The below post was originally published on Quora as a response to the question, “What are the biggest career mistakes to avoid?”
The number one career mistake to avoid is to go into a career someone else is pushing you into, whether that includes parents, spouse, friends, etc.
The number two career mistake to avoid is going into a career just because it pays a lot of money.
In either situation, you’re likely to end up hating your job, resenting those you’re trying to please, and regretting your decision.
Regret Caused by Career Mistakes
As a career coach who works with people who are in career transitions, typically in the middle of their careers, I see a lot of regret.
They come to me looking back on their decisions realizing they were climbing a ladder that was leaning against the wrong wall.
While for most it’s not too late to make a career change, it is more challenging due to more financial responsibilities at that age.
Even if they’re making really good money, they often find that having taken a job just for the money was at the expense of:
- Doing something they enjoy.
- Making a positive impact on the lives of others and doing something with meaning and purpose.
- The time to enjoy the money they’ve been making.
- Time with their family.
- The courage to take a risk and make a change to something that fits all of the above but maybe pays a little less.
A Time to Experiment
While you don’t have to start out in your career knowing exactly what you want to do, early career is probably the easiest time to experiment with different jobs to help you discover your passion because at this stage in life you have:
- The time to try out various jobs/careers and build your career portfolio. It’s easier to work for a place for a year or two and then switch to something else early in the game.
- The freedom from being responsible for anyone else but yourself. Once you have a mortgage and a family, it’s a lot harder to leave a miserable but good paying job.
But It’s Never Too Late
This doesn’t mean if you made any of the two mistakes listed above in your early career you can’t go back and correct those mistakes or avoid them in mid or late career. You just might have to be a little more creative in your approach.
You can still experiment in some (or all) of the following ways:
- Talk to others who are doing what you now want to do and/or have made a career change of their own. Find out how they did it, what challenges they faced, what rewards they gained and what advice they have for someone like you.
- Take some intro courses on an area that piques your interest. You can do this through local community classes or online classes.
- Start a side-hustle in your spare time. Don’t worry yet if it will make you money or not. Just see if you enjoy working on it more than you do in your current job. If so, then start brainstorming some ways to monetize it either by offering the same service to a company in need or starting your own company.
The Bottom Line
There’s a lot more I could write about in response to the above question, but it would be a novel. The bottom line is, pay attention to:
- Your strengths and the things others tell you you’re good at.
- The things that energize and excite you instead of drain you.
- The things that give you peace instead of stress you out.
- Other people who are doing the things you’re interested in. Talk with them. Find out how they got to where they are.
If you pursue those things, they will build upon one another, leading to new opportunities that will eventually make up the whole of your career.
A career you can look back on with satisfaction and without regret.
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