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Women and men have different career regrets

Woman in shadow holding head down

From failing to negotiate for a higher salary to staying at a job too long, nearly everyone wishes for a career do-over or two — and women have different regrets than men do, according to a recent survey by Zety, an online resume builder.

Nearly all of the 1,011 survey respondents — 98 percent — reported having career regrets.

Among all participants, the top regrets were:

  1. Not taking more initiative
  2. Not having enough mentorship or guidance
  3. Playing it safe or 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 hard enough in school

While some job-related regrets are common across the board, women more often reported regretting not speaking up about a problem at work, not negotiating a higher starting salary and working in a field where they don’t make enough money.

“In the #MeToo era, the topic of women finding their voice has come up time and time again, and women feeling unheard and outright ignored in the workplace is just one of the many concerns raised,” noted Zety’s Bart Turczynski. “Having learned that men who speak up at work can quickly climb the leadership ladder, while women who do the same are brushed off, it’s no surprise that female respondents self-censored at such a high rate.”

The top three regrets cited more frequently by men than women were not working harder, not maintaining their network and not taking more initiative.

Nearly 80 percent of the respondents said they wish they had taken more risks in their careers. The top 10 risks they regretted not taking are:

  1. Pursuing a passion
  2. Negotiating a higher starting salary
  3. Negotiating for a raise
  4. Going back to school
  5. Starting a business
  6. Changing fields or industries
  7. Speaking up about a problem at work
  8. Choosing a challenging profession or field
  9. Quitting a job I dislike
  10. Moving for work

More often than men, women cited negotiating a raise and negotiating a higher starting salary as risks they should have taken. Men regretted not joining a startup or starting their own business much more frequently than women.

The good news — for women and men — is the majority of respondents felt it was not too late to make changes in their careers.