at the espresso machine), you might want to reach out a little more and get to know your colleagues.
You don’t have to go to every happy hour, or “like” everything they post on Facebook. But you spend many hours a week with these people. You all share a common goal (workplace success), and knowing people’s personalities and strengths can help make your own work more effective. Besides, a little bonding can help you get through those tough projects and long days together.
5. Not maintaining your network
Remember whatsherface, whose cubicle was across from yours six years ago? Well, now she works for your dream company, and she could totally get you a foot in the door—if only you had maintained a relationship.
Once you start at a new job, “out of sight, out of mind” can be tempting as you meet new colleagues and learn a new workplace culture. However, keeping in touch with your former colleagues and mentors can help you build a large and fruitful network as you move through your career. You never know when you’ll be perfect for an opening at your old boss’s new company… but you’ll definitely never know if you haven’t bothered to email him since your last day together in the office.
6. Neglecting work-life balance
If you go to a colleague’s retirement party and ask them to reflect on their long career, you know what you’re not going to hear? “I wish I’d worked more 14-hour days.” Whether that means leaving the office on time, not answering emails after 9 p.m., or just making sure you take a lunch break, it’s important to maintain boundaries.
Working (or thinking about working) all the time can lead to stress and burnout. Making sure you’re able to devote time to your family (or to your longtime hobby of knitting sweaters for cats) can help you get the balance you need to be productive and satisfied throughout your career.