Work is hard. Choosing what you want to do for the rest of your life at 18 is unbelievably hard. Sometimes people make mistakes and sometimes people just don't have any clue and both are okay. All we can try and do is learn from our experiences and hopefully learn from others' experiences.
So, I did a post a while back where people 30+ shared their career regrets. The insight people were giving was amazing. So much so, even more members of the BuzzFeed Community wanted to chime in with their experiences and advice. Here's what they had to say:
1."I studied to be a teacher; both my bachelor's and master's are 100% teaching-related, and when I decided I was too burned out to continue, it was really hard to find a different job, but I was able to. I'm now at a 'boring' office job, doing something basically meaningless (supporting sales at the backend), and I absolutely love it."
2."I am 49 and hate my career, but I also have a good group of co-workers, and we all help each other out as much as we can, and I like that I now earn enough to save for retirement some day. Hating my career got me really motivated to learn about personal finance."
"Even when I was just starting out and had no extra money to save, I still read the books about it and made a plan for the first promotion I got. It's been slow and steady progress (too slow), but I'm thinking I might actually be able to retire at 60. I wish I had been able to figure out how to switch careers to something I love, but the only job I ever really enjoyed was waitressing, and that did not pay the bills."
3."I was lucky in the sense that I got a full scholarship to a private art school. While I had no debt, I also had no way to earn a stable living. Everyone who is in a corporate job wants to ‘follow their heart and do something creative.' That is worse than a corporate job with benefits. You always have a client or a director that has a vision you must serve, especially if you are working in film or theater."
4."You don't have to keep 'climbing the corporate ladder.' If you like middle management or lower, have job satisfaction, and are able to maintain your ideal work-life balance, don't let yourself be shamed into higher positions. I regret not being a 'fake it till you make it' person much earlier on. It works in your favor more often than not."
5."I regret going to college. I grew up in the whole 'go to college or you'll get stuck working at McDonald's for the rest of your life' era. What 18-year-old knows what to do with their life? It's so unfair."
6."Not seeking out more women for career advice or mentorship. I have had mostly men as bosses and leaders, and early in my career, I considered them to be my mentors and coaches. Some of the guidance they provided was really great, but looking back, most of the advice I ended up taking probably hurt my situation more than it helped."
"I don’t think it was intentional or malicious; I think it was because many men in corporate business have had a different experience simply because they are men. There are different privileges and expectations, and some of their advice just did not work out for me the way it did for them. I have worked to seek out and build relationships with more women leaders, and when I do need advice or mentoring, I ask several people for their advice and make sure I ask a couple of women mentors for their perspective."
7."I regret going to university right out of high school without a clear understanding of why I was going. I bounced around random courses to get my BA, but beyond graduating, I didn’t really have an end goal, and I think I’d have gotten way more out of my education and the whole experience if I’d waited."
8."I regret that I listened to a few shipmates who were about to leave the Navy when it came to career choices. I was going to be a boatswain's mate. If I went that route, I'd be on my way to becoming a chief petty officer in less than 20 years. Instead, I've spent seven years as an aviation boatswain's mate, a catapult operator, and it was the longest seven years of my life."
9."Confusing my self-worth and identity with my jobs. I made many career choices based on the ego of my title or position. I ended up miserable with my daily tasks and developed crushing anxiety. I'm still trying to recover from it all and learning to accept a good job that gives me a work-life balance but isn't prestigious. We are not our jobs, and we shouldn't put those expectations on ourselves."
10."I realized that my career path was killing me in my mid-20's and finally went back to university in my 30's. It was the best choice I ever made. Never feel like you have to stick with what you chose at 16. Your frontal cortex and executive functioning skills are nowhere near developed at that age, and they expect us to plan our entire lives."
"Changing your mind and retraining later in life can make a world of difference if you have the chance and ability to do so. If going back to school isn't an option, it's still worth looking outside of your field for a career change — people underestimate transferable skills!"
11."I worked for years at my parents' business, up until we closed it down for COVID when I was 30. I always felt stuck there, never going out and seeing what I wanted to do as a job or career. Now I am 33, and I have no clue what to do as a career."
12."I regret letting my ex decide my fate. I should have divorced him when he decided he wanted a 'low-stress job.' His choices meant I was stuck at a toxic job for over 20 years; I will never own a home because he wanted to rent it; and my retirement will probably be a financial nightmare."
13."I regret doing something I'm passionate about, but that doesn't pay enough. I have a partner with a good-paying job, but I don't love that I'm reliant on him for the lifestyle that I want to give myself. Plus, the world is burning, so all my hard work feels useless a lot of the time."
14."I regret getting comfortable in a career that tends to be cyclical. I got sucked into the (relatively) easy money of finance, but thanks to the government's aggressive fight against inflation, interest rates have decimated the industry. I'm still working, but for much less pay."
"There isn't anything I can do related to this field where I could start my own business. So I wish I had gone to graduate school and done something entirely different. I still might do that."
And finally, here's one that really hits home for me. If you love the fine arts, do it. Pursue it and change the world with your beautiful art, no matter what anyone tells you:
15."I regret going into pre-med instead of music just because my mom wanted that path for me to have something to brag about with her friends. It poisoned my mind into thinking that was a smarter route. I was 17; what did I know? When she told me that I wasn't good enough to go into a fine arts career (even though literally everyone else in my life told me I was), I believed her."
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.
Are you 30+ and want to share your story about your career regrets? Let me know in the comments.