Fall is a time when career regrets tug more strongly than during the laid-back summer months. New jobs appear on job boards, and many colleagues and friends move on to new careers or go off to graduate school. If you aren't moving with them, you can become vulnerable to "should have" thinking.
The should haves are hard to turn off. "I should have gotten that promotion." "I should have never chosen Public Relations." "I should have left my job long ago." These should haves eat at you, particularly if you are comparing your career to the careers of others.
Dwelling what you should have done is especially destructive because it carries a feeling of futility. Once that happens, anger and resentment build up, and you quit trying. This is painfully obvious to others - you won't get the best assignments, and honestly, people avoid those who have palpably bad attitudes. Instead of toiling through the negativity, you have to change your thinking altogether.
The right approach is to replace the "should haves" with "what ifs."
Start with the regret, for example, "I should have never chosen Public Relations."
Try getting some trusted friends or colleagues to brainstorm with you, as their valuable outside perspective can help you think differently about your regrets. Choose confidants who are imaginative and positive - not cynical and snarky.
Pile up as many "what if" questions that relate to the regret as possible. Some possibilities for the PR example might be: What if you did PR for a cause you passionately believed in? What if you coached your clients on PR strategy? What if you taught business executives PR basics?
Explore those what ifs for ideas to act on. Just that exploration will re-invigorate you and set you on a better path. If you find yourself getting excited about one possibility, keep working on it until it pays off.
There's more… Continue reading the full article "Coping with Career Regret" on Harvard Business Review Blogs to see how this plays out