Do I regret my career choice?

T’other day on Twitter, I made a flippant comment about choosing L&D as a career over being a bhangra dancer. Wendy Jacob threw the question over the fence – do you regret your choice? And I never responded. Because it’s a bloody interesting question.

I see what my friends are doing around me as the first port of call. From my teenage years, this has always been what I’ve done. It’s been my measure of success. As an only child, I didn’t have siblings to measure myself against. I had cousins, but most were older than me, and the ones near my age, were either living too far away for me to give any real attention, or not that close. So, to my friends I’d look, and I’d observe. There was Richard I remember. He was a clever kid. In the top of the class. I was a middling student mostly. And carried on so throughout my education. Enough to get by, and enough to do well enough to get the pass mark. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m not as academically astute as others, or if I didn’t apply myself enough. I’ll say it’s a bit of both.

While at college, we then had to think about university and what subjects we’d be studying. I had friends going off to Cambridge, Oxford, UCL, Luton and there was me at UEL studying Psychology at undergraduate. At university, friends went off to study masters in chemical engineering and medicine. I couldn’t decide what my path needed to be after being an undergraduate, but realised unless I specialised in a field of psychology my prospects for working in the field weren’t that great. So after some time, I thought about doing occupational psychology.

Which brought us into the world of work. Friends had joined the civil service graduate scheme, management consulting firms, accountancy firms, and became qualified teachers and I was working part time doing temp work. When I finished my MSc, it took me a few months to get a real job, at QVC. And boy was I chuffed! I saw my friends doing well around me. High paid jobs, or jobs with responsibility, and I was a Training Officer.

After some years with them, I decided it was time to move on. And joined a training company called The Outsourced Training Company as a consultant whose primarily role was to deliver all things occupational psychology. And that made me grow some. More than some, I grew a lot in that role. Learned a lot. Having been made redundant by them, I found a role at LBi. And have been here since. And this role brought with it a lot of autonomy and a lot of opportunity to spread my wings. So I have done.

But what have I learned in that time? Surely I must have achieved stuff? Well yes, and no. I’ve learned broad things about myself. I’m clearly a people person. I’m clearly someone motivated by engaging with others. I’m clearly someone who enjoys the work he does. I’m clearly someone who has learned how to build a reputation. I’ve also learned how to take feedback on performance. I’ve learned I don’t get on well with everyone. I’ve learned even though you may enjoy your job, it’s not always fun and games.

Do I regret my choice to go into L&D? Sometimes, yes. Because I see what else is potentially available out there. I see people working in other fields and I learn about what they do, and I think bloody hell that sounds fascinating. And I see other salaries that people earn. I’m not greedy like that, and I’m not exactly struggling, but I do marvel at the worth attached to some roles. Then, I see what is potentially on the horizon for me in my current role, or with other companies.

But then I look at where I’m at. I look at my life. I look at my wife and my kids. I look at my family. I look at my friends and I look at my connections. I look at my lifestyle, my health and my personal development. And I realise that this is exactly where I want to be. I have ambitions and aspirations like most people, but am not deluded to think I’m not a lucky guy. I’m awesomely lucky to be in this role, doing what I do, and with the skill to be able to do it. So, do I regret making my choice?

No, because I knew exactly what I was doing.

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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

4 thoughts on “Do I regret my career choice?”

  1. Interesting post Sukh.

    Unlike you I didn’t come out of Uni into doing what we now do, rather graduated with a life sciences degree and fumbled my way through a number of things before landing 3 years ago in my first L&D role, which was leading the L&D function. The biggest doubter of whether I could do it was me and here I sit 3 years later almost envious of the decision you made pre-QVC because I think “if i’d found this thing I love earlier would I have got farther faster?”.

    Do I regret my career choice? Absolutely not, first because regret is a waste of time, one can’t undo the past and to rake over it is futile. I would hope i’ve learned from the mistakes of my past and they will inform my future but I am resolute focussed forward but second because it finally feels like i’ve found the ‘thing’ that will allow me to be the best version of myself and that feels pretty good 🙂

    1. I love that, Rob – ” it finally feels like i’ve found the ‘thing’ that will allow me to be the best version of myself and that feels pretty good”. It’s this piece which inspired me to write today’s post about authenticity. Not a lot of use will learn we can do this, and for those of us that do, we’re truly lucky.

  2. I think our path has several parallels.

    When it came to choosing A-Levels, I didn’t go for subjects I enjoyed. I went for ones that I thought would make me employable. I think it’s safe to say that my results suffered because of this.

    Then came uni decision time. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do for a career, so took a relatively safe option – business studies.

    Before I knew it, I had to start thinking about my year in industry, and I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Specialist modules I was taking, such as finance, didn’t grab my interest so before I knew it, I was applying for trainee management roles.

    And off I went to do that, doing so well that I was offered sponsorship by my employer throughout my final year of uni. I don’t think I was too bad at it, but I never felt like I wanted to do “just management” for the rest of my life.

    So 16 months after graduating, I took a career change and ended up in sales. Needless to say I realised that this really wasn’t for me. Suddenly I realised that I didn’t like doing the same thing day in day out (of which there is a lot of in sales) and needed variety in my job. I learnt so much during this nine months that it’s really a blog post of its own.

    Then working for an entrepreneur on madcap ventures. Great fun because I was doing lots of different things, and eventually ending up working from home full-time after he sold one company and started another (another blog post of its own!)

    And then… after all this… I fell into L&D. All because I saw a job advert and remembered that back when I was a manager I enjoyed doing the odd bit of staff training. And I’ve always enjoyed presenting to people – unlike many I never see it as a concern or a challenge. I considered becoming a teacher when I was younger but was talked out of it by teachers when I did work experience (“it’s a great job but it’s not like it used to be” was what I kept being told in numerous schools)

    And luckily, it turns out that it’s quite varied – the main thing I enjoy.

    Sometimes I wonder what could have been if I had chosen other paths. But the fact is, I still don’t know what I want my “career” to be, even if I could have wound back the clock. I’m enjoying L&D at the moment, and I’m happy to see where I’ll end up. I’ve learnt a lot in two years of doing it, and feel like I’ve barely got started (the first year was very much “learning on the job” and making all the novice training mistakes you’d expect someone to make when they have no L&D peers to mentor them)

    The whole “lack of a vision” I think is because, in part, I come from a family who don’t have careers. There’s no history of it really. And I honestly believe that seeing someone in your family as your grow up in a certain roles can be a powerful driver in realising what career choices are out there (career advice in my school was pretty much “what do you want to do? OK, here’s what grades and subjects you’d need to do” once a year at most, rather than opening your eyes to alternatives and opportunities)

    I’m not knocking my family, but it’s only after I attended uni that I started meeting people outside of my small town (where most people work for one or two “major employers” in manual roles) and I realised that other people with parents from “professional backgrounds” had a clear idea from a young age of what they wanted to do, for example because they had an uncle in that profession.

    So I too stumbled into L&D. I too have learning experiences about who I am rather than regrets. I’m just interested to see where it takes me next….

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