Yikes! 7 Career Choices You Will Regret 20 Years Later

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7 Career Choices You Will Regret 20 Years Later


Don’t you wish they were in black and white? Unfortunately, in the real world, making a career decision that has long-term implications is mostly grey territory. Should you take up the campus interview offer or chuck it in favour of starting a venture of your own? What works today may be obsolete tomorrow and the other way around. However, there are some choices often taken by impulse, that seem harmless on the surface, but turn out to be the ones that mess with your career’s trajectory.

Here are some examples of these choices that you may come to regret 20 years down the line.

1. Working only for the money

The age-old adage says, ‘Keep your eyes on the money, the rest will follow.’ But when it comes to your career, this may prove to be detrimental. More money does not necessarily equal a happier job.

Of course, it is important to earn a figure that gives you a comfortable standard of living but when you focus solely on the financial aspect, you lose track of the other equally important components of a career like an exciting work profile, job satisfaction, opportunity to learn, collaborate with like-minded peers and mentor subordinates. Without these, you only end up with a skewed vision of how your career should shape up.

Also, flitting from job to job just for a raise seems fine in the present but it ends up looking unstable on your resume 20 years on, when you are up for a senior role.

Keep an eye out for the following:

  • Talking about compensation with the recruiter or with the company representative during the first round of the interview: This shows you are more focused on the money than the role.
  • Refusing the job only because of the perks or how much you make: While how much you make is a fair reason to not take up a role, do think about long-term implications of a job. Are you being offered training abroad? Is there a well-defined career path?
  • Quitting because someone offers you a 20% hike on your current salary: 20% hike now and 1% from there on, isn’t great mathematics. So, think hard before making a jump just on salary.

2. Not taking enough risks

You are a mid-level finance executive, one among dozens in a huge organisation. The pay is good; work is standard. An unknown young entrepreneur with a bright idea for a startup offers you the CFO’s post. What do you do?

Sometimes, taking a calculated risk pegs you ahead of the curve. The challenge of creating things from a scratch, working against the tide and building a team are priceless lessons that will keep you in good stead for the future irrespective of how the company fares.

Who knows? That young startup may turn out to be tomorrow’s Facebook. Dabble in e-commerce, flirt a little with academics, give that cryptocurrency analyst offer a go. Say yes when you get an offer to relocate to China. You might regret not taking a risk when you had a chance and rue being stuck in a job that offers only linear growth.

Keep an eye out for the following:

  • Opportunities that take you out of your comfort zone: New job scope, new geography, new team members? Say yes sometimes. Especially, when you are early on in your career.
  • Mentorship opportunities: Learn from experienced people in your field. If someone offers to mentor you, jump right in and accept the offer.

3. Not updating oneself

Unfortunately, this happens to the best in the business. Working for a significant period of time in the industry often makes you lax. You begin to take things for granted and fail to update yourself on the changing business environment. Markets crash, technology gets overhauled, management change, companies get acquired, buyer preferences change. Most of these developments happen gradually. Reading trade publications, signing up for short courses and following latest industry trends will help you keep abreast.

Today’s top job may not even exist 20 years later. Adding to your skillset is not a matter of choice anymore. If you haven’t been in sync with the changes, you may find yourself in tricky footing in the future.

Keep an eye out for the following:

  • Enrol in government initiatives like Skillsfuture. Speak to your employers about new initiatives like these that the government might offer at no extra cost to them.
  • Take free online courses: Coursera, EdX, Open Culture are some forums that offer online courses. Make time and enrol in these programmes.

3. Not networking enough

You may be a workaholic. Spending long hours holed up in your cubicle, crunching numbers and preparing bulky reports for your clients. This bodes well during appraisals but as a long-term strategy, this does more harm than good.

As you move up the pecking order, the expectations from you, as a managerial level employee is not just the numbers you compute, but the perspective as well. Networking is the best way to develop one.

Signing up for business seminars and workshops may seem pointless at times but the opportunity to interact with peers and industry captains should not be missed. Meet people from different walks of life– an ex-tv star, a senior hedge fund manager, the CEO of a family business, a coding whiz kid. Introduce yourself to the HR head of your competing firm. Different contacts mean different opportunities. Networking helps you develop a circle you can counsel with during a crisis. Without this, you may struggle to bounce back quickly.

Keep an eye out for the following:

  • Speaking opportunities to project you as a thought leader: If you enjoy speaking at company events, look out for opportunities to participate and interact at industry events too. This way you also understand closely what the competition is doing too.

4. Choosing brand name over job profile

Working for a renowned employer is great, as long as it complements your working style and future aspirations. A big brand may add glitter to your resume and open a few doors for you, but that adds up to nil if you have been nothing more than a cog in a vast machine. Working with a big brand doesn’t mean a bigger paycheck, nor does it automatically mean a better work environment.

Building a career is a gradual process and choosing a job on the merit of its profile over merely a brand name is bound to be more rewarding. If you are an out-of-the-box thinker, eager to suggest innovative ideas to your bosses, you may find little to no response. Big organisations have rigid structures and are averse to change.

If you still continue to stick with a company due to the ‘brand’ factor, you may lose a great opportunity to work with an emerging firm where you could see your innovations come to life.

Keep an eye out for the following:

  • Glassdoor reviews: Before you join a company or team, it is always best to know how best the company has been reviewed.

5. Letting emotions overtake logic

Spending crazy long hours at the office, taking office calls on weekends, having odd shift timings to serve international clients, coping with punishing deadlines – work life can be a real pain at times. Pit people of different temperaments and backgrounds in the same project and there are bound to be clashes.

As a professional, it becomes imperative that you keep your cool and take an impassive view when things get heated up. It is not easy, of course. It is but natural to feel the pressure when things don’t go according to plan but using harsh words, getting into altercations, and adding fuel to conflicts only makes it worse. No one comes off better in a negative environment, not even the person who thinks he made his point.

Losing the respect of colleagues, earning a reputation for being a hot-head, just for a simple difference of opinion, is something you might deeply regret later.

Keep an eye out for the following:

  • If you are frequently quitting because of your boss: One big reason people leave is because of bad management. However, if that is becoming a trend in your case, you may want to study it more carefully.

6. Being paranoid

Age and wage are two things you are told never to ask anyone. And what good advice it is! Comparing someone else’s career path to yours is akin to committing emotional harakiri. Getting worked up over issues like bonus, employee perks, promotions, office space etc. dramatically brings down your energy levels.

Always keep an alert eye on the growth of your company but don’t let it become an obsession. Share prices fall and rise again. By getting paranoid over external factors on which you have little control, you might disrupt your work-life balance which might ultimately affect your productivity and growth prospects.

Keep an eye out for the following:

  • Need for holidays and sabbaticals: Take a look at your annual calendar and ensure you’ve taken enough days off. If you are piling up your leaves, you aren’t doing anyone a favour.
  • You are quitting because of a higher designation: Again. Designations don’t mean a good job role, career longevity or an exciting role. Don’t succumb to peer pressure and take up a role based on designation alone.



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