What if You Regret a Career Change?

Changing careers is a big decision and is usually a little bit of a gamble. You are not just changing jobs but also getting into a new line of work. What if the career that you thought would propel you forward and open doors of opportunity has had the opposite effect, and you're already regretting your decision?

Key Takeaways

Changing careers is a big decision and is usually a little bit of a gamble. You are not just changing jobs but also getting into a new line of work. What if the career that you thought would propel you forward and open doors of opportunity has had the opposite effect, and you're already regretting your decision?

It's not uncommon to feel regret after making a major life-changing career commitment. The good news is that it is possible to transform this career regret into a life-enhancing transformation. How do you re-pivot if your big change has left you with more questions than answers? Read on to find out.

So, you've taken the leap, left your old job, and ventured into a new career. This new job paid more, was perhaps aligned with your life goals, and you were passionate about the new line of work. 

What was supposed to be your dream job now seems to be gradually revealing itself to be a grave mistake on your part. You find yourself panicking, you're feeling intense pangs of regret and want to go back to your old job. This sensation is known as "shift shock."

How do you decide what to do next? How can you deal with your career regret and possibly turn it into a life-changing transformation? 

Click to learn more about Unmudl and Amazon Original Course
Click to learn more about Unmudl and Amazon Original Course

Well, first of all, don't freak out. As mentioned earlier this is a common problem and working with a cool head and putting together a plan of action will help you not only resolve the problem, it will give you the confidence to deal with our current situation.

In this article, we show you how to do just that, so take a deep breath, chill and start taking notes.

Download Checklist " 10 Simple Steps to Smooth Job Change"

Regretting your career change?

Let’s first focus on why Shift Shock has become so common. Following the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2021, employees started voluntarily leaving their jobs in large numbers. In August of this year, 2.9% of the US workforce as a whole left their jobs. 

Early in August 2021, PricewaterhouseCoopers surveyed its workforce, finding that 65% of workers said they were looking for a new position and 88% of executives said their organization was dealing with higher-than-average turnover.

The most frequently cited reasons for leaving a job include wage stagnation made worse by rising living expenses, few chances for career advancement, hostile work environments, a lack of benefits, rigid policies regarding remote work, and persistent job dissatisfaction.

However, the U.S. workforce had surpassed its pre-COVID-19 pandemic size by August 2022. Since then, many American workers are taking advantage of the labor shortage to switch to careers with better pay, benefits, and schedules than their current ones.

Couple this with the fact that many potential employers are now providing paid training to entice candidates to switch to their industries because of the shortage and you have a career change en masse happening throughout America.

With so much career change happening, there are bound to be people who end up having Shift Shock because of bad career choices or simply panic while dealing with a new environment.

Unmudl Tip: Check out this excellent guide on how to afford a career change without struggling if you're concerned about your change in career and the uncertainty it brings.

What to do if you regret leaving a job?

Here are some steps you should consider to help you resolve your career change regret and turn it into a positive situation for the future.

unhappy african businessman feeling stressed and frustrated
Image by wayhomestudio on Freepik

1. Don't dive in headfirst

The first thing to do is not to panic unnecessarily. Our advice is not to jump to the conclusion that you should quit right away because it typically takes three months to adjust to a new environment.

It is a common mistake to confuse the discomfort of being unfamiliar and alienated by your new career change with disliking your job. If you're still within the first three months, your feelings of distress may simply be a result of being overwhelmed by the unfamiliarity of your new role.

Don't waste too much time second-guessing your decision and instead, resolve to get through your first quarter with an open mind. 

Decide that you're staying, at least for the first quarter, and concentrate on adjusting to your new manager, your new duties, and your new working environment. Then, see how you feel when you reach your 90-day mark, and decide again for the next quarter.

Related reading: How to Change Careers: The Ultimate Guide

2. The best strategy is to substitute "what ifs" for "should haves."

Start by expressing regret, such as "I should never have chosen finance."

To help get a fresh perspective on this regret, enlist the help of a few trusted friends or coworkers for a brainstorming session. Instead of cynical and caustic confidants, choose those who are creative and usually upbeat.

