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Workers reveal career regrets

Published on: 26 Jan 2015

A poll by recruitment specialist REED reveals what matters most to workers over the course of their career:

  • Over half of Brits (57%) would have chosen a different career if given another chance

  • Work-life balance and job satisfaction trump salary as THE most important aspects of working life

  • Breakdown across the ages reveals changing priorities when it comes to work and play

Time for a change?

The poll of over 1,600 workers by YouGov, in association with the launch of the REED 2015 Salary Guides, questioned Brits on their attitudes to work, career aspirations and regrets – revealing that 48% of those who would have chosen a different career would choose a job that brings them greater satisfaction, and 44% would pick a role with better long-term prospects for pay and benefits.

During the next 12 months a further 15% are looking to put these yearnings into action, and plan to change their career.

Career carousel

But it’s not just those who are thinking of making the leap to a different career that want a boost at work. The poll revealed almost one in four (23%) are unsatisfied at work, with the same number actively looking for a new job.

While just over one in ten workers (11%) have stayed loyal to the same employer, twice as many (22%) have moved workplaces more than seven times in their career. When asked why they changed employer, workers reported better salary (38%), better prospects for promotion (37%) and boredom with their current role (29%) as the top three motivators for changing jobs.

What really matters at work

Despite improved pay and promotion ranking highly, once in a role it’s job satisfaction (25%) and getting that perfect work-life balance (28%) that workers crave. And it’s between the ages of 35 and 44 where this matters most, with nearly one in three workers (31%) ranking work-life balance as the most important aspect of their career.

What matters most across the ages*

18-24                     Salary and benefits (38%)

25-34                     Job satisfaction (31%)

35-45                     Work-life balance (31%)

45-54                     Salary and benefits (25%)

55+                         Job satisfaction and work-life balance (joint top – 32%)                 


The REED research indicates that it’s our early years in work (18 - 24) where salary and benefits remain the priority for workers, as they attempt to get a foot on the ladder. But, once settled in our chosen career, it’s our desire for job satisfaction that comes into play as we enter our late 20s and early 30s (25 – 34).

It’s work-life balance which takes precedence post-35, potentially due to a desire to spend time with our children, but as we enter our late forties and into early fifties (45 – 54) our thoughts turn once again to salary (25%). Finally, as we enter the last decade of our working lives (55+) it’s all about satisfaction and work-life balance (32%) – making those final years count. 

Tom Lovell, managing director at REED, said: “In a candidate-led market such as this, employers need to think hard about how they attract and retain staff. What this research shows is that although salary is very important, now we’re out of the recession it’s no longer just about pay – employers need to consider many other factors, such as flexible working and how they can offer the greatest job satisfaction.

“Our research shows that in the last 12 months, 41% of workers received some form of pay rise, and almost a third (32%) received a bonus. However, with 26% having received no benefits, the fact that almost one in four workers (23%) are unsatisfied in their current role, and a further 23% are actively looking to look for a new role over the next 12 months, is hardly surprising. This indicates that employers need to start taking action.”  

The REED 2015 Salary and Market Insight report can be obtained or by visiting

For further information please contact:

Megan Coulson on 0121 713 3550/07557256050 or email

Gemma Perks on 0121 713 3829/ 07796 996035 or email

Ian Stanley on 0121 713 3939/07974266458 or email