Career Reflection: What We'd Tell Our Younger Selves

Career Reflection: What We'd Tell Our Younger Selves

Read Time: 5 Minutes


17 Apr 2024

At some point, we’ve probably all considered a career change, some of us have taken the plunge and some of us have gone on to carve out our own roles by evening starting our own business. In 1996, the average age of male retirement in the UK was 63, increasing to 65.1 by 2021. With more of us spending more time at work, is there anything we wish we’d done differently?

To gain insights into the educational landscape of the UK's workforce and explore potential shifts in educational choices over time, we conducted a survey of 1,000 Brits to unearth valuable advice they might offer their younger selves.


What Do Brit’s Highest Levels Of Education Look Like?

We asked survey respondents what their highest level of education was

Brits ranked:

  • University - 42%
  • Masters - 16%
  • A-Level - 14%
  • GCSE - 10%
  • Trade/technical/vocational training - 8%
  • Other - 8%
  • Doctorate - 2%

Most popularly, university degrees were held by around 42% of respondents, followed by a master's and then A-Level. To get a deeper understanding of when our respondents decided to pursue higher education, we asked respondents what their steps were between finishing secondary school and higher education.


Higher Education

We asked survey respondents if they went straight to college after finishing school.

Interestingly, 63% shared that they attended and finished college after secondary school compared to 21% of respondents who shared that they didn’t go to college at all.

5% went to college but ended up dropping out, and 4% shared that they did go to college at some point but not immediately following their secondary education.

Similarly, we asked respondents if they went straight to university after finishing college. Interestingly, 41% shared that they went to university and finished their degree. In comparison, 34% shared that they didn’t go to university, with 7% sharing that they went to university but ended up dropping out.

15% of respondents shared that they went to university later on in life.


Would You Do Things Differently?

We asked survey respondents if they were happy with the choices they made when it came to their education.

A high 72% of respondents shared that they were indeed happy with their education choices.

10% of respondents wished that they had studied something else.

6% revealed that they aren’t happy with the choices they made education-wise.

5% wished they had done an apprenticeship.

4% wished they had picked a different industry or job.

2% wished that they had gone straight into work rather than education.


Learning Later in Life

A significant 64% of Brits shared that they actively engage in continuous learning, regularly undertaking courses, training programs, and various upskilling endeavors throughout their professional journey. Whether they’re looking to change roles or gain a promotion, it seems that a huge proportion of Brits want to keep learning.

Interestingly, 11% of respondents reported returning to college or university at some point in their careers, showcasing a commitment to furthering their education and acquiring advanced qualifications to enhance their career prospects and personal growth.

21% revealed that they have never continued learning since leaving school, college or university.



The Cost of Learning

Are rising university fees, levels of debt and lack of promise to get a job afterwards something that Brits would tell their younger selves to avoid? Delving into the financial implications of education, our survey uncovered insightful statistics regarding the cost of learning among respondents:

A notable 18% of survey participants disclosed that they are presently grappling with the repayment of student loans, highlighting the enduring financial burden that higher education can impose on individuals as they navigate their professional lives. 

10% of respondents revealed that they carry debt from their educational pursuits but currently face challenges in repaying it, citing factors such as limited income or personal circumstances. This further underscores the complexities individuals may encounter in managing their financial obligations alongside their career trajectories.

20% of those surveyed indicated that they have successfully paid off their educational loans. Whether this is due to respondents attending university when it was more financially viable, or it may be that the loans for their course were written off when they were 65, or 30 years after the April they were first due to repay.


Switching Up Roles

We asked survey respondents if they’ve ever completely changed jobs/fields/industries throughout their working life.

A substantial 61% of respondents acknowledged having made significant changes in their careers, transitioning between jobs, fields, or industries at least once. This propensity for career pivots underscores the modern workforce's adaptability and willingness to explore new opportunities and challenges throughout their professional journey.

Contrasting this, a notable 29% of respondents revealed a steadfast commitment to continuity within their chosen fields, remaining in the same job, sector, or industry throughout their working lives. 

Interestingly, a minority comprising 7% of respondents expressed a penchant for frequent job changes. This segment embodies a dynamic approach to career development, driven by a desire for continuous growth, exploration, and adaptation to diverse work environments.


Being Your Own Boss

We asked survey respondents if they had ever started a side hustle, gone freelance or started their own business.

14% shared, that yes, they have a side hustle, 15% shared that they have gone freelance and almost half of Brits have at some point started their own business.

A smaller 18% revealed that they have never had a side hustle, gone freelance or started their own business, and 5% have had a side hustle, gone freelance or started their own business but not anymore.

Have any career regrets? Wish you had done things differently when picking your educational path? Let us know your thoughts on social media by using #instantprintuk!


About the Author

Hi, I’m Ally and I’m instantprint’s PR Lead. I enjoy writing content to help small businesses succeed and inspire them to get creative with their print marketing.