The 3 biggest career regrets retirees have
I have had the good fortune to speak to several retirees over the course of my headhunting and the biggest question I have always had for them is what their greatest career regret was. Although they are all happy in their retirement, they did echo some strangely common regrets.
Being too loyal to the company
Many of these retirees belong to the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation – those born in the post-war 50s and early 60s. They grew up in a time where employment was not easy to find and in a culture where employee-loyalty was actually valued. However, in the early 2000s when the world was a much different place, many felt short-changed that the companies they had worked for did not reciprocate that loyalty. Several retirees I spoke to had put in decades of work with their companies but the moment the business environment turned difficult, they were let go. Some weren’t even given fair retirement benefits. David, a recently retired Director, said that because of his loyalty, he never considered joining any other companies and as a result, felt that his salary was not as competitive as it should be.
Not having a career strategy
Cynthia, a former Sales Manager for a contract manufacturer, shared that she never gave much thought to career planning and “went wherever the wind blew”. In fact, there were several occasions when the companies she had worked with shut down because their products were discontinued. “I should have seen it coming – the entire market dried up when cheaper copy-cats from China could produce it at half the price.” “If only I had taken time to study the future of my industry instead of just focusing on my daily work, I could have avoided it. I would advise your younger readers to have a Career Strategy in place for long-term job stability.
Not taking chances
Interestingly, many retirees shared that there were missed opportunities they had declined which till today, they still wonder if it would have changed their lives entirely. This came in the form of declined promotions, not taking up a larger portfolio, or even not quitting and starting up that wonderful business idea they had been toying with for ages. “But I guess hindsight is 20/20,” said Thomas, a former HR VP, “we’ll never know what could have been, but I now realise that the older you get, the riskier things are, so I should have been a bit more risk-taking in my 30s.”
Focusing too much on Career/Work
Larry, a retired Army Colonel, shared “In my 30s, I focused so much on building my career. In my 40s, I drove so hard to get my promotions that I neglected my daughters’ growing years. I convinced myself that I was doing it for their sake, but now that I’m in my late 50s, they are all grown up and I realise I have missed the best part of their growing up years. I would advise all young mothers and fathers to prioritise what is important in their lives – and spend some time with your loved ones. One day when your time on earth is up, you will be remembered and loved by your family, not by your company.”