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Jan 7, 2014

Being in my line of work, I get to hear from a ton of people who have left jobs.

One of the questions I like to ask people is to give me one thing they regret about leaving a certain position or company.

You might think that most people would find this hard to answer, but I’m always surprised at how quickly people can answer this question, and the fact that no one ever answers it with “I have no regrets.”

I use this question to help me understand a candidate’s level of self-insight. If a person can look back on a job and say, “you know what, the company might have sucked, but I could have done ‘this’ better,” that’s someone who gets it.

Top regrets from departing employees

So, here are the Top 5 Regrets people have when leaving a job:

  1. “I could have done better.” I like people who can come out and say, “I just didn’t do enough.” It’s usually followed with reasons why, lack of resources or tools, etc, but it shows me they have a desire to be successful at anything they do.
  2.  “I should have made more work friends.” I talk to a lot of people who have been at a company for years, and after they leave they realize they weren’t really close to anyone. They realize they miss some of the people, but never really put in the time to establish enough of a relationship to carry it beyond just a working relationship.
  3. “I didn’t let the executives know what I was really thinking.” This happens to so many people. Even when leaving they somehow justify to themselves that it won’t matter, so they never share what they really thought of so many things. While some of it might not matter, there might have been a great idea or change in there that could have a positive impact to the organization. Yet, they walk away and leave it unsaid.
  4. I wish I would have celebrated my accomplishments more.” You know what happens when you celebrate your accomplishments? People begin to notice them as accomplishments. Those things turn into positives for the organization. People are drawn to you and want to be a part of what you’re doing. Celebrations, real celebrations, make a closer bond between you and your co-workers.
  5. I wish I never would have left,” or, “I left for the wrong reasons.” I hear so many people say these words – “I loved that job!” My next question is always, “Why did you leave?” It’s always followed by a reason: promotion, more money, different location, etc. After they left, they found out how much the job they had was a really, really good job that they loved. I always caution people from leaving a job, especially when they tell me they love the job. Don’t discount loving your job. It’s hard, really hard, to find jobs you love.

The beginning of the year is always a good time to reflect on your regrets from the prior year.

I know many people who took on new positions in the past year. I always love to find out how the new gig is going, but I also love to ask about what they regret about leaving, and I’ve never disappointed by the response!

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.