How to Address Past Career Regrets In Your Next Interview

By Chelsea Babin

Addressing any potentially negative topic during an interview can feel like a walk across a tight rope but it doesn’t have to be so tricky! If an interviewer asks you whether or not you have any past career regrets you can use this as an opportunity to explain any periods of underemployment, lengthy time frames where you stayed in the same job without getting a promotion, or other scenarios that they may have questions about but haven’t asked you directly. Here are a few ways that you can address past career regrets in your next interview.

1. I Wish I Would Have Taken More Time to Master X: Taking the time to master a skill may not be your first priority when you’re just starting out in a position but it could get in the way of you getting a promotion when the opportunity arises. If you were in a position for a fairly long time and never got a promotion, this could be a regret that you mention and one that you can easily show that you’ve learned from through promotions you eventually earned or other accomplishments in your previous positions.

2. I Wish I Would Have Built My Professional Network Faster: Having a supportive, well-maintained professional network is something that can greatly improve your career but a lot of people don’t start building their professional network in their first few years. This regret is common but it’s a good answer and a good way for you to mention all of the classes, group side projects, or meet-ups you regularly attend which shows employers how you’re constantly improving your skills and how passionate you are about what you do.

3. I Wish I Would Have Taken the Time to Find a Proper Mentor: A disjointed career or a few setbacks can easily be explained by the lack of having a great professional mentor to guide you early in your career. Eventually you learn how to forge a path on your own but if you regret not finding the time to find a proper mentor you should mention it! If you’re well established in your career and particular skill set at this point you can say how this has taught you to share your knowledge and mentor others so they don’t have to carve out their own path and struggle the way that you did.

4. I Wish I Would Have Pursued a Wider Variety of Skills Early On: Did you find the career you’re passionate about after pursuing one or two others first? The best way to frame this is to say that you regret not pursuing a wider variety of skills early on. If you had been exposed to the career and passions you would later pursue at an earlier date you may have gotten on the right track in your career earlier. You’ve found your drive now and that’s important to get across during your interview so your potential employers don’t think you’re liable to jump ship for a different career.

5. I Wish I Would Have Spent More Time on Passion Projects: If you’re ready to implement the skills you’ve learned through side projects in your career, this could be a good regret for you to mention. If you had the opportunity to spend more time on your passion projects you would have developed these skills faster and would have been able to pursue them in your career sooner.

A lot of interviewers are curious about your past career regrets and, rather than going on about staying in a job you hated or working for a boss you couldn’t stand, you can use your answer as an opportunity to explain red flags in your career history or emphasize the focus and passion you have in your career today. Any of these answers are great, choose one that’s best for you or create your own in the same vane and you’ll be able to maintain a positive tone in your interview and disclose important things about yourself at the same time!