Didn’t ask for a raise, stayed at a dead-end job: Workers confess career regrets

Editor’s Note: Employee Experience is a column by HR Dive Reporter Caroline Colvin, where they dig into workplace trends, employer tugs-of-war and worker woes.

What are your career regrets? If you have them, you’re far from alone: 66% of adults in U.S. and Western Europe have work-related regrets, a report from Resume Now suggests. 

Resume Now polled 1,000 people in the U.S., France, Germany and the U.K., on Jan. 10, 2024. 

The results of the survey

The work-related regrets are likely what you’d expect.

By the numbers



Not negotiating a higher salary



Sticking around too long at a job



Not taking work-life balance seriously



Not asking for a raise

I find it interesting that a lot of these regrets are about compensation, but also benefits: The benefit of time, of flexibility, of leisure. There’s also an interest in the benefit of well-being. “More people regret staying at a job (58%) vs quitting a job (38%),” Resume Now reported.

What good is regret?

My late uncle, my mom’s brother, passed away long before I entered the workforce. (It was 2004; I was still in elementary school.) I only met him a few times — he was gregarious, kind and driven. When he passed away, he was on his way to graduation from Florida A&M University; he was ready to enter the workforce as a pharmacy technician.

Something that always sticks out in my mind about Uncle Josh is a key bit of wisdom my mom carried with her: His voicemail message always encouraged the caller to “live life with no regrets.”

It’s the way my mom lives, which has informed the way I strive to live, from my personal life to my career. 

As someone who is neurodivergent and was a high achiever as a kid, I used to torture myself with thought spirals — especially when it came to my career. Why didn’t this hiring team like me enough to offer me the job, after several rounds of interviews? What was wrong with my cover letter, over which I — as well as other communications specialists or journalists — labored?

I also wrestled with a little bit of envy. Plagued by social media, as a once-chronically online Gen Zer, I would see my peer’s highlight reel and feel a lump form in my throat. In many cases, I no longer covet the path of my classmates: The household-name magazines, newspapers and digital media companies have laid them off.

I’m young, but growing up online, it’s easy to feel washed-up at 27. (I mean, have you been on TikTok and seen all of the precocious people doing twice as much, at half my age?)

But — and I acknowledge I’m full of trite little phrases — comparison is the thief of joy. And I realize that focusing on regrets will only be more cause for regret, such as valuable time wasted on negativity or hypothetical worst-case scenarios.

All you or I can do is all anyone can do: Do your best, despite all of the obstacles the universe slingshots your way.