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November 16, 2012
Coping With Career Regret
Over ten years ago, I was sitting in a job interview for a job I knew I wouldn’t like. I vividly remember thinking, “This job isn’t a fit for me.” First, my prospective boss was too much like my father (love my dad, but we would butt heads trying to work together!) and this sounds silly, but I would have to wear pantyhose for this job. And I hate pantyhose. I knew the job wasn’t a fit for me, but when they offered me the position what did I say? YES. I talked myself into it and thought I could make it work because I had to pay off my graduate school loans.

Two years later, I was getting sick often and crying in the bathroom, ready to quit. Sound familiar? We’ve all experienced some form of career regret, whether it’s in a career change or just a professional decision we wish we hadn’t made. How do we avoid, as best as we can, making those poor career choices the second time around?

Here are three basic steps to get you started:
  1. ALIGN. Match your professional goals with what is most fulfilling to you first. If you do this, you will be taking care of your priorities first and what matters most to you in your career. This will help you identify the right career goals and choices along the way. Base or define fulfillment on your career values (those things that are most rewarding or fulfilling to you at work, the “heart” piece of the equation, if you will) and your priorities (the items on your list that allow you to take care of yourself financially and otherwise. The practical elements, or the “head” piece of the equation). You must balance both to be successful. Weigh each one equally.
  2. EXPAND: Once you’ve identified what’s fulfilling to you, learn how to balance the passion with the practical when identifying career goals and appropriate actions. Start with the passion first, and dream and think BIG. If you start small, you’ll get small, so go for the gold here when identifying your goals. Practicality can limit up-front expansive thinking, so when you’re defining your goals, brainstorm with a friend so you’re really thinking outside the box. Then bring in the practical. From a practical standpoint, taking care of your bills, your health, etc., how can you implement those goals in a smart way? 
  3. RISK: So how do you know when your goals are passionate, but also practical? When do you take a professional risk and when do you sit tight? Any change or movement towards a goal requires some element of risk. You have to get used to taking those risks, mentally prepare for them (develop your risk or resilience muscle), and learn to evaluate risk. With each goal you’re evaluating, and subsequent action steps, ask yourself: Will this move me towards my goal? How so? What action steps can I take to achieve that goal? Write them all down. Then evaluate which action steps move you forward but enable you to minimize your risk and take care of the practical side. Sometimes you need to dive into the deep end of the pool; sometimes you don’t. Evaluate each risk and be strategic about your action steps.
After crying in the bathroom and trying multiple ways to improve my job, which didn’t help, I gave my notice. I didn’t have anything lined up and they thought I was crazy. But I knew I wanted to be a coach and needed to take the risk of leaving that job. I knew that doing so would move me towards my goal. And I knew I could do temp work along the way and find a way to pay my bills. I was young and more flexible in those days. Two years later, my coaching practice was taking off and I was in my dream career.

“The greatest risk in life is not taking one.” Risk is necessary to avoid career regret. The key is to minimize and manage it.

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Guest Blogger Hallie Crawford is a certified career coach and founder of HallieCrawford.com. Her team of coaches help people find their dream job and make it a reality. She is regularly featured as an expert in the media including the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and US News & World Report. Visit her website at www.HallieCrawford.com for more information about her team's career coaching services. Set up a Complimentary Career Strategy Session with Hallie Crawford to get advice on your career goals. *Mention you saw us on Talent Zoo and receive a free bonus if you purchase a product or sign up for coaching.* http://www.HallieCrawford.com
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