Gather as many “what if” scenarios that pertain to your regret. For example, if you had regrets about making a career change from sales to finance for better pay a “What if” question could be, “What if I did finance for a sales and marketing company?” or “What if I taught finance at a business school?”

Investigate the possibilities to generate ideas to salvage the situation. Even just that exploration will give you new life and might put you on the right track. Keep working on a possibility if you find yourself becoming enthusiastic about it.

3. You were adding to your skill set, right?

Why have thoughts of regret and returning to your previous job if you weren't developing and learning?

The best justification for a career change is to increase your knowledge and develop new skills. You do this because it is a step forward in a journey to your ultimate career goal which might be a better job with a higher salary.

This knowledge will help you accept your current situation as it is only a temporary concern before you move on to better things. Particularly if you felt boxed in when you left your last job, you don't want to return to a position that feels exactly the same as it did before you left.

4. Determine if it is the career change or the new workplace that is the root of the problem

Sometimes you are just unlucky. You did all your homework, found out what was making you unhappy with your last line of work, discovered what you were passionate about, and even found the right career change that would lead to a better rewarding, and more fulfilling job.

You did all that and by a stroke of bad luck you just end up working for a bad employer. The new employer might have a really bad work culture, late working hours, unethical practices, or any number of reasons that are unresolvable from your point of view.

By understanding this, you should be reassured that it is not the career change that is causing you to regret it but simply the new place of work. The best option for you is to start looking for a new job in the same industry immediately.

During your discussion with the new interviewers be honest about what made you switch so quickly but do so in a positive way. 

For example, don’t say things like, “I discovered my new job was hell to work in.” but rather, “I loved the career change. It allows me to be creative which is something I have always been passionate about. I just feel that working till 11 pm every day is taking a toll on the people I care about.”

5. Determine if you are a victim of circumstance

Is the regret you are feeling in your new career because you dislike your new workplace, or is it because they really dislike you?

Occasionally, when you start working for a new company, you might have a misunderstanding about what is expected of you or you end up working with a different manager than the one you met during the interview. 

There are even times when the company is not committed to you, the new employee, simply due to political reasons. Work towards clarifying misunderstandings and try to resolve any issues that are the root cause of your regret by meeting with your manager or with HR.

However, knowing when to cut your losses is a crucial skill. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, take action and start looking for a new job right away.

By the way, if you're thinking about applying again, you should read our definitive guide to writing a cover letter for a career change and this article on how to ace your career change interview.

6. Work to address any potential non-work triggers

It's easy to link a shift in your mood to a new job if it began around the same time as something that might be completely unrelated.

However, since we are all multifaceted beings, it's also possible that overexertion in another area of your life is contributing to or amplifying the unease or dissatisfaction you're experiencing. 

According to Erayna Sargent, founder of the burnout consulting company Hooky Wellness, burnout can happen in different facets of your life where you're giving a lot of yourself or committing a lot of energy.

In order to overcome that feeling of regret, it may be necessary to recognize and address non-work-related causes of burnout such as parental or marital burnout.

7. Are you lacking a specific skill?

Sometimes you regret changing careers because you are simply not prepared for it and do not have the right skill set. The good news is that acquiring most skills today is usually a mere few weeks of activity that you can even do from the comfort of your home.

Unmudl has a long list of courses that can help you acquire all kinds of skills to make you more effective at your job.

8. Is a vacation acceptable at a new job?

Yes, it is! Find out how many vacation personal days you have accumulated and ask for some time off if, after giving yourself some time to get used to your new job, you're still not feeling it. 

Press the reset button, disconnect from work, and then return revitalized. You might be able to improve the situation by returning with a fresh perspective and a positive outlook.

9. Build a strategy for future career goals

Having looked at your current situation from every possible perspective, you now probably have accumulated some good learning. Decide what you DO want once you've identified what's wrong given the circumstance.

What specifically would you prefer to do the next time around given that the last steps you took weren't the best ones for you? Have your professional goals and objectives evolved in light of your recent career change? What do you hope to accomplish differently in the future?

The only way to avoid repeating your mistakes and give yourself a chance to truly thrive and experience genuine career satisfaction is to learn from your mistakes and identify and readjust your professional goals if required.

