My Biggest Career Mistake And What I learnt From It.

We all make decisions in our lives/careers that, with the benefit of hindsight, wouldn’t make them again. However, I think a mistake only becomes a regret when there is nothing positive that has been gained from it. A mistake becomes a regret when you haven’t learnt anything from your mistake and so continue to make similar mistakes. These become regrets – which is nothing to be proud of.

I have made many career mistakes but I’ve made the best of my decisions and when unhappy with my choice, I’ve done my best to be proactive about making adjustments that I can tolerate.

Let me give you an example. I worked for a long time in Government Education, rising through the ranks to senior positions. Early in my career I thought often about how I would like to work outside a huge government system in a business where my interests and talents would be used and developed. I often thought that if I worked as hard as I did for the government, I would be a millionaire, well, maybe.

But like many (or most) people, life took over and once firmly entrenched (and achieving success) I didn’t have the courage to leave and work elsewhere. I’m saying that I didn’t have the courage, with a heaviness in my heart, as it’s not easy to admit lack of courage, but knowing what I know now, as a career coach, there is no other way to describe it.

It wasn’t until life changes occurred that I was able to focus on ‘me’ and I saw choices in my career that I could make. What did I want?

I wanted to work for myself and be independent of any constraining system like the one that I had been part of for so long. I wanted to make my own decisions – good and bad. I felt that I had earned my freedom – freedom to work to my own agenda, setting my own goals and striving for my own success.

Five questions needed an answer

What do I really want in my career?

What are my strengths or skills that I would like to make use of?

What are my professional values that are non negotiable to keep?

What are my interests and could I include these in my career?

Am I now brave enough to make the change that I so sincerely wanted?


Here I am 9 years later working for myself, using my interests, talents and making my own decisions which are based on a strong set of professional values. They aren’t always correct but no one’s perfect. I am working as an executive & leadership coach for engineers. I work with engineers across the world, in a variety of time zones, helping them to kick start their careers, develop their professional presence and confidence, to support the development of documentation in readiness to applications, or to navigate conflict resolution among others.

How did I make such a huge change?

I was highly motivated to make change, I was ready for change, I was prepared for the necessary commitment to make such a change. In a nutshell, (and oversimplification) I set my goals, noted what I had to do to achieve the change and planned my actions to get there.

What did I learn from this?

I learnt to listen to my internal voice. I knew what I wanted but it took me a very long time to acknowledge it and, most importantly, to have the courage to do something about it. I had to leave the safe and secure world of education and step into the unknown. I had to overcome my fears of what might happen, of failure, of the unknown.  


5 tips to help you move your life change ahead:

  1. Don’t listen to  inhibitors and blockers who prevent you making  the change you so desperately want and deserve. It’s easy for others to be discouraging. Seek out those who will listen to you with an open mind.
  2. Avoid those who offer unhelpful advice that is  well intentioned, but based on their perception of your best interests. This is not the best vantage point to make decisions. Seek feedback from impartial and objective professionals.
  3. Be open to rethinking your potential as you’re probably capable of achieving far more than you currently think. Your full potential is really unknown until you put it to the test
  4. Be present to hearing the messages given to you from your internal conversations. Don’t ignore or brush off  these powerful thoughts, as often you know what you want, long before you’re willing to acknowledge it.
  5. Be proactive about your life and career decisions. Putting off to later is ignoring the obvious – later never comes.

‘The secret to getting ahead is getting started.’
Mark Twain



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Career Coaching, Coaching Tips, Inspiration, Leadership