It’s the perfect time of the week to dissect this latest poll of mine, given that Monday mornings are famous for the “Monday morning quarterback” concept, where sports fans throughout the world look back on how their favorite teams played over the past weekend and engage in all kinds of criticizing, critiquing, and second-guessing about the strategy their team followed, in retrospect.

The connection?  In case you haven’t noticed, hindsight can be 20/20 with one’s career, as well.  So in my most recent poll, I asked people to roll their career back by a decade and see if they’d change anything significant.  Here was the question that was asked:

“If you could go back in time 10 years and alter something about your career, what would it be?”

The five response choices were:

1) Concentrate more on building my network
2) Pursue self-employment of some kind
3) Change into a career path I’d enjoy more
4) Retrain in a field with a brighter future
5) Cut spending and save more for retirement

A total of 32 people cast their vote on this particular topic, and while you’ll see a small graphic of the results below, you can click here to access the full set of results.

The Analysis?
  To be honest, I probably should have included a response option that read “Nothing; I’m happy with the status quo” to account for those folks who are extremely satisfied with the choices they’ve made — and may NOT feel the need or compulsion to adjust any aspect of their career in a serious way.

Of those who did respond, however, you can see from the graph above that the runaway answer among respondents related to the idea that they hadn’t paid enough attention to networking and the process of building relationships.  If I had to guess, I’d suspect that the group of people who selected this option resemble the typical professionals I encounter in my career coaching practice.  They’re individuals who are smart, talented, and qualified, but who woke up one day (after 20-30 years of steady employment) and realized that these qualities alone don’t necessarily guarantee one a good job any more.  The most important factor of all in landing job opportunities is relationships — and the degree to which one has cultivated a deep, vibrant web of friends/allies over the years who can lend you a hand when the going gets tough and find yourself in transition.

The good news?  There’s still time, everybody.  It’s never too late to start building (or rebuilding) your professional network if you bear down and put your mind to it.  We live in an age where there are thousands of professional groups, networking websites, and volunteer organizations that you can leverage to get your name out there and start building new connections.  Sure, it may take you a few months to get the ball rolling and start making real inroads, since friendships aren’t forged overnight, but the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll see your network start to blossom and gain steam.  After all, wouldn’t it be a shame to see this same poll come out a decade from now and find yourself in a deja vu moment, checking box #1 all over again?

Beyond the first choice, the other responses were pretty scattered.  There’s not anything all that terribly insightful to say about them, I don’t think, other than to acknowledge that many people are finding themselves wishing that they’d spent LESS and saved MORE over the years, given the economic picture right now.  Others, still, report wanting to turn the clock back and shift into a career path or industry that’s more fulfilling –or perhaps a little less “opportunity-challenged” than the sector they’ve found themselves in at the moment.  If you’re in this boat, though, don’t be too hard on yourself.  Again, it’s always easy to second-guess our decisions with the benefit of history and hindsight — and never too late, despite appearances, to make some strategic changes in your career plan.

As for the coming month?  You’ll find my latest LinkedIn poll question here, asking a very obvious question I’m amazed I haven’t thought to ask before: “How did you get your current or most recent job?  Where did the lead come from?”