Free photo notebook with to do list on desk top view
Image by Freepik

10. Keep in touch with your former employer

You could get in touch with your former boss and look into the possibility of returning if you left a good job that you liked enough and were on good terms with when you did. However, you will have to accept the label of a boomerang worker.

As long as you are willing to return to any unfavorable aspects of your previous career (the ones that made you leave that industry in the first place), there is no shame in becoming a boomerang employee. 

Many people go back to their previous employers or jobs. Sometimes it just turns out that the grass wasn't really greener where they thought it was, according to Roy Cohen, career counselor, executive coach, and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide

Cohen advises keeping in touch with former coworkers on a regular basis without having any particular goals in mind. You should always keep former business relationships strong, according to Cohen.

Many people make the mistake of severing ties completely with their older industry when changing careers. Instead, you should check in every once in a while, asking about the old place always projecting positivity. This will keep those professional relationships strong.

11. Reframe “regret”

Last but not least, consider your current regrettable situation as valuable knowledge and experience that will help you make better decisions in the future. Someone once said there are no bad decisions, just decisions that are right or ones that teach us what to do to be right. 

With a positive attitude like that your career mistakes will end up being the best thing that has ever happened to you despite the fact that this can be difficult to realize at that moment.

These regrets lead us to understand better what we desire and do not desire. They give us the chance to experience lessons, overcome obstacles, and collaborate with people we might not have otherwise. 

You can't connect the dots looking forward, as Steve Jobs famously remarked in his commencement address. They can only be joined by looking back at the past. You just have to have faith that these experiences will lead to a better future.

12. Get a professional career coach to guide you

It's usually best to gather your thoughts independently before you seek advice from a third party because, in the end, only you can know what's right for you. 

Having said that, there are times when we can overthink things to the point where our thoughts become muddled and we lose focus on our goals. At this point, involving a professional impartial third party can be beneficial.

Consider consulting a career coach if you don't want to burden your loved ones with your uncertainty or if you want advice from someone who is skilled at solving the problems you're facing.

In 2022, the International Coaching Federation (ICF), which focuses on professional coaching, will have nearly 50,000 members, up from 8,000 in 2005. Professionals can benefit most from coaches because most people are simply unaware of the options available to them.

If you can’t afford a career coach don’t worry Unmudl has you covered! We've chosen a few books and podcasts that will give you a leg up if you are struggling with your career change:

Don't fall victim to regret

You put yourself in a position to experience even more regret if you reject a career change simply out of fear of the unknown. If you make a commitment to change and later back out, it might be difficult for you to pursue new opportunities in the future.

Changing careers is invariably a gamble and to think that this gamble will always result in a positive outcome is not only impractical it's immature.

Sometimes we set goals for ourselves before we have the knowledge to know what we want from our careers, and it's not until we accomplish those goals that we start to wonder if we really wanted them in the first place. No executive or senior manager is exempt from feeling regret, it happens to the majority of professionals.

It's common to feel confused. You may find yourself saying, "I hate my new job after a month." following a decision that changed your life. How do you pivot if your major change has left you with more questions than answers? 

While the current steps you have taken maybe a misstep leading to some regret, you should stay focused on why you wanted the career change in the first place. This will reenergize you and push you forward to accept temporary discomfort for a greater long-term benefit.

Even though it might not seem like it, having regrets is a great way to discover more about who you are and what you want out of life.

Download Checklist " 10 Simple Steps to Smooth Job Change"

Final thoughts

You might be surprised to learn that you're not the only one who has had regret after a career change. It is a very common thing considering the current employment scenario where a record number of people are considering a change in their careers due to economic hardships.

In this guide, we showed you various steps you can take to analyze your current situation and see what you can do about it. In the end, only you can tell if you have the will to push forward with a career change decision or not, but according to experts, a well-thought-out career change plan will always lead to a better outcome even if it is a rocky start.

We hope that this guide has been useful in helping you overcome your regret and plan the next important steps to a brighter and regret-free future.

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Click to learn more about Unmudl and Amazon Original Course
Click to learn more about Unmudl and Amazon Original Course
Last updated on:
March 5, 2024

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